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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 4 Hansard (19 March) . . Page.. 1002..


represent the citizens of our city, knowing full well the responsibility we bear to ensure those initial dreams are grown for the next hundred years and beyond.

Canberra is a city born not from commercial necessity but a constitutional imperative. Section 125 of the commonwealth constitution states:

The seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament, and shall be within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth, and shall be vested in and belong to the Commonwealth, and shall be in the State of New South Wales, and be distant not less than one hundred miles from Sydney.

This section specifies just what a unique place Canberra has in the history of our nation. Being the seat of our national government is our reason for being; it is what gives Canberra so much in terms of economic wealth and diversity. It is a great asset, but it can also cause us to lose our own identity as a city.

The national debates and the focus on the big house on the hill tend to characterise the view the nation has of us as well as the view we sometimes have of ourselves. As a result, our identity and, to an extent, our history have become intertwined with that of the national identity. Images like that of Gough Whitlam on the steps of Old Parliament House in 1975 are seared into the psyche of this nation. They are both a national but also Canberran image. The opening of new Parliament House created a new national landmark as recognisable as any in Australia but which is completely Canberran.

The other great national institutions that shape our skyline also mark what a special place Canberra is—the home to the national art collection, the National Archives, the Museum of Australia and the High Court. Each plays its own special part in the story of the city and in the history of our country.

Canberra is home to one institution that serves a specific symbolic role that also deserves a special place of reverence—that is the Australian War Memorial. The War Memorial is an institution that has spoken directly to thousands of visitors over many generations, and I can think of no better place to honour those who have paid the ultimate price in the service of our nation than at the very apex of the national capital's design.

The vista over Canberra from Mount Ainslie or the view of the lake on a clear autumn morning with the leaves a golden brown and the balloons floating aloft is as memorable as any in Australia. But Canberra is not just the place of parliaments or the host to major monuments; it is also the home for a community. Some of the more interesting reading on the history of Canberra comes from smaller publishers who tell the tales not just of the rise of the great institutions, the deliberations of the High Court or the rise and fall of governments but of the lives and roles of the first settlers, the families that followed and the community that grew up between them. Stories about the first public servants and those who built their houses, taught their children, fixed their cars and turned an idea into a city and a city into a community.


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