Why is Canberra the Capital of Australia

Every wondered why Canberra is the Capital of Australia? Canberra is one of the worlds youngest capitals. Here is why it was chosen:

Why is Canberra the Capital of Australia

Why is Canberra the Capital of Australia

The short answer is because the Federal Parliament couldn’t agree on whether Sydney or Melbourne would be the capital. So they chose somewhere in between!

The site of Canberra was chosen as the Capital of Australia as it was located between Sydney and Melbourne. During debates over Federation, in the late 19th century, a decision on whether Sydney or Melbourne should be the Capital of Australia couldn’t be settled. So it was decided that as a compromise the new Capital would be located in NSW as long as it was at least 100 miles from Sydney.

Parliament would sit in Melbourne until a new Parliament House was built in the new Capital.

The Location of Canberra

One of the first members of federal Parliament King O’Malley held a strong belief that the new capital should be located somewhere cold as ‘cold climates have produced the most geniuses’. There were also concerns that a costal location could come under threat from warships which were becoming more powerful.

During debates over Canberra’s location more than 60 different rural centres were suggested. Dalgety was chosen as a suitable site and Federal Parliament passed an Act to agree on this as the future Capital. However NSW refused to cede the land and did not accept the site. NSW wanted a site closer to Sydney.

A new site in the Yass-Canberra area was chosen. This new area was almost exactly 100 miles from Sydney and offered a good water supply and a cool climate. In October 1908 a bill was passed confirming this site as the nation’s new capital.

When was Canberra Founded

Canberra was founded on the 12th March 1913. During a ceremony on the 12th at Midday, Lady Denman, the wife of the Governor General announced the new Capital would be named Canberra. The ceremony was held at Kurrajong Hill (now Capital Hill) which is the current site of Parliament House.

The Federal Parliament sat in Canberra for the first time in 1927.

Canberra got off to a sleepy start with construction delayed by the depression and World Wars. Canberra didn’t start to resemble a city until the 1950’s. Then Prime Minister of Australia Sir Robert Menzies considered the national capital to be an embarrassment. Over time his beliefs changed and he began to champion for the development of Canberra. The population of Australia grew by 50% from every 5 year period between 1955-1975.

What was the Capital of Australia before Canberra?

Melbourne served as the interim seat of Parliament until 1927 but it was never the capital of Australia. Before Federation, Australia was made up of self governed States.

Was Sydney Ever Australia’s Capital?

No Sydney was never the Capital of Australia. While Sydney is the most populous and arguably the most famous Australian city it has never been the capital of Australia. Sydney is the capital of the State of NSW.


I grew up in Canberra and apart from a brief stint overseas I've spent my entire life here. I've watched Canberra grow from a sleepy town into a thriving city. I want to share the best Canberra has to offer through LoveCanberra.

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