Choosing the Site of the National Capital

An activity which can be adapted for Upper Primary-Secondary (Year 6 – 8)

Background Information

The district of Yass-Canberra comprised a number of grazing properties. It was home to Aborigines, estate owners, convict and immigrant workers, independent labourers and shepherds. As one newcomer stated, 'this district abounds with cattle stealers, runaways and those who harbour them and the keepers of illicit spirit shops'.

By the time the Yass-Canberra district was chosen as the site for the national capital of Australia, the properties that made up the central area of this district were all in the hands of descendents of R Campbell, the founder of Duntroon Estate. Duntroon Estate was founded in 1825 when Robert Campbell was granted 4000 acres of land in the Yass-Canberra area, 400 head of sheep and 2000 pounds cash as compensation for the loss of his ship, the 'Sydney', while on government business. Blundells Cottage, one of the workers' cottages of the Duntroon Estate, still exists today on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin as a reminder of life before the national capital.

Choosing the Site of the National Capital

Setting the scene

Choosing the site of the national capital was not an easy task. In 1902, members of Federal Parliament began inspections of possible sites. After years of dispute, in 1908 it was declared that the district of Yass-Canberra in the state of New South Wales, would become the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth.

The Campbell estates were to be the site of the centre of this city, but they were not the only local residents affected by the Yass-Canberra District becoming the national capital.

What to do

Imagine you are the minister attempting to gain support for the national capital site among Yass-Canberra residents, some of whom have spent their entire lives there.

Be Creative

Once the main points have been established use this as a role-play/debate for and against having the national capital in the district that these people lived in, with one group as the parliamentarians and one group as the residents.

This activity has been developed from the National Capital Authority's 'Reflections of a Nation: The History and Design of our National Capital' Secondary Education Kit. For further activities: