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canberra bashing: cut it out!



Age columnist Martin McKenzie-Murray was quite shocked after writing an article about Canberra, only to find himself publicly and personally attacked by the people of the nation’s capital. Was their reaction over the top? Probably. Was it justifiable? I argue yes. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Because McKenzie’s article isn’t a one-off. It is only one tiny drop in the ocean that is Canberra-bashing, and quite frankly, Canberrans are sick of it.

I am Canberran born and bred, and like my friends and family, look set to die in the same suburb I was born in. Not because I am in any way trapped here. But because I love it so much that I know even if I do end up moving elsewhere, I will most definitely not able to stay away from my roots for long.

And as a Canberran, I have heard it all. The most common adjective used to describe the city is ‘boring’, and the most common criticism is that there ‘is nothing to do’. Which is completely unfair and certainly not true. Canberra has so much to offer if only you open your eyes and look for it. Unlike other cities, we’re not in your face. Our events and ‘wild side’ do need to be searched for. Advertisement is lack-lustre at best, with almost every event I have been to in the last year having reached my attention purely through word of mouth. Which can be a downside, particularly to anyone visiting from out of state. But we forget that sometimes, being so used to the close network that is Canberra, and being the kind of place where word of mouth is effective in a way that just isn’t possible in a big city.

And that right there is the true beauty of Canberra. I could sit here and list all of the awesome things I have been to in the last few months. I could take a cue from almost everyone else defending Canberra and talk about the fact that Canberrans earn more on average and blather on about things like Parliament House and the National Library. I could brag about how easy it is to get anywhere, and that getting stuck in peak hour for forty minutes is a HUGE DEAL here.

But those things don’t matter. Because what makes Canberra so special has nothing to do with money, or close proximity to the city, or national monuments. It is the people. The sense of community. The overwhelming pride for a place that most of us have been in all our lives.

Yesterday marked Canberra’s 100th birthday. Almost every status on my Facebook newsfeed right now is someone writing a genuinely excited post wishing Canberra a happy birthday and gushing about how much they love it here. And everyone I know headed to the lake last night to celebrate the occasion with centenary champagne and fireworks.

The celebrations may not come close to rivalling that of…well any other capital city. But I can guarantee you that those celebrations had more heart and pride than anywhere else in Australia.

And if Canberra’s 100th birthday may not be something to celebrate, the love of Canberrans for their place of residence certainly is.


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