Civic & Acton

Development of Canberra’s city centre got off to a slow start. Construction of Civic’s two central buildings, the Sydney building and the Melbourne building, kicked off in 1926 but weren’t completed until 1946. In the meantime, urban Canberrans preferred to travel to nearby Queanbeyan just across the border in New South Wales to shop. It wasn’t until the 1960s, when the Monaro Mall (today’s Canberra Centre) opened that Civic began to cement itself as the retail destination of choice.  Nearby Acton was initially home to a temporary workers camp, housing the staff responsible for building the new national capital. Today the Australian National University campus covers much of Acton, with students from a diverse range of backgrounds calling the area their home base. According to a recent census, nearly two thirds of Acton residents were born overseas.

Kingston & Manuka

If you think it odd that the two retail precincts of Kingston and Manuka were established so close to each other, you’re not alone. Back in the 1920s when leases were being sold to establish different business centres in Canberra, Sir John Sulman, the Chair of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, was away during the crucial decision making period. As a result, businesses were given approval to set up shop in two different precincts barely a minute or two away from each other. Upon his return, Sir Sulman, who had envisaged Manuka as the dominant commercial centre south of the lake, lodged his disapproval of the decision but was unable to change it. What is now modern-day Kingston was originally known as Eastlake. The area was originally set-aside as living quarters for construction workers who occupied more than 100 portable wooden cottages. These were pulled down after the Second World War and today housing is typified by medium-rise apartment living. These days around a third of residents work in government administration.

Braddon & Dickson

Braddon was settled in 1922 as Canberra’s first light-industrial area. Local businesses mostly traded in the automotive industry and the area around Lonsdale Street quickly established itself as the car yard centre of Canberra. The local industry continued unchanged for decades until the development of residential and entertainment areas began to transform the neighbourhood a few years ago. Braddon’s close proximity to Civic and the growth in retail and restaurants saw its popularity as a residential area skyrocket, with much of the standalone housing in the area now replaced with high-density apartment living. In fact, it’s now Canberra’s most densely populated suburb. Socially, it’s a mixed bag, with the population covering young professionals, students and public housing residents.

While Braddon’s heritage gives it its trademark gritty industrial feel, Dickson’s exotic vibe can be attributed to Canberra’s Asian migrant community. Many families of Asian descent have migrated to Canberra over the past century and established Chinatown in Dickson. The immensely popular Asian restaurants and grocery stores along Woolley Street continue reflect this heritage.

Braddon was settled in 1922 as Canberra’s first light-industrial area. Local businesses mostly traded in the automotive industry and the area around Lonsdale Street quickly established itself as the car yard centre of Canberra. The local industry continued unchanged for decades until the development of residential and entertainment areas began to transform the neighbourhood a few years ago. Braddon’s close proximity to Civic and the growth in retail and restaurants saw its popularity as a residential area skyrocket, with much of the standalone housing in the area now replaced with high-density apartment living. In fact, it’s now Canberra’s most densely populated suburb. Socially, it’s a mixed bag, with the population covering young professionals, students and public housing residents.

While Braddon’s heritage gives it its trademark gritty industrial feel, Dickson’s exotic vibe can be attributed to Canberra’s Asian migrant community. Many families of Asian descent have migrated to Canberra over the past century and established Chinatown in Dickson. The immensely popular Asian restaurants and grocery stores along Woolley Street continue reflect this heritage.

Belconnen & Bruce

The District of Belconnen is made up of 25 suburbs and contains both Bruce and the suburb of Belconnen. Despite its modern-day urban appearance, the area was formerly agricultural land. Besides its pig and potato farms, the area was also known for its Belconnen Naval Transmitting Station, which transmitted the results of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics to the rest of the world.

It wasn’t until 1966 that urban development was inaugurated, and the Belconnen Town Centre was opened in the late 1970s. With the construction of the Belconnen Mall, the suburb of Belconnen quickly became the commercial heart of the district.

On Benjamin Way in Belconnen you’re sure to notice the giant Owl statue guarding the entrance to the town centre. Launched in 2011 but already an iconic landmark, the statue honours the Ninox strenua, ‘Powerful Owl’, which is the largest owl species in Australia.