Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Another video from John Evans of Johnny Boy's Walkabout Blog showing another old weir on the Cotter River catchment (Canberra's water supply) in the ACT. No description provided on this one but I assume it is near the Pago weir. (another video by John). Anyway love the name...

More videos can be found at John's YouTube Channel

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Saturday, March 26, 2011


A tale I liked of Mrs Wright and her maid Louisa the first white women on the untamed European frontier of the 'Limestone Plains'. Her husband James Wright established Lanyon homestead. Apparently Mrs Wright was quite the Florence Nightingale to the local Aboriginals. Interestingly this seemed to afford the family a level of protection from what are referred to as the hostile and wild tribes of the area.

The Canberra Times - 13 May 1927

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Friday, March 25, 2011


Canberra vandalism is estimated to cost the ACT taxpayer $300,000 a year. Although I sometimes despair at the actions of others in regard the damage, graffiti and theft perpetrated around the capital I do not see most vandalism as being irretrievable. Concrete walls can be washed and painted, recent public artwork can inevitably be reworked and replaced.

In recent months vandals have turned their attention to cultural and environmental targets in the Territory for their senselessness. Targets that cannot be replaced such as the Lanyon Barn gutted by fire last weekend and now a century old Kurrajong tree on the outskirts of southern Tuggeranong. 

It wasn't cut down quickly with a chainsaw someone actually scaled the hill and took to the tree's trunk with an axe and felled it. That's a lot of malicious effort even for a vandalizing moron.

If anyone has any information please contact Crime Stoppers ACT

Update: A tweet I just received from Dianna @wolfey_wolf ... Love it!

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It all had to start somewhere... This news clipping from 1910 tells of the first allocation of £45,000 towards the establishment of the new capital Canberra. The Minister for Home Affairs Mr King O'Malley (bio) formulated the first schedule of capital works including the acquisition of the property 'Acton' to establish the Department of Home Affairs. Twelve other capital works are detailed in the article.

The Argus - 21 December 1910

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I am sad to report that one of Canberra's oldest 19th century buildings has burnt down under suspicious circumstances. Police are investigating. (Canberra Times) (ABC News) The historic Lanyon Homestead has been the target of vandals several times in recent months with the most recent being a graffiti spree in October (ABC News). This attack has been far more destructive with the building being effectively gutted by fire.

The barn's roof was wooden battened, wooden shingled with a wooden door. It is obvious from the photo that all that remains are the field stone walls. There was also a permanent convict display housed in the building with storyboards, displays and audio. The October attack at the homestead prompted the installation of sophisticated surveillance equipment. This system however did not cover the 1840 convict built barn located a few hundred meters away from the homestead.

I have many photos of Lanyon Homestead and I started searching them to find some of the barn. To my dismay I only have a couple. The photo below is of the barn's only entry with the homestead in the left hand rear behind the white fence. 

And a picture of the shingled roof. No wonder it burnt...

Apart from the fact I considered the convict barn to be a historical treasure (it was built by convicts not housed them) it remained one of the oldest extant buildings in today's Australian Capital Territory. The buildings loss is I believe a cultural tragedy for the region if not the nation. One can only hope that the perpetrators are caught and punished in equal proportion to the loss imposed on the community and future generations of the community. 

If you have any information please contact Crime-stoppers.

And my personal thoughts... Bring back public floggings.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011


A letter to the Editor dated 1924 penned by F Campbell grandson of Robert 'Merchant' Campbell (bio) of Duntroon describing the historical pronunciation of Canberra from a time when the area was known as 'Limestone Plains'. The letter ends with a description of the discovery of 'Piallago' which was to become Duntroon, today's Royal Military College...

The Sydney Morning Herald - 1 April 1924

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011


A few newspaper clippings about the discovery at Canberra of Black Marble in 1930. The 'discovery' was heralded as a future asset for the construction of what were to be grand administrative buildings in the National Capital. There is an old quarry on the bottom slope of Black Mountain just above the ANU maybe that's it.

I was only discussing recently on a Canberra forum about the ACT's natural resources. There has been talk recently of re-opening old gold workings in the south of the territory which would create the first real mineral based industry in the region. Perhaps we could re-establish a decorative black marble quarry/industry in Acton? Surely the National Museum and the ANU wouldn't mind...

The Sydney Morning Herald - 17 June 1930

The black marble's presence was apparently long known before these reports and used for a number of other things...

The Sydney Morning Herald - 23 June 1930

And it was reportedly of very high quality...

The Canberra Times - 14 July 1930

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Monday, March 14, 2011


Today is the public holiday to mark the 98th birthday of the establishment of Canberra. The 12th March 1913 marks the day Canberra was officially founded as the Australian National Capital. This newspaper clipping from 1939 appears to be the earliest reference to the beginnings of a celebrated Canberra day that I can find.  The movement to mark the day was supported primarily by the men that had built the city via the Trades and Labour Council of the day. Anyway happy 98th birthday Canberra!

The Canberra Times - 11 March 1939

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Sunday, March 13, 2011


This 1927 Tasmanian newspaper clipping is pretty much a 101 of Canberra history from the area's discovery in the early 19th century to it's development into Australia's National Capital and Territory in the early 20th. I have read quite a few early news clippings reporting the new capital's beginnings to the population but this is the best so far. A lot of detail has been crammed into the article. Tasmanians probably knew more of Canberra's early history than the rest of Australia at the time.

I do wonder what happened to the multi-State sourced 27 foot tall granite column 'under construction' on  Kurrajong Hill.

Examiner (Launceston) - 10 May 1927

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Friday, March 11, 2011


Sorry nothing historical here today. Come back tomorrow...

It's not often I get on my soapbox on this blog with the last time being Australia Day but an Australian Republic is another area of my interest. A few weeks ago I began a poll on this blog asking the question “An Australian Republic?” Anybody who regularly reads here knows it’s not a ‘Republican’ blog its a small Canberra 'history' blog. The site gets about a hundred visitors a day. 

The blog is usually the result of an interest in Canberra history that I take the time to share so the blog is neutral in regards to any visitors Republican leaning, one way or the other. Having said that the poll should be more indicative of random opinion than a poll on a Republican or Monarchist themed website.

I will let the poll results speak for themselves...

Lets not beat around the bush, I'm a card carrying supporter of Australia becoming a Republic. Why? A lot of reasons but a few main ones. Firstly I have a problem with the concept of Australia’s Head of State being determined by the hereditary birthright of a foreign monarch. Rule by birthright is to me antiquated, perhaps even offensive no bones about it. (Apparently we are not all created equal.) I firmly believe that any Australian citizen with the peoples support should be able to aspire to the top-job.

Secondly and more importantly I have a problem with Australia's unity under that archaic blood-line system. As far as Australia's unity goes what once worked no longer does.

I hear a lot of comment that Australia is in all effects already operating as a republic so why bother formalising it? Why rock the boat?  We can continue to trundle along with an absent foreign Monarch as our Head of State, with her resident representative the Governor General appointing our governments. It works and always has worked. Currently we have Queen Elizabeth, next in line King Charles to be followed by King William and Queen Catherine and then their first born male offspring. That should cover us for at least the next 80 years. Why change now?

It all boils down to unity. Unity of today's Australian people. I think today the time of Australian people's unity  under the Monarchy has come to an end. For a long time the Crown was an appropriate and unifying symbol for Australia whilst the country was predominantly populated by British descendants with just a touch of expanding European immigration thrown in. This was a time my parents and I knew well, the British Australia of my youth. 

It was a time when a portrait of Queen Elizabeth adorned the walls of every classroom in the country and what a fuss when a Royal visit. A time where at 17 upon joining the Australian Army I swore allegiance to the Queen before entering one of the ‘Royal’ Australian corps. In 1981 at the CHOGM meetings in Melbourne I guarded the cavalcade and saw the Queen pass by. I am reminded of Robert Menzies "I did but see her passing by, and yet I love her till I die" except I did not hold the same sentiment. In the Army as in civilian life unity was somehow derived from the British Crown.

Fast forward 2011…

The Australia of my youth has thankfully ended and I not only accept that but embrace it. Some Australians hold on to that ‘time’ of British Australia to the detriment of Australia today. Australia is no longer simply a British population loyal to their ancestral homeland and Monarch with a few ‘wogs’ thrown in. The Nation is now made up of many races of people from all over the globe. Australia is today a nation of people originating from many places who's diversity needs to be respected as Australians. 

The monarchy has become to the majority of Australians an irrelevancy. It is no longer a unifying institution. If the monarchy was still being effective people today would be embracing their Australian citizenship united under the British Monarch as one people. All loyal Australians under an Australian Queen. Asians, Middle Eastern, Islander, Aboriginal and European origin peoples living as one under the unity of Australia's Monarch. Unfortunately as idyllic as that would be it remains a fairy tale from the vaults of the Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. The crown today is just not relevant to most Australians and to others the Crown is an absolute offence.

Disunity now abounds in Australian society. For example I hear people identifying as, and being referred to as a Muslim, a Croat a Leb or a Turk… It’s that Muslim down the road... never that 'bloke' down the road as if the person of Muslim faith was somehow not Australian. There exists an overwhelming absence of Australian unity. The arrogance displayed by some Australians using the excuse of a British heritage for racism by the uneducated festers like a cancer and eventually erupts in events like the Cronulla riots.

The disunity is further highlighted by the Australian Aboriginal people’s collective historical anguish. They see the Crown in general and Australia Day as the date they were invaded and stripped of their lands and the beginning of the decimation of their people. They see the Crown as an ever present oppressor. It is apparent to me that Aboriginal people today see Australia’s constitutional ties to the Monarchy as a reason for mourning and anger. 

Aboriginal people appear today however to have accepted the official apology from the Australian Government, and the apology was in my opinion really only ever a good first step. In order to finalize the elusive concept of reconciliation they simply seek recognition. Meaningful recognition.  Despite all the multi-millions spent on media campaigns over the years nothing meaningful has ever materialized and reconciliation as far as I can tell has stalled. There is a void. Meaningful and lasting Reconciliation could be as simple as inclusion in a Constitutional preamble acknowledging traditional ownership and returning a sense of sovereignty.

The Monarchy today fails to unite all Australian people. Its bloodline hierarchy is an anachronism and really should be relegated to being just an Australian historical curiosity. Why hold onto our colonial past? We are today an independent multicultural nation. What do we fear by declaring that independence from Britain and all standing as one unified Australian people? Australia’s becoming a republic handled correctly could be an enormous opportunity. I see a Republic with an Australian Head of State as a chance to unify everyone for the common good.

Celebrate our British heritage but also meaningfully acknowledge the hard work of all migrant Australians regardless of origin and their incalculable contribution in building the Nation. Celebrate the Nations multiculturalism by uniting the people under an Australian Head of State. For me a Republic is all about the unity it could provide for all Australians black, white and brindle. Finally cut the umbilical cord to Britain...

These were my ranting opinions and I'm a dreamer if you want the official line go to:

The Australian Republican Movement website

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Thursday, March 10, 2011


I don't know who the parade was for but this news clipping from 1927 lists a who's who of Canberra pioneers shortly before their passing. Names with associations going back to 1835 fill the 70 year gap from Canberra's (Limestone Plains) European discovery in 1822 till the founding of Canberra as Australia's National Capital in 1913. I think the article with references to well known Canberra landmarks adds a human touch to the Limestone Plains period...

The Canberra Times - 13 May 1927

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Canberra had to fight off quite a few contenders to be declared the Australian Capital. Dalgety, Lyndhurst, Albury, Armidale, Tumut, Cooma, Lake George, Bombala and Orange were also in the running with Dalgety being the favourite. Seems Canberra was the 'dark horse' that came from behind to win the title. I love the quote by the 'Father of Canberra' "...that to compare Dalgety with Canberra is like comparing this house with a 6 X 8 tent."

The Sydney Morning Herald - 26 April 1927

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Saturday, March 5, 2011


This pops up a bit. A suggestion by Mr A. Percival former Commonwealth Surveyor General that Canberra may have been named after a tree. Strangely this proposition has been alluded to before in another article were it is suggested that an old pioneer canned the local berries and carted them off to market at nearby  Queanbeyan hence 'Canberry'.

All great stuff but of course there are no wild native cranberries in Canberra and the only edible red berry I can think of would be the Ngambri's Native Cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis). Being a surveyor Percival continues on with tales of the first surveys of Canberra early in the 20th century.

The Canberra Times - 4 June 1954

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011


On the first day of each month I post the statistics for my blog. The red bar indicates new visitors to the site from search engines and the like and the yellow bar indicates those of you who are returning visitors. On a month by month basis you can see after steadily increasing each month from July to December numbers seem to have leveled off at around 2000 visitors a month (Dec-Feb).

The most visited posts for the month were the ever popular Yarralumla Woolshed (May 10) Civic Brown Snake (Nov 10) Convict Floggings (July 10) Wild Dogs Roam Canberra (Feb 11) and Queen Nellie Hamilton (June 10). 

As far as the woolshed post goes it has transferred, via a link, over 500 visitors to the ACT Gov parks hire page over the past 8 months. As the common search term for arriving at the page was 'Yarralumla Woolshed Hire' a proportion of these visitors would logically have hired the venue.  Say 10% of the $500 hire fee that's $50 a booking @ say 100 bookings that's $5,000 the ACT Government owes me as spotters fees. The Paypal button on my blog will be fine thanks.

Stats for the month of February

The site has an RSS feed through Feedburner which attracts about 50 readers a day and a couple subscribe via e-mail. I am an avid twitterer with a few real followers (who I follow back), a lot of special interest tweeters I follow and I imagine 150 automated bots that pretend to be real people. If your a real person on twitter and you don't want to sell me anything you can get me @davesact.


History lost through lack of funding

  The following ABC article laments the possible loss of many historical audio visual records that are waiting for digitising into modern fo...