Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: UNSW Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Canberra is a city of orphans. People arrive temporarily for work, but stay on because they discover unanticipated promise and opportunity in a city that the rest of the country loathes but can’t really do without. Daley’s Canberra begins and ends at the lake and its forgotten suburbs, traces of which can still be found on Burley Griffin’s banks. It meanders through the cultural institutions that chronicle the unsavoury early life of Canberra, the graveyard at St John’s where the pioneers rest and the mountains that surround the city. In Canberra people don’t ask you where you went to school, as they do in Melbourne, or where your house is and how much you paid for it, as they do in Sydney. They ask you where you’ve come from. And how long you’re going to stay.

    eISBN: 978-1-74224-611-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Prologue
    (pp. 1-13)

    My father lifted me with straining arms. I was eye-to-nose with that man who was so familiar to me from the television. But he looked past me to the base of the steps below where a big white car waited, its front passenger door open and a chauffeur beside it. Expert in the unteachable political skill of non-engaged engagement, he was undoubtedly dealing with us. But his attention was focused ten steps beyond; he gestured theatrically with those dark eyebrows, to the driver.

    ‘Paul,’ my father Patrick said, although he was actually addressing the great man, ‘this is the next...

  4. The Plains
    (pp. 14-99)

    In the beginning the plains were a vast expanse of limestone. Then the native groundcovers transformed them into one great blanket of colour as the button daisies, bluebells and vivid yellow kangaroo grass took root in brittle, rich soil.

    The eucalypt, melaleuca, casuarina and grevillea stuck to the edges of the rises and gathered in occasional thicker copses around the rolling hills bordering the plains. It was a perfect natural grassland furrowed with a series of bubbling streams and faster-flowing, darker brooks that connected a series of billabongs. The Ngambri were the first inhabitants.

    The Ngambri people wielded spears and...

  5. Monuments in the Grass
    (pp. 100-178)

    Like most who live here, I have my place, a piece of urban bush where I lose myself and find myself. It’s not actually mine. The great egalitarian ideal that some of the dreamers had for Canberra never fully materialised – but it is symbolised by the access that all have to the best views along the ridges, hills and mountains that corral the Limestone Plains.

    You can be a multimillionaire here. But you still can’t buy the heights. They are reserved for the dog walkers, the runners and the twitchers.

    My place is Red Hill. When the dog and I...

  6. Continuing City
    (pp. 179-310)

    Like much about early Canberra, politics also heavily compromised the most important building in the intended seat of federal democracy – Parliament House.

    Griffin had supported an international design competition for Parliament House to be built, on Camp Hill on the land axis immediately below Capital Hill. The government called for competitors on 1 July 1914. Five weeks later, the war began, making it impossible to mount a truly ‘international competition’ (potential designers from ‘enemy’ countries would have to be banned, automatically giving competitive advantage to others).

    Ultimately, the competition for a permanent Parliament House was postponed until 1980.

    During the...

  7. Epilogue
    (pp. 311-314)

    Twenty years ago as the illegally parked removalists unpacked my possessions, Canberra had just turned eighty.

    Nobody talked much about the identity of the place, let alone defended it.

    The retired public servant in fawn slacks berating the removalists seemed to be some staged stereotype sent to test my resolve on my first day in the new city.

    ‘It’s a public space and besides, the wheels will ruin the lawn.’

    I knew what was going to happen next.

    ‘Fuckin’ Canberra,’ cursed one of the prisontattooed heavy lifters through missing teeth. ‘Full of government pricks what know better on everything. What...

  8. Notes and Acknowledgments
    (pp. 315-328)