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Around Canberra - A tale of two lookouts!

Over Christmas, my Mum came to visit! One of the reasons I like having visitors is that (apart from suddenly having a clean house in preparation) you get to "play tourist" in your home town. Which is now Canberra! So let's go on a little tour, shall we? And maybe learn a bit about Australia's capital too :-)

Canberra is a planned city. Unlike Sydney or Melbourne which sprawled from humble beginnings, Canberra was always destined to be great! Once Federation occurred in 1901, Australia needed a capital city and so a location was decided upon and a competition announced in 1911 to design it and Walter Burley Griffin of Chicago, Illinois, USA was declared the winner. To be fair, the paintings of his wife, Marion Mahoney Griffin, helped a fair bit.


It is from the top of Mt Ainslie, that you can get a sense of their vision and how it played out on the Canberra landscape.

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Kind of amazing how all that planning transformed into real life!!!

For those unfamiliar with Canberra you are looking out over (from the foreground to the background) the Remembrance Nature Park, the Australian War Memorial, Anzac Parade (the big avenue), Lake Burley Griffin (named after you know who), Reconciliation Place, Old Parliament House (now Museum of Australian Democracy), New Parliament House and the southern part of Canberra. The hills in the background are the Brindabella Ranges.

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Now apparently, we were always taught that  the word "Canberra" meant "meeting place" (derived from Kambera or Canberry, in Ngunnawal language of the indigenous owners of the land). That would make sense, to have our nation's capital in a place that meant "meeting place". But no! According to Ngunnawal elder, Don Bell, the correct interpretation is "woman's breasts" as a result of it being nestled between Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain, "nganbra" or the hollow between a woman's breasts. Makes sense too.

And so to Black Mountain (the other breast!). It is now an iconic part of Canberra, which even locals use to orientate ourselves, because perched on top is the commercially named Telstra Tower. It is a telecommunications tower (owned by Telstra, duh) which rises 195.2 metres (640 feet) above the summit of Black Mountain. You can see it from everywhere in Canberra (except my house, because it's hidden by another hill, but nearly the whole of Canberra).

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Needless to say, the view from the top is nothing short of spectacular (if a little windy, up on the open observation deck!)

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Now cast your minds back to the mid-eighties (if, indeed, you were around back then!) and a young Ingi on a trip to Canberra with her family. We may have taken a similar photo!!!

Canberra from Black Mountain

There is a little more development (most notably Australian National University, Civic the city centre, New Acton and the completed Parliament House), but basically the same.

There you are! A bit of Canberra's geography and history for you! I have uncovered a treasure trove of those mid-eighties photos, so stay tuned for some "before and after" pics of Canberra (and if you're good, me!).

What's your capital city?

Do you have a favourite lookout (share a pic!)?



  1. I have always liked Canberra ... except for that bloody roundabout that I spent ages on going around and around cause I kept missing the turn off!

    Must plan a trip there for the whanau.

    Happy New Year to you and the family Ingi. xxx


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