1. Roland Wakelin, The Bridge Under Construction (1929)
2. Grace Cossington Smith, The Bridge in Curve (1930)
3. Dorrit Black, The Bridge (1930)Tweet
Some things about Canberra irritate - even infuriate - me. Not least its social claustrophobia, its veneer of smug self-satisfaction, its self-absorbed NIMBY-ness and its pervasive self-defeating defensiveness.
Nonetheless, after living here for twenty years I get angry when outsiders revert to the old clichés when criticising the city as a soulless place of endless roundabouts and meaningless public monuments, of sub-standard restaurants - a ‘lights-out’ place populated solely by drone-like bureaucrats and politicians. That these criticisms are made by people who’ve rarely been here, learnt the city’s story of its raison d’etre annoys me more because Canberra, as the national capital, is every Australian’s city.
Canberrans are notoriously satisfied with their lot. They also have a great sense of entitlement. With their big houses, first-class schools, their pristine blue-skied winters and hot dry summers, with their garden suburbs separated by bush corridors in a natural mountainous amphitheatre, with their proximity to some of the continent’s best beaches and skifields, with their beautiful multi-lane traffic-free roads and bike paths, and with their abundant fine restaurants and sporting facilities, why wouldn’t they be?
It’s surprising, then, that they should be simultaneous so conspicuously self-conscious, hyper-defensive and incredulous that Canberra isn’t Australia’s envy.
This is not the type of proud parochialism that has defined the ‘mine is bigger than yours’ grudge contest between Melbourne and Sydney since early colonial days.
No, it’s a tetchy defensiveness bordering on paranoia that is firmly rooted in Australia’s underlying contempt for Canberra, a place that has been vilified and misunderstood since it was named a century ago.