Having lived in Australia for a year, it sort of became time to visit the nation’s capital. While Australian politics frustrates the hell out of me in general (sometimes even more than its Belgian equivalent, which is quite an achievement!), perceptions of a country need to be supported by a close look at their decisionmaking process. By bus Canberra is only 3 hours 15 minutes – I’m not kidding, it’s on the dot – away from Sydney, the trip giving you great views and encouraging kangaroo counting along the track.
The above picture was taken from the top of the new Parliament house and shows how nicely this building is aligned with the old Parliament house and the war memorial entirely at the back. The scene is very similar to Washington DC with its similar center alignment.
Canberra is a planned city that was developed in 1908 as a compromise between Melbourne and Sydney, both vying for the role of capital of Australia. It is based in its own territory, the Australian Capital Territory, and has a population of little over 325,000.
The name is based on the Ngunawal word for a “meeting place” – Kambera. Ngunawal is the language historically spoken by a local aboriginal tribe.
One of the most interesting places to visit in Canberra is the Parliament house. It can be visited, free of charge, giving you access to both Parliament rooms: the House of Representatives and the Senate; the latter of which is shown below.
The political system is a mixture of the systems used in the UK and the US, with as dominant exception that the House of Representatives actually has more power than the Senate. The leader of the party with most seats in this lower house is generally invited to form the government.
Another item of note in Canberra is the Australian of the Year walk, next to Lake Burley Griffin, a major recreation spot. It puts on display all Australians of the year dating back to somewhere in the seventies.