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Australian Capital Territory History, Language and Culture

History of Australian Capital Territory

For thousands of years, the indigenous Ngunnawal people lived in the area that is now known as the Australian Capital Territory, with the earliest evidence of Aboriginal occupation dating back 21,000 years. The first European to arrive in the area was Charles Throsby in 1821, and around three years later the first permanent settlers arrived. By the 1830s, most of the region was inhabited by Europeans. The Aboriginal population reduced significantly over the rest of the century, mainly due to diseases and predations.

After the Federation of Australia in 1901, a suitable capital was sought. It was determined that the capital would be in the Yass-Canberra region and a competition for the design of the new city was held. American architect Walter Burley Griffin’s design of a garden city with an ornamental lake won first prize, and the foundation stone was laid in 1913. Building works moved slow and were interrupted by World War I, the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II. In an attempt to speed things along, the National Capital Development Commission was established in 1958 and took control over the planning, development and construction of the capital. The population in the region grew rapidly over the next 20 years, and although self-governance was opposed by the majority of the Australian Capital Territory residents, it was granted in 1988.

Did you know?
• The name Canberra is believed to be derived from an indigenous word for 'meeting place'.
• The ACT area accounts for less than one per cent of Australia’s total landmass.
• With the exception of bus shelters, advertising billboards along the roadside are banned in the ACT.

Australian Capital Territory Culture

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