Canberra: History

Australia's Bustling Capital

Canberra History

Before European settlement, the area which eventually become the Australian Capital Territory was inhabited by the Ngambri People. European exploration began in the Canberra area as early as the 1820s and white settlement in the area begun around 1824. The Aboriginal population dwindled as the European presence increased, mainly from diseases such as smallpox and measles and the site of Canberra was selected for the location of the nation's capital in 1908 as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s two largest cities who were both vying for the title. Thus, Canberra is an entirely purpose-built, planned city. Following an international contest for the city's design, construction commenced in 1913 - dividing the city into two parts (social and governmental) using the lake as a dividing point. Canberra’s growth over the first few decades was slow despite development plans, and the city struggled during the Great Depression and WWII. However, in 1958 the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) took over the planning and construction of Canberra and work began apace. Under the control of the NCDC new districts, such as Woden and Tuggeranong, were established and helped to encourage large population growth between 1960 and 1975. Since then, Canberra has continued to steadily develop and it now stands as a cultural, political and architectural hub of inland New South Wales - a place with a rich heritage and a bright future.