Canberra, ACT. Celebrating the Centenary of Canberra.

The Federal Capital Site 1913


Busy time in Canberra this week as they celebrate the Centenary of Canberra. Over the past year or so Explorers Tree has researched many aspects of the quest for Australia’s Federal Capital Site, particulary in relation to Bombala and Yass which were both among the original 45 or so contenders in 1901. Canberra was not even considered until 1906 when no agreement could be reached. The National Library of Australia (NLA) is a marvellous resource and has a huge variety of items in its collections, including a watercolour of the Canberra Federal Capital Site by Penleigh Boyd. Links to all the items are included as permission is required from the NLA to publish the actual pictures or articles online.

A Timeline on Canberra 100 shows that on 20 February, 1913, the Minister for Home Affairs, King O’Malley, hammered the first peg of the survey for the city of Canberra. A quick look at Trove helps us to locate both newspaper articles and pictures from 1913. Here’s the photograph taken on the day, although the event seems to have been overlooked by the media at the time, except for the Broken Hill ‘Barrier Miner’ which ran an article on ‘The Unnamed Federal Capital’ and the Goulburn Penny Post which welcomed the subsequent naming in ‘Foundation Ceremony’.

According to the Timeline ‘On 12 March 1913, three golden trowels were used to lay the first three foundation stones of the nation’s new capital: the first by the Governor-General, Lord Denman; the second by the Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher; and the third by the Minister for Home Affairs, King O’Malley’. The National Library of Australia actually has the  trowel used by King O’Malley which he donated to them in 1934 and was featured in many Australian newspapers at the time, including the Sydney Morning Herald, the Courier Mail and the Townsville Daily Bulletin.

In 1938, after 25 years, the short history of Canberra was reported in an illustrated article from the Canberra Times entitled the ‘World’s Youngest and Fairest City’. Tonight a new program on ABC TV entitled ‘Canberra Confidential’ begins and will hopefully showcase many of the resources available at the National Library of Australia and elsewhere.

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