baby

'My hometown is officially the best city for mothers'

The nation’s capital, Canberra, has been revealed as the top place to live if you are a mum, according to Save the Children.

Canberra and the ACT topped the State of Australia’s Mothers report after comparing health, education opportunities, earning potential and relative social disadvantage across Australia.

The capital city, which is also my home town, has long been the butt of many jokes. However, it’s successfully going through a re-branding. People tell me ‘it’s cool now’ with a surge of funky courtyards and cafes in Braddon and New Acton.

It was also recently considered the most liveable city in the world, according to an OECD study. Canberra scored the top spot out of 362 regions in 34 countries. For a Canberra girl, that’s hard to believe. Is it really better than London? New York? Kyoto?

The Duchess of Cambridge at the National Arboretum in Canberra. Image by Mark Nolan/Getty Images.

There is no other city in the world quite like Canberra. You can still park in front of the shop you want to go into and if you drive from one side of the city to the other you can  find yourself entirely surrounded by bushland or layers of Autumnal colours.

But you have live there or know a Canberran to know what's going on. Travel writer Bill Bryson bypassed the city by accident when he explored it. So where do parents in Canberra spend their time? Here's my guess:

1. The National Arboretum.

This is so Canberra.  The National Arboretum is a tree farm and it sounds boring right? But it's expansive views of the city and stunning building is proving so popular that people get married there. It does kids birthday parties and the playground is great for kids - but bring a hat and  sunscreen.

A boy explores Play Up. Image supplied.

2. Play Up at Old Parliament House.

For $2 you can take your baby, toddler or child to Play Up - a permanent family space inside Old Parliament house.  It's a large fun colourful space that's a good place to meet other parents. It is cool when it is roasting outside and it's warm in the freezing winter.

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3. Manuka Pool.

Manuka Pool could be Canberra's answer to the beach. It has an outdoor baby pool with a lot of shade, a lap pool and art deco architecture that makes you feel like you've stepped back in time.

4. Paint and Play.

This popular outdoor playgroup is on every Wednesday morning in Wakefield Gardens park behind Ainslie Shops. It is packed with friendly parents, babies and toddlers who are gathering to do creative stuff.

5. New Acton.

My sources tell me this is a great part of town. They recommend cake at Monster which they say is one of Canberra's best restaurants and it's a hotel lobby - so you can snack on amazing small plates without the stress of a fine dining room.

There are a bunch more attractions, Questacon, The National Gallery and the a host of outdoor parks and Canberrans also love sport. But there are some things that only mothers in Canberra know:

  1. It takes 20 minutes to get anywhere.
  2. Horrendous traffic is about a two minute wait at the traffic lights.
  3. The city is built for cars. You need a car.
  4. Suburban cafes are cool. Tilly's. Fox & Bow. A Bite to Eat.
  5. Magpies will not swoop if they get to know you before the Spring.

Mother of two, Phillipa Blake, says she feel fortunate she raised her children in Canberra.

"I felt safe enough to allow the children the independence that I might not have done had I been living in a bigger city. I believe that a sense of security and independence can provide an environment for children to develop a sense of confidence in themselves," said the Canberra mum.

My son loved the open spaces in Canberra. Image supplied.

I was raised in Canberra and it has always felt like a safe place to me and perhaps that's because it's like a big country town.  However, according to Save the Children, mothers in urban areas fare significantly better than rural mums.

“The report also found concerning, entrenched disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers who are behind non-Indigenous mothers on almost every typical indicator of well-being,” said Save the Children’s Head of Advocacy Annie Bodmer-Roy.

Queensland came last in the poll while mums in the ACT had the highest median weekly family income, greatest educational status and relative socioeconomic advantage in the country.

"Canberra suits this kind of survey well, as it does a lot of the core desires well enough - access to facilities, support, good roads, good parks, good jobs in the public service to take leave from, which is where many of the mean average surveyed for this piece would reside professionally. And after spending the last year as primary day parent while my wife worked full time, I vouch for all of it. Canberra is comfortable," says stay at home father of two, Glen Martin.

"Comfortable is rarely amazing. The kind of challenge and satisfaction one can gain in the big city isn't accessible here. So that's the eternal trade off - comfort vs the ups and downs of real delight and real frustration," he added.

A lot of Canberran parents are proud of their city. My mother often tries to convince me that it is the best place to live in but I have never felt akin with my hometown. Canberra, I'll admit that you've changed, and you'd be a great place to bring up kids,  but I can't do it - I've already fallen in love with another place.

ACT Tourism is marketing Canberra as a fun place for kids.

Video by ACT Tourism
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