Canberra, the unloved national city

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AS a proud Canberran, and proud Australian, I find the disrespect in the national arena towards our national capital is sickening.

John-Paul Romano.

Indeed, former prime minister Sir Robert Menzies, one of the greatest champions of our city, would be turning in his grave.

Despite ours being a city for all Australians, the disrespect from each successive Federal government seemingly grows.

The previous Federal government effectively had an “Anti-Canberra Minister” in the Minister for Decentralisation.

For politicians to believe that an investment in Canberra is just for the good of the city’s inhabitants, is utterly wrong. We are the national city, we are the seat of government, and as such should be the centre of the public service and national institutions.

When we celebrate Canberra, we regularly acclaim its beginnings and what it has become, but never its future; we seem to live in a country where there is no place for the progression of our national capital and certainly where there is an all-time low of respect for Canberra as the capital.

In the recently completed “Inquiry into National Institutions”, the National Capital Authority stated that there was no shortage of land for new institutions. This includes those forgotten from Burley Griffin’s plan, others that were suggested later on and many that are present in other national capitals but not ours.

Some older ideas include; the Australia Forum or National Convention Centre (site reserved on Vernon Circle), a National Opera House (tentative site reserved near the lake), a Natural History Museum and a National Catholic Basilica (site reserved near Commonwealth Park).

Some newer suggestions, including my own, include a National Air and Space Museum (possible site near the airport); a National Sports Museum; a National Cemetery, an optional cemetery for prime ministers, prominent citizens and service people (site on Mount Ainslie behind the War Memorial); a National Museum for Migration and a National Centre and Museum for the First Australians (placed where the tent embassy is).

Some people have also suggested a centralised government department to manage all of our national institutions and museums to make their management, storage and acquisitions more efficient. Precedents exist in the US with the Smithsonian Institution. Others have suggested that national institutions have a public “wishlist” that philanthropists, companies, and individuals can donate towards.

The Lodge under construction.

Another forgotten blueprint of Griffin’s plan is the site of The Lodge. Its current location was supposed to be a temporary site, the original idea was to build the prime minister’s residence on Collins Park, with properties for senior government ministers and senior public servants supposed to create a quasi-National Avenue.

While we can’t be certain who would’ve resided on this “National Avenue”, the large “mansions” that line Tasmania Circle are a sign of what may have been.

No election is won or lost in Canberra’s five seats and we can but hope that future governments can break partisan boundaries and together champion Canberra once more as not only the city where parliament meets, but as our national capital. A true city for all Australians.

John-Paul Romano (@johnpauldromano) is a young Canberran, entrepreneur and founder of The PURE Network (thepurenetwork.com).

 

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