Friday, September 30, 2011

House of Representatives

This is the House of Representatives Chamber in Old Parliament House. I was standing in the press gallery to take this photo, with the ornate timber Speaker's Chair immediately below me. Members of the Government sat on the right of the Speaker, and the Opposition on the left. The seats at the centre table were for the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Hansard reporters, who recorded all parliamentary sessions (originally by hand) were seated at the central table on the Opposition side.

The Senate Chamber is in a mirror position on the other side of Old Parliament House. It has a very similar layout to this chamber, but has a red colour scheme (similar to the British House of Lords, although our Senators don't have any connection to any sort of peerage system).

Thursday, September 29, 2011


We've made it up onto the verandah/porch of Old Parliament House, and this is the view looking back across the lawns to the lake and Mount Ainslie. On the left you can see the Aboriginal Tent Embassy (more on that later), and in the distance, at the end of the red gravel that runs up the centre of Anzac Parade, is the Australian War Memorial. The pool in the middle ground (and the two narrower pools either side of it) is the Federation of Centenary Fountains complex, and the green space beyond that (past the line of cars) is Commonwealth Place and Reconciliation Place.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The lion and the unicorn, the kangaroo and emu

Either side of the entrance to Old Parliament House, at the roofline, are the coats of arms of Britain (top photo) and Australia (bottom photo). The Australian system of government is based on the Westminster system,and the Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 as a result of an agreement among six self-governing British colonies, which became the six states, so there is a strong British influence.

The Australian coat of arms consists of a shield depicting the badges of the six Australian states, symbolising the federation of the states. The seven-pointed gold star above the shield represents the six states of the Commonwealth with the seventh point representing Australia’s territories.

The supporters are native Australian animals: the red kangaroo and the emu. It is thought the kangaroo and emu were chosen to symbolise a nation moving forward, reflecting a common belief that neither animal can move backwards easily (actually they can, but rarely do).

Usually the coat of arms is depicted on a background of sprays of golden wattle with a scroll beneath it containing the word ‘Australia’, although these elements are not part of the official design.

The  badges of the six states are:
  • New South Wales—Golden lion on a red St George’s Cross on a silver background (usually depicted white), with an eight-pointed star on each extremity of the cross.
  • Victoria—White Southern Cross, beneath an Imperial Crown, on a blue background.
  • Queensland—light blue Maltese cross with an Imperial Crown at its centre, on a white background.
  • South Australia—the white-backed magpie, wings outstretched, on a yellow background.
  • Western Australia—Black swan swimming, on a yellow background.
  • Tasmania—Red lion on a white background.
[Information from]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nothing new about electric vehicles

One of the older model electric vehicles from the Electric Vehicle Festival on Sunday in front of Old Parliament House. The driver is on the left, facing forward on the far side of the man in red, while the woman passenger (also in red) is sitting in front of them, facing backwards. Quite an odd design!

Note the red bricks at the base of Parliament House - not just any red bricks - Canberra red bricks from the Yarralumla Brickworks!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Old Parliament House

From 1927 until 1988, when Parliament transferred to the new Parliament House up on the hill behind, this was the home of the Australian Parliament. It was only ever meant to be 'provisional', and to serve for 50 years, but it took 61 years to be replaced. The building now houses the Museum of Australian Democracy, which sounds quite dry and boring - it took me a long time to convince the family that we should visit!

There was some debate about whether this building should be demolished or not. In Walter Burley Griffin's opinion, its location in front of the site he planned for the permanent Parliament House was like 'filling the front yard with outhouses' - he believed the vista down to the lake and beyond should be kept clear. However, it was decided that the building was significant in the nation's history, and after remaining vacant for a few years, it reopened as a temporary venue for the National Portrait Gallery. In 2009, the Portrait Gallery moved to its new purpose-built building next to the National Gallery of Australia, and the Museum of Australian Democracy open in May of that year.

Once inside the heritage-listed building, there's a lot to see and do, and the children really enjoyed the MoADventure Trail (designed for ages 5-12, although younger kids could look for the clues with some help. And there's a prize at the end :) ). At $2 entry for adults, $1 concession, and $5 for a family, it's a cheap day out, and there are plenty of other Canberra attractions nearby if you have time to spare.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's electrifying!

Today was the Canberra International Electric Vehicle Festival, on the lawns in front of Old Parliament House (more on OPH during the week). Among electric bicycles, motorbikes, mobility scooters, boats and other cars was this VW. Powered by old-style lead acid batteries, it has a range of about 50 kilometres, so is  limited to shorter trips around town, unlike some of the new Tesla cars which have a range of nearly 400 kilometres and a top speed of 212 km/hr! But the owners are sticking with it for now, and saving for when the newer technology becomes more affordable.

I didn't get a chance to take a spin in a Tesla (although they were available), but I did have a ride in a Mitsubishi iMiev - very quick, very quiet, and very expensive for a small car - about $50 000 on-road.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What do we want? NO TROUBLE!

That's the message from these two very special members of the Australian Federal Police, working for ACT Policing: Constable Kenny Koala and his human, Stewart.

Kenny has been around for about 30 years, teaching Canberra kids about road safety, personal safety and community responsibility. He visits primary schools, preschools and childcare centres, and his messages have been integrated into the ACT curriculum.

Today Constable Kenny and Stewart made an appearance at the Spence Community Fair, arriving in their special police car:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cuddle 'n' Bubble

The Capital Executive Apartment Hotel on the corner of Northbourne Avenue and Girrahween Street, Braddon.

As you come into Canberra along the Federal Highway/Northbourne Avenue, you pass quite a few hotels on the left hand side. Along this stretch they're within walking distance of the city centre and there are also many cafes and shops to browse in the two blocks behind (to the left of this photo) - Mort and Lonsdale Streets.

And if you're interested in the "Cuddle 'n' Bubble Package' - details are here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Beware: Swooping Bird

If you see one of these signs around Canberra, be on your guard. It's magpie breeding season, and the males can be quite aggressive in protecting their nests. I heard a radio interview a few days ago where someone was saying that the female magpie will kick her mate out if she doesn't think he's doing enough to protect her and the eggs/chicks, so you really can't blame him for trying to prove he's worth keeping!

Most swooping is to warn off potential invaders, and your best bet is to keep walking at a steady pace away from the bird's territory, so it can see you're not a threat. If it's really going to attack, a bird will usually swoop down, hover very close to you, and then attack - usually your head and eyes. Whatever you do, don't throw things at them or retaliate, as this will only make them more aggressive.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mogo Zoo

Life is really flat out for some of the residents of Mogo Zoo:

There are a few more zoo photos on my personal blog too.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mogo village

Just ten minutes up the road from Batemans Bay is the little village of Mogo. Originally a booming 1850s gold rush settlement, Mogo's heyday didn't last too long, and it became a quiet little hamlet. In the 1980s a number of artists and craftspeople arrived, and it has since evolved into a hub of galleries, shops and cafes, largely catering to tourists (including plenty from Canberra!). Some of the original cottages have survived, and other shops and houses have been built in sympathetic designs.

The fudge shop in the middle of this photo, is definitely worth a visit, or you can order online.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Down the coast

If a Canberran tells you they're "heading down the coast for the weekend", odds are they're driving to Batemans Bay (or at least through it on the way slightly further north or south along the seafront). To get into the town from our direction, you need to cross the Clyde River, across this 55-year-old lifting span bridge. Prior to 1956, the only crossing was via a vehicle ferry - the only break in the Princes Highway between Sydney and the Victorian border.

The bridge is of an unusual type, where the whole centre span lifts vertically to allow access underneath by tall boats. In this second photo, you can see the two towers from which counter-weighted cables are suspended. The bridge is opened about 1000 times a year on demand (you need to give at least an hour's notice). There's a good photo of it in action here:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Smoke gets in your eyes

The smoke plume from a friend's house in Palmerston. Photo: Apprentice Domestic Goddess

The big news in Canberra today was a huge chemical fire in the suburb of Mitchell. Many northside people were woken in the early hours of the morning by loud explosions, and the morning news reports were full of the story. All northside school were closed for the day, roads were blocked, and smoke filled the air.

Another view of the smoke from the Mitchell fire. Photo: Apprentice Domestic Goddess
The fire burned all day, with fire services working on containing it by covering it with foam. The following video gives an idea of how intensely the fire burned:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Building 12

Building 12, University of Canberra.

UC is one of Canberra's five main tertiary institutions. Established in 1967 as Canberra College of Advanced Education, the first students were enrolled in 1970, in four course areas: Administrative Studies, Applied Science, Computing Studies and Liberal Studies. Twenty years later, and with many more courses on offer, CCAE became a university - the University of Canberra. Since 1970, the university has produced over 65,000 graduates, and current enrolment exceeds 12,000 students.

Building 12 (along with Building 3 nearby) contains the Faculty of Health, including the health clinics which are available to the public.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reaching for the stars

... or the basketball, as the case may be.

This is the huge sculpture of the wheelchair basketball player from the Sydney 2000 Olympics and Paralympics. She now sits outside the Visitors Centre of the Australian Institute of Sport in Bruce. The gymnast is also at the AIS, while the sprinter remains in Sydney.

Designed by Dominique Sutton and commissioned by AMP, the three massive figures once adorned Sydney's Centrepoint Tower (aka Sydney Tower), nearly 300 metres above street level. They remained there between July 1998 and 2003, when they were removed, although apparently they were supposed to go in 2001, presumably when Westfield bought the tower from AMP. Up to 15 metres high, and each weighing between 4 and 6.5 tonnes, installation (and removal) were big engineering challenges, involving a helicopter and some incredible maneouvering.

This photo was taken yesterday evening, as the last of the light disappeared.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Street

The Street Theatre - next to the ANU, and across the road from the NAB building in yesterday's photo.

The theatre was purpose-built by the ACT government, and opened in 1994. The complex includes two theatres, meeting rooms and a cafe/bar, and operates as a venue for a variety of performance types, including music, drama, cabaret and dance. The larger theatre (Street1) can hold an audience of 247, while Street 2 is a more intimate space, with room for 65-80 people, depending on the audience set up.

The angled front entrance to the theatre was inspired by the 'desire line' (what I would call a 'goat track'!) created by people entering the university, and cutting across the corner of the then vacant black of land.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Banking on Childers St

The National Australia Bank building on the corner of University Avenue and Childers Street.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Belconnen Police Station - quiet last Thursday evening.

This station was built in either 1971 or 1976, depending on which version of the local history you read. The remand centre next door was completed in 1976, but has now been decommissioned. It's a 24-hour police station, serving 25 suburbs and 90,000 people, with six patrol teams, and not enough room. Consequently, a new station is currently under construction, and should open this year. Apparently in the new building, the boys (and girls) in blue will be going quite green!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Yarralumla brickworks

Yarralumla Brickworks chimney.

I'd written a long and interesting post about the brickworks and its history and significance to Canberra, but Blogger decided to eat it, so here are a couple of links where you can find out about it for yourself. And maybe when I'm not so cranky with Blogger I'll come back and write it again.

Timeline, including various studies and development proposals for the site
Thor's Hammer (current tenant - demolition timber salvage and recycling)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Across the lake

Part of the view across Lake Burley Griffin, taken from the National Arboretum. From here you can see the Russell Offices, with the Australian-American Memorial - the Russell Eagle, the National Library (centre) and the National Carillon (just to the right of the library. The hill just behind Russell is Mt Ainslie.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

School of Art

At the end of Childers Street is the Art Deco inspired School of Art building. Opened in 1939 as Canberra's first purpose built secondary school, it operated as Canberra High School until 1968, when declining enrolment numbers and a lack of facilities resulted in the school moving to the Belconnen suburb of Macquarie.

Between 1968 and1976, the building had various uses, including as the Canberra Technical College Art School, Canberra Technical College Biological Science Centre (its proximity to the old Institute of Anatomy), as premises for the ACT Apprentices Board, the ACT School Authority Teaching Resources Centre, the ACT Scholarships Office and the Australian Pre-School Association.

In 1976, the Canberra School of Art separated from the Canberra Technical College, and took over the site from other tenants. In 1988 the School of Art and the Canberra School of Music (which has its own premises) amalgamated to form the Canberra Institute of the Arts, and they the first affiliated and in 1992 became part of the university to become the ANU Institute of the Arts. It's now called the ANU School of Art, and is part of the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences.

Click on the photo to see a larger version, and the clock tower above the main doors. Soon the trees will be in full leaf again and you won't be able to see the clock from this position.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


In contrast to yesterday's black and white image (and and unlike this afternoon's grey and damp weather), today I have something bright and colourful for you.

These light sculptures and coloured awnings extend along 200 metres of Childers Street, adjacent to the ANU and part of Canberra's 'arts precinct'. In fact, I think the main reason for them is to say 'Hey! Here's something arty! You must be in the arts precinct!', because otherwise it's not particularly obvious. But I like them anyway.

Designed by Thylacine (based in Queanbeyan; '... a collaborative, flexible and fluid organisation, drawing on visual and fine arts, craftsmanship, research, engineering, fabrication and project management in their practice.  Recent and current projects show their output is a body of uncommon iconic works, bringing sound, light, thought and memory together and delivering powerful built works'. AILA), the work is described as:
A large-scale interactive light installation spanning the length of Childers Street. The artwork consists of a series of 19 illuminated shelter structures clad in coloured glass. Sensors on each structure pick up loacalised sounds, transforming them into moving light patterns on vertically suspended coloured glass panels. The patterns are derived from a 'Synaesthetic' system that maps sound into colour, developed by the composer Alexander Scriabin.
For photos of the work at night, go to, click on Art Projects, and then the thumbnail picture on the bottom left.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Spout [Mark Grey-Smith. 1988. Ferro cement. Acquired 1998. (Crisp Building grounds)]

Not quite finished with the ANU water feature of the past few days ... As well as the peaceful reflecting pond, and the mossy walls with the small splashing fountains, there's this cement sculpture.

From the ANU Sculpture on Acton Campus brochure:

Mark Grey-Smith graduated in sculpture from the Chelsea School of Art, London and completed postgraduate studies at the ANU School of Art, where he later taught sculpture.
Appropriately for a fountain, the arch form of this sculpture looks like a fossilised spout of water with its splash. Grey-Smith makes honest use of that extremely versatile construction medium, reinforced concrete. This is seen in the way he allows the metal rib structure to show through the sinuous organic arches and the opening and closing forms sprouting at their base.

Mark Grey-Smith was born in Perth, Western Australia, in 1950, and has two other sculptures on the ANU campus.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Quiet reflections

Behind the Haydon-Allen building at the ANU, in a courtyard surrounded by that and other buildings, is a quiet pool, reflecting the nearby trees and the blue sky and sunshine at this turn of the seasons.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Relic [2006. Rick Amor. Bronze, corten steel base]

Relic is a two metre tall sculpture of a figure reminiscent of the Egyptian Anubis, although the sculptor, Rick Amor, has said that's not what it is: 'It's a relic, it's a distant memory. I don't know where it came from, from the unconscious. It's not meant to be an Anubis or any Egyptian deity, it's just something that popped up.' (The Age).

Rick Amor was born in Frankston, Victoria, in 1948, and has been exhibiting his paintings for nearly 40 years. He starting sculpting in the 1990s, and in 2007 won the $100,000 McClelland Sculpture Award for this piece.

It now sits at the intersection of Childers Street and University Avenue, with its back to the university and facing City Hill. And no, that's not a beer bottle on its shoulder - it's the top of the flagpole at the law courts in the background.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sullivans Creek

This is Sullivans Creek, which runs through the ANU campus, and which I talked a little about yesterday. This photo is looking towards Barry Drive, to the east, and you can see some of the willows which helped give Toad Hall its name.

A little further to the west, there's a narrowing of the creek, and stepping stones to cross it:

Further along, it becomes little more than a stormwater drain, albeit one that can carry a lot more water when it rains than is shown here: