Capital City Functions
The Story of Canberra
The most important functions of the national capital are associated with government. Australia now has a striking new Parliament House, undoubtedly one of the world's most impressive buildings.
It was opened by the Queen in May 1988 and superseded the temporary House (opened in 1927) which was simply too small to comfortably accommodate the Members, Senators and their staffs along with the press corps and administrative personnel.
The design for the new building by American firm Mitchell Giurgola in partnership with Australian- born architect Richard Thorp was selected in 1980 from 329 entrants in a world- wide competition.
Situated on Capital Hill, Canberra's focal point, the new building has been designed not to impose over the landscape but to merge into the profile of the hill itself.
The circular form of Capital Hill is suggested in two planes-along the majestic curved walls and over the gentle rise of the central roof, which is covered in lawn, recalling the original hilltop.
The flag mast is the pinnacle of the building, standing 81 metres above the roof and flies a huge Australian flag, about the size of a double-decker bus.
Government offices are dotted around the lake, in the city, Belconnen, Woden and Tuggeranong.
The Chief Justice and six other Justices dispense the law within the eye-catching High Court building.
More than sixty countries have established diplomatic missions in Canberra. Most are within close range of the parliamentary triangle in choice residential areas. Many of these chancelleries and residences are constructed in the architecture of their homeland and are a distinctive feature of Canberra.
A number of national institutions have been established in the capital - the National Library, the National Gallery, the National University, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Academy of Science and the National Science and Technology Centre to name but a few.
National organisations that require frequent contact with politicians and administrators have established their headquarters in Canberra. In one small area of Barton are the national headquarters of the three major political parties, the Institution of Engineers, the Chamber of Manufactures, the National Farmers' Federation and the National Press Club.
Canberra is the natural location for a number of national memorials. The Australian War Memorial stands majestically at the foot of Mount Ainslie overlooking a wide avenue of Anzac Parade. The Australian-American Memorial in the heart of the defence complex at Russell Hill commemorates the United States' contribution towards Australia's defence in World War II. The Captain Cook Memorial near Regatta Point marks the bicentenary of the discovery of Australia's east coast.
Eighty years ago Canberra did not exist. Today it is a beautiful city, befitting the capital of a young and prosperous Australia. The site of the city has been enhanced by the planting of more than twelve million trees, by the creation of its attractive lakes, by fine buildings and careful planning.
It is, as Walter Burley Griffin predicted, 'unlike any other city in the world'.
Back to: The Story of Canberra
Adapted by Tom Worthington from the pamphlet "The Story of Canberra", with the permission of Canberra Tourism.
- Books on Canberra History
- Walter Burley Griffin
- A history of Canberra by DCITA
- Canberra Tourism
- ACT Government Home Page
This Web Site Was Moved Here, February 1999
Web page by Tom Worthington.
Note: This information is no longer being updated but has been retained for reference.