PM and CM speech on Canberra's 99th Birthday

Statement of commitment to Canberra and launch of Centenary of Canberra

Photo: Hcreations Photography

Monday, 12 March, 2012 by Prime Minister Julia Gillard

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I begin by honouring the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects in the spirit of reconciliation to Elders past and present.

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We meet in a spirit of friendship on country made sacred by unbroken centuries of custodianship and care.

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One hundred and eight words; that’s how Canberra came about.

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Just 108 words, which together comprise Section 125 of our Constitution.

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From those modest words, a mature, confident city has grown up.

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A city Walter Burley Griffin created as the capital for a country of “bold democrats”.

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Just as we made a new nation, so we made a new capital.

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Canberra wasn’t just a clever solution to a vexing political problem.

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It gave expression in urban shape and form to the values that define us as a people.

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This is a democratic city.

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A city close to nature.

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A city that didn’t seek to emulate the grandeur of its Old World peers.

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And, of course, it is a city wisely named from among the ancient languages of its First Peoples – a stunning act of Reconciliation before the term Reconciliation was even known.

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In a special way, Canberra belongs to every Australian.

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Many children come here in Year 6.

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Many Australians endeavour to visit it at least once in their lives.

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And many new migrants come here soon after settlement because of the kind of civic pilgrimage it represents.

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No citizen who comes to the city is a stranger.

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So the Canberra Centenary is a celebration for every Australian, and I am delighted by the leadership being shown originally by Jon Stanhope and now by Katy Gallagher in preparing for it.

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As the modern custodians of our capital, you know how much this anniversary means, and I’m very proud of the team you’ve drawn together led by two living national treasures, Sir William Deane as Patron and Robyn Archer as Creative Director.

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I know you are preparing a strong program of events and commemorative projects, and I wish Robyn and her team every success.

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I’m also delighted the Commonwealth has been able to make a contribution through the redevelopment of Constitution Avenue and the National Arboretum.

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And today I want to go further by making a formal and public commitment on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia to the role and significance of Canberra in the life of our nation.

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Today I commit the Commonwealth to continuing to build and grow the nation’s capital, its cultural institutions and its role as the focus of ceremonial, parliamentary and national leadership.

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I commit to Canberra remaining the heart of the Australian Public Service and the primary location of government departments and agencies.

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I pledge a deep and enduring partnership between the Commonwealth and the ACT legislatures and between the governments of the Commonwealth and the ACT to foster and develop a strong and flourishing city.

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A city which reflects the national pride we take in this, our bush capital; the respect we pay to our war dead and the vision of our founding leaders so elegantly realised in the plans of Walter Burley Griffin.

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We make these commitments with a spirit of pride in Canberra’s past and absolute confidence in its future.

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As this city begins the count-down to its centenary, I say to all Australians:

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Canberra is a success; our collective success over ten decades.

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And it deserves to be celebrated.

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What we are really celebrating, in a sense, is our ability as a nation and a people to get things right.

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Whether in designing a constitution, introducing the basic wage and the old age pension or founding Canberra in that first decade after Federation through to multiculturalism and charting a way through the Asian Century in our own times, we are a people that gets the big calls right.

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So I want this to be a celebration of Canberra as our capital.

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But also a celebration of our characteristic ability to get things right and the confidence and astuteness that we’ve brought to the task of building the institutions of our nation.

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In that spirit, I proudly launch the program to celebrate this, Canberra’s centennial year. 99 going on 100.

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I affirm the Statement of Commitment made on behalf of the nation today.

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And I look forward to joining Canberrans and all Australians in celebrating the contribution this city has made to all the success and identity of the country we love so much.

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Launch of Centenary of Canberra Preview

Monday, 12 March, 2012 by Chief Minister Katy Gallagher

I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we are meeting on, the Ngunnawal people.  I acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

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Thank you Prime Minister for those words and for your commitment to the idea of Canberra, to the city we are now and to the city we are yet to become.

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The very existence of Canberra is the result of an idea, and an ideal. Perhaps inevitably, over our first century, we have departed from both.

The elegant city-in-miniature imagined by the Griffins is still discernible in our bone structure, but we have become something else and something more. In our second century we’ll become something else and something more again.

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We are, and always will be, a city born out of an idea, a place where the work of imagining a modern democratic nation takes place, a place for the ceremonial acting out of what it means to be a federation.

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But we have a dual identity. We are also a 21st-century city of 360,000 — more than five times the population envisaged by Walter Burley Griffin — a hybrid city-state with a strong economy, a growing private sector and an identity all our own.

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And in our second century I firmly believe we will take on a third identity and a third destiny, as the great regional success story of the nation. We will be not just the nation’s capital, but the economic, industrial and service capital of the south-east. A destination for education, health care, cultural life, clean industry.

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But to fulfil this third destiny it is imperative that the foundations of our first century are maintained and built upon. That’s why the Prime Minister’s statement this morning is so crucial.

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We sometimes tend to think that the vision Canberra’s founders had for this place is something long-since accomplished and completed. Any reading of our history dispels that idea. Our development has been characterised by stops and starts. Our first decades were ones of world wars and economic depression. It wasn’t until the late 1950s and the creation of the National Capital Development Commission that the building of the capital resumed in earnest.

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Over more recent decades the enthusiasm of various Commonwealth Governments to invest in the national capital has waxed and waned. In some important ways we are an unfinished capital.

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A city that has not finished developing. A city that requires both the ACT Government, Commonwealth Government and indeed the Australian people to ensure that Canberra, the nation’s capital, develops into a truly great city of the world. A city in which all Australians take pride and ownership.

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I believe that the Centenary is an opportunity to remind Australians that this is their city, that its institutions are their institutions, that our story is also their story.

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It’s been wonderful, in this regard, to have the commitment and generous support of the Federal Government — and in particular the enthusiasm of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Regional Australia, Simon Crean — for those aspects of the program that will reach out beyond our Territory borders, to involve Australians around the country in the celebration of their capital’s Centenary.

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But I also believe that while the year-long celebrations of 2013 will be an opportunity to look back on a fascinating first century, it will also be, for Canberrans, a time of conversation about, and planning for, our second century.

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One of the great advantages of having as artistic director someone with Robyn Archer’s combination of artistic breadth and intellectual depth is that we’re getting a program that asks us to think about the future as much as about the past.  A party is good. But a legacy is more lasting.

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I’m sure that in a moment Robyn will tell you something of the philosophy behind the program when she gives a sneak preview of what lies ahead, bearing in mind that today is just a teaser and that the release of the full program won’t happen until September.

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But before we get that preview I have an important duty to perform. There is no way that a celebration on the scale we propose would be possible without teamwork and partnerships, and today I have the pleasure of announcing the corporate and media partners whose contributions will make 2013 a year to remember.

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One local business in particular has become almost synonymous with Canberra.  In our early decades this company delivered much of the critical infrastructure that allows a city to work as a city. In 2012 this company, like our city, is looking confidently to the future. It is a pleasure to announce ActewAGL as the Principal Partner of the Centenary of Canberra.

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We’ll hear from the Chairman of ActewAGL, Mr John Mackay, in a moment.

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Another Canberra business of long standing — with a tradition of supporting the community that stretches back almost as far —  is Capital Chemist. Today I welcome Capital Chemist as a Major Supporter of the Centenary.

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I’d also like to welcome on board as a Major Supporter another great corporate citizen of the nation’s capital, the professional services firm Deloitte.

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Spreading the word about the Centenary will be vital to its success. The Centenary of Canberra’s Media Partners will play a part not just in letting Australians know of the array of events and activities across the year, but also in telling the stories behind the events, behind the celebrations, behind the city.

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It’s a great pleasure to welcome as Media Partner our multicultural and multilingual national broadcaster, SBS.

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We also welcome as Media Partner the ABC, which will marshal its many television, radio and online platforms to tell our stories.

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And we welcome Canberra’s very own daily newspaper, The Canberra Times — which has been around almost as long as the city has, and which will kick off its involvement this Wednesday, with a special preview brochure in every copy of the paper.

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Thank you to each of these partners and supporters. You really will be indispensible. We could not do this without you.

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Thank you everyone for coming today. A particular thanks to our Prime Minister for her time and her words.

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I look forward to seeing you all again in September for the release of the full Centenary program – though I’m sure there’ll be plenty of occasions between now and then to add to the pride and momentum I can feel building right across the city.