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Australian Capital Territory


Seat of the National Government
Australian Parliament House ... embodying Australia's Federal Government

Australian Parliament House ... embodying Australia's Federal Government

© Australian Capital Tourism

The Australian Capital Territory and its capital (as well as the nation's capital), Canberra, is close enough to Sydney for a day trip by road, although rather large visitor numbers may prefer to stay for more than a day.

For most visitors, it is mainly Canberra, with its Australian Parliament, Australian War Memorial, museums, galleries, parks, gardens and special Canberra events, such as the annual Floriade, that is the purpose of the trip.

But there activities as well outside the city limits such as exploring the bush on well-defined walking tracks, cycling, horse riding, or just laying out a spread on the ground for bangers (sausages), sangers (sandwiches) and a bottle of red or white.

How it all began

Such was the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne that when it was decided that the seat of the Commonwealth of Australia would be within, but not part of, New South Wales, it had to be at least 100 miles (160.9 kilometres) from Sydney and roughly between both states.

After several sites had been proposed, and rejected, it was finally decided to locate the national capital in the Yass-Canberra region which was duly confirmed with the passing of the Seat of Government Act of 1908.

New South Wales transferred to the Commonwealth the land for the capital site in 1911. Originally called the Territory for the Seat of Government, then the Federal Capital Territory, it was subsequently named the Australian Capital Territory.

The national capital, located within the Australian Capital Territory and originally designed by Chicago architect Walter Burley Griffin, was officially named Canberra.

Area and geography

The Australian Capital Territory has an area of 2358 square kilometres (810 square miles) and measures 88 kilometres north to south and 30 kilometres east to west at its widest points.

While it is the city of Canberra that has a concentration of places to visit, the surrounding area is farmland and bushland, so you can have a taste of both city and country within cooee of each other.

Close to half of the site's land area is occupied by Namadgi National Park.

The territory's highest elevation of 1912 metres (6273 feet) is at Bimberi Peak at the border of Namadgi National Park and Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales.

The Australian Capital Territory is, of course, completely enclosed by New South Wales.

Government of the people

The Australian Capital Territory is Australia's smallest self-governing mainland territory and has its own Legislative Assembly and a Chief Minister elected by members of the Assembly.

In the Federal Parliament, the Australian Capital Territory is represented by two members in the House of Representatives and another two in the Senate.

Territory emblems

The royal bluebell is the floral emblem of the Australian Capital Territory, and the gang-gang cockatoo its bird emblem. It has no official animal emblem.

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