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Canberra
Australian Capital Territory
Canberra viewed from Mount Ainslie.jpg
Canberra, with the old and new Parliament House in the centre, viewed from Mount Ainslie
Population: 381,488  (8th)
Density: 428.6/km² (1,110.1/sq mi)
Established: 12 March 1913
Elevation: 577 m (1,893 ft)
Area: 814.2 km² (314.4 sq mi)
Time zone:

 • Summer (DST)

AEST (UTC+10)

AEDT (UTC+11)

Location:
State District:
  • Brindabella
  • Ginninderra
  • Kurrajong
  • Murrumbidgee
  • Yerrabi
Federal Division:
Mean Max Temp Mean Min Temp Annual Rainfall
19.7 °C
67 °F
6.5 °C
44 °F
616.4 mm
24.3 in

Canberra or is the capital city of Australia. With a population of 381,488, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), 280 km (170 mi) south-west of Sydney, and 660 km (410 mi) north-east of Melbourne. A resident of Canberra is known as a "Canberran".

The site of Canberra was selected for the location of the nation's capital in 1908 as a compromise between rivals Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's two largest cities. It is unusual among Australian cities, being an entirely planned city outside of any state, similar to Washington, D.C. in the United States, or Brasília in Brazil. Following an international contest for the city's design, a blueprint by American architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin was selected and construction commenced in 1913. The Griffins' plan featured geometric motifs such as circles, hexagons and triangles, and was centred on axes aligned with significant topographical landmarks in the Australian Capital Territory.

The city's design was influenced by the garden city movement and incorporates significant areas of natural vegetation that have earned Canberra the title of the "bush capital". The growth and development of Canberra were hindered by the World Wars and the Great Depression, which exacerbated a series of planning disputes and the ineffectiveness of a procession of bodies that were created in turn to oversee the development of the city. The national capital emerged as a thriving city after World War II, as Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies championed its development and the National Capital Development Commission was formed with executive powers. Although the Australian Capital Territory is now self-governing, the Commonwealth Government retains some influence through the National Capital Authority.

As the seat of the government of Australia, Canberra is the site of Parliament House, the official residence of the Monarch's representative the Governor-General, the High Court and numerous government departments and agencies. It is also the location of many social and cultural institutions of national significance, such as the Australian War Memorial, Australian National University, Royal Australian Mint, Australian Institute of Sport, National Gallery, National Museum and the National Library. The Australian Army's officer corps is trained at the Royal Military College, Duntroon and the Australian Defence Force Academy is also located in the capital.

The ACT is independent of any state to prevent any one state from gaining an advantage by hosting the seat of Commonwealth power. The ACT has voting representation in the Commonwealth Parliament, and has its own independent Legislative Assembly and government, similar to the states.

As the city has a high proportion of public servants, the Commonwealth Government contributes the largest percentage of Gross State Product and is the largest single employer in Canberra, although no longer the majority employer. Compared to the national averages, the unemployment rate is lower and the average income higher; tertiary education levels are higher, while the population is younger. Property prices are relatively high, in part due to comparatively restrictive development regulations.

Etymology

The word "Canberra" is popularly claimed to derive from the word Kambera or Canberry, which is claimed to mean "meeting place" in Ngunnawal, one of the Indigenous languages spoken in the district by Aboriginal people before European settlers arrived, although there is no clear evidence to support this. An alternative definition has been claimed by numerous local commentators over the years, including the Ngunnawal elder Don Bell, whereby Canberra or Nganbra means "woman's breasts" and is the indigenous name for the two mountains, Black Mountain and Mount Ainslie, which lie almost opposite each other. In the 1860s, the name was reported by Queanbeyan newspaper owner John Gale to be an interpretation of the name nganbra or nganbira, meaning "hollow between a woman's breasts", and referring to the Sullivans Creek floodplain between Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain. An 1830s map of the region by Major Mitchell indeed does mark the Sullivan's Creek floodplain between these two mountains as "Nganbra". "Nganbra" or "Nganbira" could readily have been anglicised to the name "Canberry", as the locality soon become known to European settlers.

R. H. Cambage in his 1919 book Notes on the Native Flora of New South Wales, Part X, the Federal Capital Territory noted that Joshua John Moore, the first settler in the region, named the area Canberry in 1823 stating that "there seems no doubt that the original was a native name, but its meaning is unknown."' Survey plans of the district dated 1837 refer to the area as the Canberry Plain. In 1920, some of the older residents of the district claimed that the name was derived from the Australian Cranberry which grew abundantly in the area, noting that the local name for the plant was canberry. Although popularly pronounced /ˈkænbərə/ or /ˈkænbɛrə/, the original pronunciation at its official naming in 1913 was /ˈkæn.brə/.

History

Before white settlement, the area in which Canberra would eventually be constructed was seasonally inhabited by Indigenous Australians. Anthropologist Norman Tindale suggested the principal group occupying the region were the Ngunnawal people, while the Ngarigo lived immediately to the south of the ACT, the Wandandian to the east, the Walgulu also to the south, Gandangara people to the north, and Wiradjuri to the north west. Archaeological evidence of settlement in the region includes inhabited rock shelters, rock paintings and engravings, burial places, camps and quarry sites, and stone tools and arrangements. Artefacts suggests early human activity occurred at some point in the area 21,000 years previously.

Historic Blundells' Cottage
Blundells Cottage, built around 1860, is one of the few remaining buildings built by the first settlers of Canberra.

European exploration and settlement started in the Canberra area as early as the 1820s. There were four expeditions between 1820 and 1824. White settlement of the area probably dates from 1823, when a homestead or station was built on what is now the Acton peninsula by stockmen employed by Joshua John Moore. He formally applied to purchase the site on 16 December 1826, naming the property "Canberry". On 30 April 1827, Moore was told by letter that he could retain possession of 1,000 acres (405 ha) at Canberry.

The European population in the Canberra area continued to grow slowly throughout the 19th century. Among them was the Campbell family of "Duntroon"; their imposing stone house is now the officers' mess of the Royal Military College, Duntroon. The Campbells sponsored settlement by other farmer families to work their land, such as the Southwells of "Weetangera". Other notable early settlers included the inter-related Murray and Gibbes families, who owned the Yarralumla estate—now the site of the official residence of the Governor-General of Australia—from the 1830s through to 1881.

The oldest surviving public building in the inner-city is the Anglican Church of St John the Baptist, in the suburb of Reid, which was consecrated in 1845. St John's churchyard contains the earliest graves in the district. As the European presence increased, the indigenous population dwindled, mainly from disease such as smallpox and measles.

Decisions to start and locate a capital

Parliamenthouse2
The opening of Parliament House in May 1927.

The district's change from a rural area in New South Wales to the national capital started during debates over Federation in the late 19th century. Following a long dispute over whether Sydney or Melbourne should be the national capital, a compromise was reached: the new capital would be built in New South Wales, so long as it was at least 100 miles (160 km) from Sydney, with Melbourne to be the temporary seat of government (but not referred to as the "capital") while the new capital was built. Newspaper proprietor John Gale circulated a pamphlet titled 'Dalgety or Canberra: Which?' advocating Canberra to every member of the Commonwealth's seven state and federal parliaments. By many accounts, it was decisive in the selection of Canberra as the site in 1908, as was a result of survey work done by the government surveyor Charles Scrivener. The NSW government ceded the Federal Capital Territory (as it was then known) to the federal government.

An international design competition was launched by the Department of Home Affairs on 30 April 1911, closing on 31 January 1912. The competition was boycotted by the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Institute of Civil Engineers, and their affiliated bodies throughout the British Empire, because the Minister for Home Affairs, King O'Malley insisted that the final decision was for him to make rather than an expert in city planning. A total of 137 valid entries were received. O'Malley appointed a three-member board to advise him, but they could not reach unanimity. On 24 May 1911, O'Malley came down on the side of the majority of the board, the design by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin of Chicago, Illinois, United States being declared the winner. Second was Eliel Saarinen of Finland, and third was Alfred Agache of Brazil but resident in Paris, France. O'Malley then appointed a six-member board to advise him on the implementation of the winning design. On 25 November 1912 the board advised that it could not support Griffin's plan in its entirety, and suggested an alternative plan of its own devising, incorporating the best features of the three place-getting designs as well as of a fourth design by H. Caswell, R.C.G. Coulter and W. Scott-Griffiths of Sydney, the rights to which it had purchased. It was this composite plan that was endorsed by Parliament and given formal approval by O'Malley on 10 January 1913. In 1913 Griffin was appointed Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction and construction began. On 23 February King O'Malley drove the first peg in the construction of the future capital city.

History of Canberra as a capital city

In 1912 the government invited suggestions from the public as to the name of the future city. Almost 750 names were suggested. At midday on 12 March 1913, the city was officially given its name "Canberra" by Lady Denman, the wife of Governor-General Lord Denman, at a ceremony at Kurrajong Hill, which has since become Capital Hill and the site of the present Parliament House. Canberra Day is a public holiday observed in the ACT on the second Monday in March to celebrate the founding of Canberra. After the ceremony, bureaucratic disputes hindered Griffin's work; a Royal Commission in 1916 ruled his authority had been usurped by certain officials, and his original plan was reinstated. Griffin's relationship with the Australian authorities was strained and a lack of funding meant that by the time he was fired in 1920, little work had been done. By this time, Griffin had revised his plan, overseen the earthworks of major avenues, and established the Glenloch Cork Plantation.

The Commonwealth parliament moved to Canberra on 9 May 1927, with the opening of the Provisional Parliament House. The Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, had officially taken up residence in The Lodge a few days earlier. Planned development of the city slowed significantly during the depression of the 1930s and during World War II. Some projects planned for that time, including Roman Catholic and Anglican cathedrals, were never completed.

Lake-ParlHouse
Two of Canberra's best-known landmarks, Parliament House and Old Parliament House (foreground). Commonwealth Place runs alongside the lake and includes the International Flag Display. Questacon is on the right.

From 1920 to 1957, three bodies, successively the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, the Federal Capital Commission, and the National Capital Planning and Development Committee continued to plan the further expansion of Canberra in the absence of Griffin; however, they were only advisory, and development decisions were made without consulting them, increasing inefficiency.

The largest event in Canberra up to World War II was the 24th Meeting of ANZAAS in January 1939. The Canberra Times described it as "a signal event ... in the history of this, the world's youngest capital city". The city's accommodation was not nearly sufficient to house the 1,250 delegates, and a tent city had to be set up on the banks of the Molonglo River. One of the prominent speakers was H. G. Wells, who was a guest of the Governor-General Lord Gowrie for a week. This event coincided with a heatwave across south-eastern Australia, during which the temperature in Canberra reached 108.5 degrees on 11 January. On Friday 13 January the Black Friday bushfires caused 71 deaths in Victoria, and Wells accompanied the Governor-General on his tour of areas threatened by fires.

Immediately after the end of the war, Canberra was criticised for resembling a village, and its disorganised collection of buildings was deemed ugly. Canberra was often derisively described as "several suburbs in search of a city". Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies regarded the state of the national capital as an embarrassment. Over time his attitude changed from one of contempt to that of championing its development. He fired two ministers charged with the development of the city for poor performance. Menzies remained in office for over a decade, and in that time the development of the capital sped up rapidly. The population grew by more than 50 per cent in every five-year period from 1955 to 1975. Several Government departments, together with public servants, were moved to Canberra from Melbourne following the war. Government housing projects were undertaken to accommodate the city's growing population.

The National Capital Development Commission (NCDC), formed in 1957 with executive powers, ended four decades of disputes over the shape and design of Lake Burley Griffin—the centrepiece of Griffin's design—and construction was completed in 1964 after four years of work. The completion of the lake finally laid the platform for the development of Griffin's Parliamentary Triangle. Since the initial construction of the lake, various buildings of national importance have been constructed on its shores.

The newly built Australian National University was expanded, and sculptures and monuments were built. A new National Library was constructed within the Parliamentary Triangle, followed by the High Court and the National Gallery. Suburbs in Canberra Central (often referred to as North Canberra and South Canberra) were further developed in the 1950s, and urban development in the districts of Woden Valley and Belconnen commenced in the mid and late 1960s respectively. Many of the new suburbs were named after Australian politicians, such as Barton, Deakin, Reid, Braddon, Curtin, Chifley and Parkes.

City Centre viewed from Mount Ainslie lookout
Canberra Civic viewed from Mount Ainslie with Lake Burley Griffin and Mount Stromlo in the background.

On 9 May 1988, a larger and permanent Parliament House was opened on Capital Hill as part of Australia's bicentenary celebrations, and the Commonwealth Parliament moved there from the Provisional Parliament House, now known as Old Parliament House.

In December 1988, the ACT was granted full self-government through an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament. Following the first election on 4 March 1989, a 17-member Legislative Assembly sat at temporary offices at 1 Constitution Avenue, Civic, on 11 May 1989. Permanent premises were opened on London Circuit in 1994. The Australian Labor Party formed the ACT's first government, led by the Chief Minister Rosemary Follett, who made history as Australia's first female head of government.

Parts of Canberra were engulfed by bushfires on 18 January 2003 that killed four people, injured 435, and destroyed more than 500 homes and the major research telescopes of Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory.

Throughout 2013, several events celebrated the 100th anniversary of the naming of Canberra. On 11 March 2014, the last day of the centennial year, the Canberra Centenary Column was unveiled in City Hill.

Geography

Canberra SPOT 1088
The Canberra region seen from space
Free printable and editable vector map of Canberra Australia
City map plan of Canberra, Australia.

Canberra covers an area of 814.2 square kilometres (314.4 sq mi) and is located near the Brindabella Ranges, approximately 150 kilometres (93 mi) inland from Australia's east coast. It has an elevation of approximately 580 metres (1,900 ft) AHD; the highest point is Mount Majura at 888 m (2,913 ft). Other large hills include Mount Taylor 855 m (2,805 ft), Mount Ainslie 843 m (2,766 ft), Mount Mugga Mugga 812 m (2,664 ft) and Black Mountain 812 m (2,664 ft).

The native forest in the Canberra region was almost wholly eucalypt species and provided a resource for fuel and domestic purposes. By the early 1960s, logging had depleted the eucalypt, and concern about water quality led to the forests being closed. Interest in forestry began in 1915 with trials of a number of species including Pinus radiata on the slopes of Mount Stromlo. Since then, plantations have been expanded, with the benefit of reducing erosion in the Cotter catchment, and the forests are also popular recreation areas.

Canberra Map-MJC
The location of Canberra within the ACT. Canberra's main districts are shown in yellow: Canberra Central (marked as North Canberra and South Canberra), Woden Valley, Belconnen, Weston Creek, Tuggeranong, and Gungahlin.

The urban environs of the city of Canberra straddle the Ginninderra plain, Molonglo plain, the Limestone plain, and the Tuggeranong plain (Isabella's Plain). The Molonglo River which flows across the Molonglo plain has been dammed to form the national capital's iconic feature Lake Burley Griffin. The Molonglo then flows into the Murrumbidgee north-west of Canberra, which in turn flows north-west toward the New South Wales town of Yass. The Queanbeyan River joins the Molonglo River at Oaks Estate just within the ACT.

A number of creeks, including Jerrabomberra and Yarralumla Creeks, flow into the Molonglo and Murrumbidgee. Two of these creeks, the Ginninderra and Tuggeranong, have similarly been dammed to form Lakes Ginninderra and Tuggeranong. Until recently the Molonglo River had a history of sometimes calamitous floods; the area was a flood plain prior to the filling of Lake Burley Griffin.

Climate

Under Köppen-Geiger classification, Canberra has an oceanic climate (Cfb). In January, the warmest month, the average high is approximately 28 °C (82 °F); however, in July, the coldest month, the average high is only about 11 °C (52 °F). Frost is common in the winter months. Snow is rare in the CBD (central business district), but the surrounding areas get annual snowfall through winter and often the snow-capped mountains can be seen from the CBD—the last significant snowfall in the city centre was in 1968. The highest recorded maximum temperature is variously reported as 42.2 °C (108.0 °F) on 1 February 1968, or as 42.8 °C (109.0 °F) at Acton on 11 January 1939. Winter 2011 was Canberra's warmest winter on record, approximately 2 °C (4 °F) above the average temperature.

The lowest recorded minimum temperature was −10.0 °C (14.0 °F) on the morning of 11 July 1971. Light snow falls only once or twice per year, and it is usually not widespread and quickly dissipates. Canberra is protected from the west by the Brindabellas which create a slight rain shadow in Canberra's valleys. Canberra gets 100.4 clear days annually.

Annual rainfall is the third lowest of the capital cities (after Adelaide and Hobart) but is spread fairly evenly over the seasons, with late spring bringing the highest rainfall. Thunderstorms occur mostly between October and April, owing to the effect of summer and the mountains. The area is not very windy and the breeze is at its strongest from August to November. Canberra is less humid than the nearby coastal areas.

Climate data for Canberra Airport
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 42.0
(107.6)
42.2
(108)
37.5
(99.5)
32.6
(90.7)
24.5
(76.1)
20.1
(68.2)
19.7
(67.5)
24.0
(75.2)
28.6
(83.5)
32.7
(90.9)
39.9
(103.8)
39.2
(102.6)
42.2
(108)
Average high °C (°F) 28.0
(82.4)
27.1
(80.8)
24.5
(76.1)
20.0
(68)
15.6
(60.1)
12.3
(54.1)
11.4
(52.5)
13.0
(55.4)
16.2
(61.2)
19.4
(66.9)
22.7
(72.9)
26.1
(79)
19.7
(67.5)
Average low °C (°F) 13.2
(55.8)
13.1
(55.6)
10.7
(51.3)
6.7
(44.1)
3.2
(37.8)
1.0
(33.8)
-0.1
(31.8)
1.0
(33.8)
3.3
(37.9)
6.1
(43)
8.8
(47.8)
11.4
(52.5)
6.5
(43.7)
Record low °C (°F) 1.6
(34.9)
3.0
(37.4)
-1.1
(30)
-3.7
(25.3)
-7.5
(18.5)
-8.5
(16.7)
-10.0
(14)
-8.5
(16.7)
-6.8
(19.8)
-3.4
(25.9)
-1.8
(28.8)
0.3
(32.5)
-10.0
(14)
Precipitation mm (inches) 58.5
(2.303)
56.4
(2.22)
50.7
(1.996)
46.0
(1.811)
44.4
(1.748)
40.4
(1.591)
41.4
(1.63)
46.2
(1.819)
52.0
(2.047)
62.4
(2.457)
64.4
(2.535)
53.8
(2.118)
616.4
(24.268)
Avg. precipitation days 7.3 6.7 6.9 7.3 8.4 9.8 10.5 11.1 10.2 10.4 9.8 7.8 106.2
Sunshine hours 294.5 254.3 251.1 219 186 156 179.8 217 231 266.6 267 291.4 2,813.7
Source #1: Climate averages for Canberra Airport Comparison (1939–2010)
Source #2: Special climate statements and climate summaries for more recent extremes

Urban structure

Inner-canberra 01MJC
Inner Canberra demonstrates some aspects of the Griffin plan, in particular the Parliamentary Triangle.
Tuggeranong-Valley-lr-cropped
View from Tuggeranong Hill, looking down into Tuggeranong Valley

Canberra is a planned city and the inner-city area was originally designed by Walter Burley Griffin, a major 20th-century American architect. Within the central area of the city near Lake Burley Griffin, major roads follow a wheel-and-spoke pattern rather than a grid. Griffin's proposal had an abundance of geometric patterns, including concentric hexagonal and octagonal streets emanating from several radii. However, the outer areas of the city, built later, are not laid out geometrically.

Lake Burley Griffin was deliberately designed so that the orientation of the components was related to various topographical landmarks in Canberra. The lakes stretch from east to west and divided the city in two; a land axis perpendicular to the central basin stretches from Capital Hill—the eventual location of the new Parliament House on a mound on the southern side—north northeast across the central basin to the northern banks along Anzac Parade to the Australian War Memorial. This was designed so that looking from Capital Hill, the War Memorial stood directly at the foot of Mount Ainslie. At the southwestern end of the land axis was Bimberi Peak, the highest mountain in the ACT, approximately 52 km (32 mi) south west of Canberra.

The straight edge of the circular segment that formed the central basin of Lake Burley Griffin was perpendicular to the land axis and designated the water axis, and it extended northwest towards Black Mountain. A line parallel to the water axis, on the northern side of the city, was designated the municipal axis. The municipal axis became the location of Constitution Avenue, which links City Hill in Civic Centre and both Market Centre and the Defence precinct on Russell Hill. Commonwealth Avenue and Kings Avenue were to run from the southern side from Capital Hill to City Hill and Market Centre on the north respectively, and they formed the western and eastern edges of the central basin. The area enclosed by the three avenues was known as the Parliamentary Triangle, and formed the centrepiece of Griffin's work.

The Griffins assigned spiritual values to Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain, and Red Hill and originally planned to cover each of these in flowers. That way each hill would be covered with a single, primary color which represented its spiritual value. This part of their plan never came to fruition, as World War I slowed construction and planning disputes led to Griffin's dismissal by Prime Minister Billy Hughes after the war ended.

The urban areas of Canberra are organised into a hierarchy of districts, town centres, group centres, local suburbs as well as other industrial areas and villages. There are seven residential districts, each of which is divided into smaller suburbs, and most of which have a town centre which is the focus of commercial and social activities. The districts were settled in the following chronological order:

  • Canberra Central, mostly settled in the 1920s and 1930s, with expansion up to the 1960s, 25 suburbs
  • Woden Valley, first settled in 1964, 12 suburbs
  • Belconnen, first settled in 1966, 27 suburbs (2 not yet developed)
  • Weston Creek, settled in 1969, 8 suburbs
  • Tuggeranong, settled in 1974, 18 suburbs
  • Gungahlin, settled in the early 1990s, 18 suburbs (3 not yet developed)
  • Molonglo Valley, development began in 2010, 13 suburbs planned.

The Canberra Central district is substantially based on Walter Burley Griffin's designs. In 1967 the then National Capital Development Commission adopted the "Y Plan" which laid out future urban development in Canberra around a series of central shopping and commercial area known as the 'town centres' linked by freeways, the layout of which roughly resembled the shape of the letter Y, with Tuggeranong at the base of the Y and Belconnen and Gungahlin located at the ends of the arms of the Y.

Development in Canberra has been closely regulated by government, both through planning processes and the use of crown lease terms that have tightly limited the use of parcels of land. Land in the ACT is held on 99-year crown leases from the national government, although most leases are now administered by the Territory government. There have been persistent calls for constraints on development to be liberalised.

Many of Canberra's suburbs are named after former Prime Ministers, famous Australians, early settlers, or use Aboriginal words for their title. Street names typically follow a particular theme; for example, the streets of Duffy are named after Australian dams and reservoirs, the streets of Dunlop are named after Australian inventions, inventors and artists and the streets of Page are named after biologists and naturalists. Most diplomatic missions are located in the suburbs of Yarralumla, Deakin and O'Malley. There are three light industrial areas: the suburbs of Fyshwick, Mitchell and Hume.

Panorama of Canberra and Lake Burley Griffin set against the backdrop of distant New South Wales, taken from the Telstra Tower
Canberra viewed from Mount Ainslie.jpg
2
3
4
7
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
Points of Interest Looking South from Mount Ainslie
War Memorial
2
Anzac Parade
3
Old Parliament House
4
New Parliament House
National Gallery
High Court
7
Questacon
National Library
9
Edmund Barton Building
10
Brindabella Ranges
11
Lovett Tower
12
Ben Chifley Building
13
Lake Burley Griffin
14
Limestone Avenue
15
Fairbairn Avenue
16
Parkes Way
17
R G Casey Building
18
John Gorton Building
19
King Edward Terrace
20
Presbyterian Church of Saint Andrew

Sustainability and environment

Floriade Canberra ACT
Floriade is held in Commonwealth Park every Spring. It is the largest flower festival in the Southern Hemisphere, employing and encouraging various environmental practises, including the use of green energy.

The average Canberran was responsible for 13.7 tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2005. In 2012 the ACT Government legislated greenhouse gas targets to reduce its emissions by 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, 80 per cent by 2050, with no net emissions by 2060. The government announced in 2013 a target for 90% of electricity consumed in the ACT to be supplied from renewable sources by 2020, and in 2016 set an ambitious target target of 100% by 2020.

In 1996 Canberra became the first city in the world to set a vision of no waste, proposing an ambitious target of 2010 for completion. The strategy aimed to achieve a waste-free society by 2010, through the combined efforts of industry, government and community. By early 2010, it was apparent that though it had reduced waste going to landfill, the ACT initiative's original 2010 target for absolutely zero landfill waste would be delayed or revised to meet the reality.

Plastic bags made of polyethylene polymer with a thickness of less than 35 µm were banned from retail distribution in the ACT from November 2011. The ban was introduced by the ACT Government in an effort to make Canberra more sustainable.

Of all waste produced in the ACT, 75 per cent is recycled. Average household food waste in the ACT remains above the Australian average, costing an average $641 per household per annum.

Canberra's annual Floriade festival features a large display of flowers every Spring in Commonwealth Park. The organisers of the event have a strong environmental standpoint, promoting and using green energy, "green catering", sustainable paper, the conservation and saving of water. The event is also smoke-free.

Demographics

Old bus depot markets
Shopping at the weekly Old Bus Depot Markets, Kingston

As at census night in August 2011, the population of Canberra was 355,596, up from 323,056 people in 2006. The 2011 census showed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 1.4% of ACT's population, while 28.6% of the population were born overseas. The largest group of people born overseas came from the United Kingdom (3.7%) and then China (1.8%).

Significant numbers of immigrants have also come from New Zealand, India and Vietnam. Recent immigrants have arrived from countries in East and South Asia. Most locals only speak English at home (77.8%); other languages spoken at home include Mandarin, Italian, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Spanish.

Canberrans are relatively young, highly mobile, and well educated. The median age is 34 years, and only 10.7% of the population is aged over 65 years. Between 1996 and 2001, 61.9% of the population either moved to or from Canberra, which was the second highest mobility rate of any Australian capital city. According to statistics collected by the National Australia Bank and reported in The Canberra Times, Canberrans on average give significantly more money to charity than Australians in other states and territories, for both dollar giving and as a proportion of income.

As at May 2013, 45% of ACT residents (25–64) had a level of educational attainment equal to at least a bachelor's degree, significantly higher that the national average of 29%. On census night in 2011, approximately 44% of ACT residents described themselves as Christian, the most common denominations being Catholic and Anglican; 29% described themselves as having no religion.

Arts and entertainment

NatMusAus Main Entrance Strip
The National Museum of Australia established in 2001 records Australia's social history and is one of Canberra's more architecturally daring buildings.

Canberra is home to many national monuments and institutions such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Library, the National Archives, the Australian Academy of Science, the National Film and Sound Archive and the National Museum. Many Commonwealth government buildings in Canberra are open to the public, including Parliament House, the High Court and the Royal Australian Mint.

Lake Burley Griffin is the site of the Captain James Cook Memorial and the National Carillon. Other sites of interest include the Telstra Tower, the Australian National Botanic Gardens, the National Zoo and Aquarium, the National Dinosaur Museum and Questacon – the National Science and Technology Centre.

NLA Canberra-01JAC
A copy of every book published in Australia is required by law to be held by the National Library of Australia.

The Canberra Museum and Gallery in the city is a repository of local history and art, housing a permanent collection and visiting exhibitions. Several historic homes are open to the public: Lanyon and Tuggeranong Homesteads in the Tuggeranong Valley, Mugga-Mugga in Symonston, and Blundells' Cottage in Parkes all display the lifestyle of the early European settlers. Calthorpes' House in Red Hill is a well-preserved example of a 1920s house from Canberra's very early days. Canberra has many venues for live music and theatre: the Canberra Theatre and Playhouse which hosts many major concerts and productions; and Llewellyn Hall (within the ANU School of Music), a world-class concert hall are two of the most notable. The Street Theatre is a venue with less mainstream offerings. The Albert Hall was the city's first performing arts venue, opened in 1928. It was the original performance venue for theatre groups such as the Canberra Repertory Society.

Stonefest was a large annual festival, for some years one of the biggest festivals in Canberra. It was downsized and rebranded as Stone Day in 2012. There are numerous bars and nightclubs which also offer live entertainment, particularly concentrated in the areas of Dickson, Kingston and the city. Most town centres have facilities for a community theatre and a cinema, and they all have a library. Popular cultural events include the National Folk Festival, the Royal Canberra Show, the Summernats car festival, Enlighten festival, the National Multicultural Festival in February and the Celebrate Canberra festival held over 10 days in March in conjunction with Canberra Day.

Canberra Nara park
Canberra–Nara park with Kasuga stone lanterns framed by the gate

Canberra maintains sister-city relationships with both Nara, Japan and Beijing, China. Canberra has friendship-city relationships with both Dili, East Timor and Hangzhou, China. City-to-city relationships encourage communities and special interest groups both locally and abroad to engage in a wide range of exchange activities. The Canberra Nara Candle Festival held annually in spring, is a community celebration of the Canberra Nara Sister City relationship. The festival is held in Canberra Nara Park on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.

International relations

Twin towns – sister cities

Canberra is twinned with:

Friendship city relationships

  • The Canberra Dili Friendship Agreement was signed in 2004, aiming to build friendship and mutual respect and promote educational, cultural, economic, humanitarian and sporting links between Canberra and Dili.
  • The ACT Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Hangzhou Municipal People's Government on 29 October 1998; the Agreement was designed to promote business opportunities and cultural exchanges between the two cities.

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Canberra Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.