Where would the capital of the Commonwealth of Australia be located?
One of the issues that both divided and united opinion around Federation was the requirement for a new capital city. It was agreed it should be outside of the existing colonial capitals, but where? At the Australasian Federal Convention in Melbourne in January–February 1898, the delegates argued about the location and the issue was left unresolved as each colony vied for the honour.
At the ‘secret’ conference of the Premiers held in Melbourne in January 1899, George Reid was successful in getting the other colonies to agree that the capital of the new Commonwealth would be in New South Wales, but not within 100 miles of Sydney.
In the debates about the location of the capital, there were many clues about what the delegates thought important in deciding the location. These included climate, accessibility, physical conditions, capacity to support a population and food supply.
Examine the debate about the location of the capital city of the new Commonwealth.
- Read the extracts from the debate on the location of the nation’s capital aloud. Role-play the debate. You might want to add arguments and suggestions to the extracts to make them more persuasive.
- In pairs, list what the delegates thought important in deciding the location of a capital city. Add your own ideas to the list.
- The Government of New South Wales considered climate, accessibility, physical conditions, capacity to support a population and food supply to make its decision. Would you change your list or add to the Government’s list? Share your criteria for a capital city with the class.
- Create a class ranking chart in which you order the criteria from most important to least important, given your knowledge of Australia in the early 1900s.
- In a research project, using the internet and other reference sources, find out why Canberra was eventually chosen as the site for the nation’s capital, and the history of its development. Find out as many interesting facts as you can. Answer the following questions.
- Where did the name ‘Canberra’ come from?
- What other names were considered?
- Who planned the city?
- When did building the city begin?
- Think of other questions to answer, and share them with the rest of the class. Debate the following topic.
- Canberra is the best location for the nation’s capital.