Friday, March 17, 2017

The Capitol of Australia

Quick, without referencing a map or looking it up, tell me what the capitol of Australia is. Is it Sydney? Melbourne? Perth?

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Canberra. Not too bad, eh?
Nope, it's Canberra. Which is somewhat surprising given that those cities are much larger and popular cities. Additionally, in 1820, when Canberra was picked for the Australian capitol, the area was already occupied by sheep farmer John Moore, who was basically squatting on the ancestral lands of the Ngunnawal people. Of course, the latter didn't matter, because, as anyone who has every studied history knows, white people just don't give a shit about native people and their rights. It's a terrible tradition that continues all around the world today.

Why was Canberra chosen then? Was it for it's spectacular views and room to grow? In a way, yes, but one of the main motivators in the selection of Canberra was that Canberra was equally far from both Melbourne and Sydney--the two largest Australian cities who just couldn't get along.

Sydney and Melbourne had been contending for the rights to be the young nation's capitol for quite some time. These cities were 443 miles (878 kilometers) apart, and both were booming metropolises, or at least as booming as it got in 1800s Australia. There was quite a distance between the two, which fostered a healthy rivalry, but not a lot of interaction. The two cities were in heavy competition, and it was giving the Australian government a headache.

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Eventually, like a mother with two squabbling children, the government told both cities that neither of them could have the capitol, and sent them off to their rooms to sulk. However, to appease Sydney and Melbourne they added another criteria for the capitol-it had to be equidistant from the two cities.

So, instead of using a city with already existing infrastructure and population, the Australian government built an entirely new city. They went to the massive expense and inconvenience, all because Sydney and Melbourne couldn't get along.

Local Histories
Canberra National Website
Australia, A Very Short Introduction by Kenneth Morgan

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