Capital of Australia and seat of the federal government, situated in the Australian Capital Territory in southeast Australia; population (2001 est) 311,500. Canberra lies on a plain adjoining the Australian Alps and is enclosed within the state of New South Wales; it is 289 km/180 mi southwest of Sydney and 655 km/407 mi northeast of Melbourne, on the River Molonglo, a tributary of the Murrumbidgee. It succeeded Melbourne as capital of Australia in 1927. It is an administrative, cultural, and tourist centre. The new Parliament House (1988) is located here, as well as government offices, foreign embassies, and many buildings of national importance.
History Canberra was designed to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with many parks, fine roads, and trees. Building started in 1913, but was delayed by World War I. In 1958 the Australian government established the National Capital Development Commission and made it the statutory body for planning and developing Canberra. Central to the planning
was the introduction of Lake Burley Griffin, 10 km/6 mi long.
Canberra lies in a chiefly agricultural region and was built around Lake Burley Griffin, formed by the damming of the River Molonglo. The site, between Sydney and Melbourne, was chosen in 1908, and the city was named Canberra (Aboriginal ‘meeting place’) in 1913; it was designed by the US architect Walter Burley Griffin. Parliament first convened in Canberra in 1927, but the city's development was slow until after World War II. Most employment is still in government departments and services, but light industries and the tourist trade are now growing.
Features Notable buildings include the Old Parliament House (1927), the Australian National Gallery, the
National Library, the High Court of Australia, the Academy of Science, the National Science and Technology Centre, the Canberra School of Music (1965), the Australian National War Memorial (1941), and the Telstra Tower, named after the nationally-owned Australian telecommunications company. The National Museum of Australia opened in 2001. Canberra has two universities, the Australian National University (1946) and the University of Canberra (1989). As well as the research schools at the Australian National University, there are several centres for scientific research, such as the Australian Institute of Anatomy, the Plant Industry and Entomological laboratories of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Australian Forestry School, and the Commonwealth Observatory at Mount Stromlo. The Australian Defence Force Academy and the Australian National Botanic Gardens are here and the city is also home to the Australian Institute of Sport and the Royal Australian Mint.
Climate Situated 571 m/1,873 ft above sea level, Canberra has four distinct seasons, with mild summers, and an average daytime temperature of 10°C/50°F during the winter.