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JAMILA: Canberra: Not as dull as you think. *ducks*

Jamila Rizvi

By JAMILA RIZVI

They pleaded with me not to write this post; the whole office did. They threw their hands up in the air (well they didn’t actually, that’s more a cartoon character kind of frustration), claiming nobody would read it, that I couldn’t make it entertaining, that is was a topic duller than the history of the English language.

But the best bit about being Editor of this here website is getting the final say. And today I’m changing the rules, exercising my ‘I’m the boss’ rights, claiming the match and publishing this post.

(Shhh, Mia doesn’t know yet)

Today is the Centenary of Canberra.  The 100th anniversary of the founding of our nation’s capital.

*Holds for applause*

It’s a city that gets far more than its fair share of mocking, laughter and derision; a city that is unfairly blamed for the grumpy, game playing goings-on of those who inhabit the House on the Hill; a city that is dismissed because it’s not as showy as Sydney, not as sunny as Brisbane and not as cool as Melbourne.

Well, today I boldly strip down to my tights, position my undies squarely on the outside and claim my new (self appointed) role as the superhero to beat all other superheros: Jamila Rizvi, Defender of Canberra.

In honour of her 100th year, I want to share what it is about Canberra that makes my home town a wonderful place to grow up in, to live in, to work in and to visit. And I’m going to do it all in only a few hundred words, before I have to fly off and shoot down some bad guys with my laser beam eyes and save a damsel in distress.

No biggie. It’s just how I roll.

So before I lead you all in a joyous chorus of Happy Birthday to You Canber-raaaaaa, here are 6 reasons to love the nation’s capital. (And don’t you dare groan about how many there are – you’re lucky I didn’t do 100 in honour of the centenary. Don’t tempt me).

See? It’s very planned.

1. Canberra is a planned city. That means it wasn’t created all hobbledy-gobbley like SYDNEY with its nutty one way streets and impossible-to-navigate sprawling network of roads.

There is also a  height restriction of buildings over 10 stories high in the city (okay – slightly insane rule) which means that if you suffer from even the most severe case of vertigo, you can travel freely in the Berra.

And because Mr Walter Burrley Griffin, great man that he was, had a deep love of all things round-a-bout, there are no crazy arse hook turns like in Melbourne.

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There are just delightful circular journeys that appear never to end and give you lots of time to ponder the meaning of life and why Claude was one of the original raggy dolls, when nothing was actually wrong with him, and other such things.

2. Canberra can out socially-progress ANYwhere. Canberra is home to some of the most socially progressive people you’ll find just about anywhere.

Remember that girl at uni screaming into a megaphone at male passers by to ‘get your rosaries off my ovaries’, or that bloke handing out socialist alternative leaflets in the city each weekend? They live in Canberra now.

The ACT was the first jurisdiction in Australia to decriminalise abortion, legislate too allow civil unions for same sex couples and to implement a Human Rights Act. So if you live in Canberra, you not only get human rights, you get them WRITTEN DOWN. Huzzah!

3. Everything is 20 minutes away. Canberra is geographically a city of considerable size but the small population means that you are never far from your buddies. Ask any Canberran how long it takes for them to get to work, to drop the kids off at school, to go out to dinner, or to catch up with a mate? And the answer will be: 20 minutes.

And on the one occasion when an influx of residents into the fast-expanding northern suburbs became so great that a new road was needed to ensure their commute remained the mandated 20 minutes – guess what happened?

Canberra didn’t build that road for TWO WHOLE YEARS. Why? Because there were a group of loveable but slightly insane people who were worried that construction of the road would spell the demise of a much loved species of legless lizard.

Do you know what a legless lizard is? It’s a SNAKE. The people of Canberra waited two whole years for a decent road because they were worried about one of the world’s most unlovable creatures. Bless them.

This?

4. They have GREEN milk. Being a small city, Canberrans don’t triumph on the sporting field all that often (Lauren Jackson, greatest basketballer in the WORLD is a notable exception). But when they do triumph, they take it very seriously.

In the early 1990s, when rugby league team the Canberra Raiders were at their best, we actually started drinking green milk. That’s right.

There was a special edition of Canberra Milk – sponsors of the aforementioned football team – that was actually dyed lime green in honour of the team’s colours.

And they’re bringing it back to mark the 100th anniversary of the city. The Raiders aren’t winning or anything, it’s more of a ‘just because’ thing.

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5. They are very good at celebrating stuff. Being the nation’s capital city, Canberra is often called on to mark occasions of national significance and we do it with gusto. We Canberrans take our responsibility to be the rest of the nation’s geeky celebrators of bicententials, artistic endeavours, democratic milestones and cultural achievements, extremely seriously.

Even more broadly, we do love ourselves a festival. There is one to celebrate the multicultural fabric of modern Australia, that has just about the best food you’ve ever tasted. And there is another to celebrate flowers.

And everyone goes, yes everyone goes. From little nannas taking a day out of their nursing homes, to grunting teenage boys who are there to nick the tulips for their flouroesent short-shorts wearing girlfriends.

Until very recently, the ACT was also the only place you could buy your own fireworks at ANY time of the year. And as my dear housemate Joshua is very fond of saying: Fireworks are freedom. True that.

Look! Canberra!

6. Democracy is FUN. I suspect I’m going to get some pushback on this one. It’s not out and out convincing the way the green milk point was, I grant you. But hear me out.

Canberra is where it all happens, politically speaking. It’s where representatives who we choose, come together to have the great debates and discussions about matters of national importance and make decisions about the future of our nation.

Regardless of whether you were throwing your fake foam brick at the television news last night, while watching the political report or not (for the record, I was) – democracy matters.

Our stable and strong system of Government is something to be incredibly proud of and while we can always, always do better, the spirit of democracy that lives in Canberra is something very special.

Canberra is also home to the Australian Public Service, who yes, get better superannuation, working conditions, yadda, yadda, than all the rest of us. But they also work incredibly hard and genuinely dedicated people who devote their whole careers to making Australia a better place.

And while I think these servants of the public would have a far better reputation if they dressed as actual servants: complete with all black outfits and frilly, delicate white aprons, I suppose suits and ties will do for now.

Happy Birthday Canberra, you saucy minx.

Have a drink tonight for me.

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