We arrived in Canberra and learned that it is the only planned city in Australia. Originally, Sydney and Melbourne fought to become the country’s capital. However, instead of picking one and declaring a favorite city once and for all, the government selected a geographical midpoint. Of course, this did not really satisfy either city and the rivalry continues.
After picking the site, a worldwide competition was held to design this new city, and Americans Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin won the contest. They favored symmetry, geometrical patterns and straight lines.
Our first stop in Canberra was the Australian War Memorial, a place that honors all of Australia’s fallen soldiers. The place was very busy because ANZAC Day preparations were underway. ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps, and ANZAC Day is similar to America’s Veterans Day.
|Slide Album: War Memorial|
At the memorial, there is a wall of names for each conflict in which Australians fought and died. I had not realized that Australians served in so many military battles. However, Disco said that most of Australia’s history revolves around its participation in military conflict. According to Disco, many Aussies feel that this military heritage and service is part of what defines Australians as a people. This is so different from my original perception of the laid-back Aussie.
At lunch we stopped at the Canberra central business district and picked up Ramona, who is from northern Italy. With Adventure Tours and Oz Experience (its sister company), you can use the bus as a hop-on, hop-off tour bus and arrange extra nights in certain cities. Ramona was joining us after having spent the previous day in the city.
After lunch we visited the old and new Parliament buildings where we learned about an Aboriginal tent embassy. In the 1970s, several Aboriginal activists protested the colonial invasion of Australia in front of the old Parliament building. They vowed to stay there until their viewpoints were heard and recognized by the government. Today this protest and vigil for Aboriginal rights continues.
The plight of native people is eerily familiar no matter where you are. We didn’t learn too much about their political and social struggles, but they are probably similar to other native people who were “found” by European explorers.
I read that there was a period during which the government took Aboriginal children from their homes to become wards of the state. The children of this “Stolen Generation” were taken from about 1869 to 1969. There are many theories explaining this policy, including to protect children from being abused or neglected, to give them a better life and education and even a thinly veiled attempt at genocide.
Disco took us on a driving tour of Embassy Hill, to find as many of our nations’ embassies as possible. We even drove past the current prime minister’s home, although she was actually out of the country. Interestingly enough, the American embassy was the largest compound we saw because all of its staff lived on the grounds. I guess they are being overly paranoid these days.
After touring Canberra, we headed to our accommodation in Thredbo. We passed through Jindabyne, a town that usually sees its peak tourist season during the winter due to its proximity to the Snowy Mountains. After a long day, everyone was ready to get off the bus and just chill out.
|Slide Album: Canberra|