Why is Canberra the Capital of Australia

Have you ever wondered why Canberra is the Capital of Australia? Here is why and how Canberra was made the Capital of Australia.

Why is Canberra the Capital of Australia

The Federal Parliament in Australia couldn't agree on whether Sydney or Melbourne should be the capital of Australia.

During the debates over Federation in the late 19th century, politicians couldn't settle on Sydney or Melbourne being the capital. So it was decided that as a compromise a new capital would be created. Initially the idea was for it to be somewhere roughly in between Sydney and Melbourne.

Why is Canberra Where it Is

The site for the new capital was chosen for a number of reasons. The newly created Constitution said that Parliament must choose a site at least one hundred miles from Sydney and that the Parliament would sit in Melbourne until a new house was build in the new capital.

O'Malley, one of the first members of parliament held a strong belief that the capital should be located somewhere cold. In his words 'cold climates have produced the most geniuses'. An inland site was also seen as somewhat preferable as it would be safe from the threat of Warships which were becoming more powerful.

Over 60 country centres in New South Wales were put forward as potential sites.

Parliament did agree on a site called Dalgety, but that was not supported by the NSW government. They wanted something closer to Sydney.

Eventually the site of Yass-Canberra was put forward. It was almost exactly 100 miles from Sydney and had a cold climate. The NSW government threw in Jervis Bay as a sweetener if Federal Parliament agreed to drop the Dalgety proposal and choose Yass-Canberra.

Where is Canberra

Canberra is located in The Australian Capital Territory which is in the south east of Australia. The ACT is located wholly within New South Wales. It is between Sydney and Melbourne, although it is much closer to Sydney (three hour drive).

When Was Canberra Made the Capital of Australia

The Seat of Government Bill was passed in 1908 by Federal Parliament. Debate over the capital of Australia had begun pre-federation (1901). It took many years of debate for Canberra to be finally chosen.

On the 12 March 1913 Lady Denman, in a ceremony, named Canberra the capital of Australia.

Parliament only moved to Canberra in 1927. In 1913, Canberra was nothing more than a few sheep stations and extensive development was required.

The Naming of Canberra in 1913
The Naming Ceremony in 1913

Why was the Name Canberra Chosen

While there were many suggestions as to what the capital should be called, the name Canberra most likely came from a local Aboriginal Word for "meeting place". It had been in common use to describe the region for more than three-quarters of a century.

What was the Capital of Australia before Canberra?

Australia did not have a capital city before Canberra. Australia was not a country before Federation. It was made up of six Colonies; New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. While they all shared the same continent they were governed like six rival countries.

Australia became a nation on the 1st January 1901 when the British Parliament passed legislation enabling the six colonies to govern in their own right as the Commonwealth of Australia.

Before the site of Canberra was chosen, The Constitution allowed for Melbourne to be the place of Government until the Capital was chosen and Parliament House built.