Exploring the Federal Capital

Trip Start Dec 19, 2010
Trip End Mar 01, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Australian Capital Territory,
Monday, January 24, 2011

Canberra is Australia's Federal Capital. To stop NSW and Victoria squabbling about which state should have the capital a separate Territory was set up between the two quarrelsome cities and after extensive researching, competitions, political infighting and revisions the Canberra we know has taken form. It is the result of, an international competition, political interference, an Architects vision and money problems.

The city is much planned from its layout to its relationship with the land. This can be seen most clearly from the grass roof of the new Parliamentary Building on Capital Hill, looking over the interim building (was a temporary measure but was used for around 70 years) across the man made Burley Griffin lake, along ANZAC Parade to the magnificent Australian War Memorial.

We purchased explorer bus tickets from the tourist centre where we could leave the car all day, despite the 1 hour parking only signs. The first stop was the War Memorial. Expecting this to be a one hour stop to pay our respects we were surprised to find the amount of information that is contained in the exhibitions of all the wars that Australians have fought in from the Boer war to Iraq. Of course the largest amount of space is devoted to the first and second world wars. The dioramas depicting the major engagements for the Australians in WW1 bring the raw descriptive texts to a jarring reality.  For WW2 the exhibits range from the uniforms to the Bombers. The part of the experience that moved me the most was the VC collection. Every Australian VC is given a space, with description and a photograph; most of the displays also show the VC. What made it more poignant was the days headline news was that of the awarding of a new VC being won by a young soldier in Afghanistan.

3 hours later we joined the bus again and were driven top the new Parliament Building on Capital Hill. This striking building cannot be missed from any of the approach roads into Canberra, being topped by an enormous Australian flag on a four legged flag pole. The flag alone is said to be the size of the side of a London double-decker bus. The interior is lavish, marble stairs, wooden panelled walls. There are resonances of Westminster, Two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives, with their own colour scheme, the speakers chairs visible to each other if all the doors are opened at once, when in session there is a mace on the central table. One noticeable difference is the horseshoe shape of the chambers themselves.

After the new we made our way to the old, a white painted building which has an air of dignity about it. As it is no longer used we had greater freedom to explore with some very interesting reconstructions of how various normally private chambers, including the Prime Ministers and the Speakers suites.

After visiting these places we had run out of time and caught the last bus of the day back to the tourist centre. There is enough left for another visit to Canberra and the War Memorial needs further exploration.
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