Thursday, January 22, 2009

Getting into the ACT

The history of the Australian Capital Territory as a Territory of Australia began after the Federation of Australia in 1901, when it was created in law as the site for Australia's capital city Canberra. The region has a long prior history of human habitation before the Territory's creation, however, with evidence of Indigenous Australian settlement dating back at least 21,000 years. The region formed the traditional lands associated with the Ngunnawal people and several other linguistic groups, an association known through both early European settler accounts and the oral histories of the peoples themselves. Following the colonisation of Australia by the British, the 19th century saw the initial European exploration and settlement of the area and their encounters with the local indigenous peoples, beginning with the first explorations in 1820 and shortly followed by the first European settlements in 1824. At the outset the region was dominated by large properties used for sheep and cattle grazing, which had been granted to free settlers that had arrived in Australia from the United Kingdom and other European countries. These large properties would later be broken up and subdivided in accordance with changes to land tenure arrangements, smaller farms and urban developments becoming more common.

In the early 20th century, the development of the region took an unusual turn when it was chosen as the site for the creation of Australia's capital city in 1908. The Territory was formally ceded to the Government of Australia by the Government of New South Wales in 1909 and additional land at Jervis Bay was also surrendered to the Commonwealth for the establishment of a sea port for the capital. It officially came under government control as the Federal Capital Territory on 1 January 1911. The planning and construction of Canberra followed, with the Parliament of Australia finally moving there in 1927. The Territory officially became the Australian Capital Territory in 1938. The city of Canberra developed and expanded to accommodate the Australian federal government, while the surrounding area has been developed to support the city, including the construction of dams, the establishment of plantation forests and the creation of protected areas. The political development of the Territory began in 1949, when it was given its first representative in the Parliament of Australia, and was completed when it became an autonomous territory when self-government was granted in 1988.

Establishment of the Territory in law
Location of the ACT and Jervis Bay

In 1909 New South Wales transferred the land for the creation of the Federal Capital Territory to federal control though two pieces of legislation, the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 and the Seat of Government Surrender Act 1909. The Act transferred Crown land in the counties of Murray and Cowley to the Commonwealth, which amounted to an area about 2,330 kmĀ² and eight parcels of land near Jervis Bay All private land in the surrendered area had to be bought by the Commonwealth. The Seat of Government Acceptance Act also gave the Commonwealth rights to use and control the waters of the Queanbeyan and Molonglo Rivers.

In 1910 the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910 created the legal framework for the Territory. The act specified that laws in the Territory could be made by the Commonwealth and that Ordinances could be made by the Governor-General,[53] and placed the ACT under the jurisdiction of the New South Wales Supreme Court. The Act also specifies that no land in the Territory can be held by freehold, creating the leasehold land tenure system that exists today, and is the only land tenure system of its kind in Australia. When the Act came into force on 1 January 1911, control of the Territory was officially assumed by the Commonwealth. This Act remained the constitutional basis for law-making in the ACT for nearly 90 years. King O'Malley, the politician responsible for the legislation creating the ACT, also passed a law in 1910 making the ACT an alcohol-free area; this law was not repealed until 1928. Until that time local residents travelled to Queanbeyan, just across the New South Wales border, to drink on Saturday. In 1938 the Territory was formally renamed the Australian Capital Territory.

The Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Act 1915 and the New South Wales Seat of Government Surrender Act 1915 created a Territory of Jervis Bay, deemed part of the Federal Capital Territory and with all laws of the Territory applicable.

[source: Wikipedia - hyperlinks mine]

I've only been to the nation's capital once. We climbed the Telecom tower and visited the war memorial where I took photos of a plaque for a second cousin killed in Vietnam. There was the most intellectual graffiti I have ever seen scrawled on one of the walls - though Canberra might have degenerated into tagging too; it was a long time ago.

I read recently that, with a population of 300,000, the A.C.T. government was really a glorified shire council. Created by the aegis of the Hawke government, here are the 'mayors':

Rosemary Follett ALP May - December 1989, June 1991 - March 1995
Trevor Kaine Liberal December 1989 - June 1991
Kate Carnell Liberal March 1995 - October 2000
Gary Humphries Liberal October 2000 - November 2001
Jon Stanhope ALP November 2001 - present

and loyal constituents