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{{Australia state or territory
Name = Australian Capital Territory
Fullname = Australian Capital Territory
Flag = Flag of the Australian Capital Territory.svg
the = the
CoatOfArms = Canberra COA.gif
Map = Australian Capital Territory locator-MJC.png
Motto = For the Queen, the Law and the People
Nickname = "The Nation's Heart" or "The Capital"
Emblems = The floral emblem of the ACT is the Royal Bluebell and the faunal emblem is the Gang-gang cockatoo
Emblem_title1 = Floral
Emblem1 = Royal Bluebell
Emblem_title2 = Faunal
Emblem2 = Gang-gang Cockatoo
Emblem_title3 = Colours
Emblem3 = Blue and Gold
Emblem_title4 =
Emblem4 =
Emblem_title5 =
Emblem5 =
Emblem_title6 =
Emblem6 =
Capital = Canberramarker
Demonym = Canberran
ChiefType = Chief Minister
Chief = Jon Stanhope
ChiefParty = ALP
Viceroy = Governor-General of Australia
ViceroyType = Administrator
PostalAbbreviation = ACT
EntityAdjective = Territorial
GSP = $22,287
GSPYear = 2007-08
GSPRank = 6th
GSPPerCapita = $65,034
GSPPerCapitaRank = 3rd
AreaRank = 8th
TotalArea = 2358
LandArea = 2280
WaterArea = 77.6
HighestPoint = Bimberi Peakmarker
HighestElev = 1,912 m
HighestElev_ft = 6,273
LowestPoint = Murrumbidgee Rivermarker
LowestElev = 429 m
LowestElev_ft = 1,407
PercentWater = 3.29
PopulationRank = 7th
Population = 339,900
PopulationYear = End of June 2007
DensityRank = 1st
Density = 144.15
TimeZone = UTC+10 (+11 DST)
HouseSeats = 2
SenateSeats = 2
Website =}}

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is the capital territory of the Commonwealth of Australia and its smallest self-governing internal territory. It is an inland enclave in New South Walesmarker, and regularly referred to as Australia's 'Bush Capital'.

The need for a National Territory was flagged by colonial delegates during the Federation conventions of the late 19th century. Section 125 of the Australian Constitution provided that following Federation in 1901, land would be ceded freely to the new Federal Government. The territory was transferred to the Commonwealth by the state of New South Walesmarker in 1911, two years prior to the naming of Canberramarker as the National Capital in 1913.

The floral emblem of the ACT is the Royal Bluebell and the faunal emblem is the Gang-gang Cockatoo.


When the constitution for the Commonwealth of Australia was being negotiated between the Australian colonies, the siting of the national capital was a point of contention, with Melbournemarker and Sydneymarker claiming the right. A compromise was reached whereby a separate capital city would be created in New South Wales, provided it was no closer than to Sydney. Until such time as the new city was established, Melbourne was to be the temporary capital of Australia.

The present site for the National Capital was selected in 1908, with additional territory at Jervis Baymarker (now a naval base on the New South Wales coast) allocated so the national capital could have a seaport. In 1909 New South Wales transferred the land for the territory to federal control and in 1910 an act of parliament created the legal framework for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

In 1911 there were 1,714 persons living in the Canberra locality including residents of Oaks Estatemarker. The settlement was situated on the outskirts of Queanbeyan and immediately opposite the Queanbayan Railway Station on the Sydney railroad. On January 1 that year the folk of Oaks Estate ceased to be NSW voters becoming territory residents instead.

In that year also, the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, Colonel David Miller, announced an International competition "to obtain the very best design of the most modern lines for this city". The winner was American architect Walter Burley Griffin. Colonel Miller became Administrator of the FCT on 8 August 1912. Canberra was officially named on 12 March 1913, by Lady Denman, the wife of the governor-general Lord Denman; construction of the city began immediately.

During the 1920s the first Federal public servants relocated to Canberramarker from Melbourne, housed initially in Government hostels while the first of Canberra's suburbs Westlake, Eastlake (now Kingstonmarker) and Forrestmarker were constructed. With the official opening of the Provisional Parliament Housemarker on 9 May 1927, the seat of the Federal Government was transferred from Melbourne to Canberra. The following year of Federal Parliament repealed the prohibition laws, a law shepherded through parliament and into law 17 years earlier by King O'Malley, the then Minister of Home Affairs.

In 1938, the Federal Capital Territory was formally renamed the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

In a 1978 referendum, Canberrans rejected self-government by 63% of the vote. Despite this, in December 1988, the ACT was granted full self-government through an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament that made the ACT a body politic under the crown. Following the first elections in February 1989, a 17-member Legislative Assembly sat at its offices in London Circuit, Civic, on 11 May 1989. The Australian Labor Party formed the ACT's first government, led by the Chief Minister Rosemary Follett, who made history as Australia's first female head of government.


Location of the ACT and Jervis Bay
The ACT is bounded by the Goulburnmarker-Coomamarker railway line in the east, the watershed of Naas Creek in the south, the watershed of the Cotter Rivermarker in the west, and the watershed of the Molonglo Rivermarker in the north-east. The ACT also has a small strip of territory around the southern end of the Beecroft Peninsula, which is the northern headland of Jervis Bay.

Apart from the city of Canberra, the Australian Capital Territory also contains agricultural land (sheep, dairy cattle, vineyards and small amounts of crops) and a large area of national park (Namadgi National Parkmarker), much of it mountainous and forested. Small townships and communities located within the ACT include Williamsdalemarker, Naas, Uriarramarker, Tharwamarker and Hallmarker.

Tidbinbilla is a locality to the south-west of Canberra that features the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complexmarker, operated by the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administrationmarker (NASA) as part of its Deep Space Network.

There are a large range of mountains, rivers and creeks in the Namadgi National Park. These include the Naas and Murrumbidgee Rivers.


Because of its elevation (650 m) and distance from the coast, the Australian Capital Territory experiences four distinct seasons, unlike many other Australian cities whose climates are moderated by the sea. Canberra is notorious for hot, dry summers, and cold winters with occasional fog and frequent frosts. Many of the higher mountains in the territory’s south-west are snow-covered for at least part of the winter. Thunderstorms can occur between October and March, and annual rainfall is 623 millimetres (24.5 in), with rainfall highest in spring and summer and lowest in winter.

The highest maximum temperature recorded in the ACT was 42.8 °C (109.0 °F) at Actonmarker on 11 January 1939. The lowest minimum temperature was −14.6 °C (5.7 °F) at Gudgenby on 11 July 1971


Notable geological formations in the Australian Capital Territory include the Canberra Formation, the Pittman Formation, Black Mountain Sandstone and State Circle Shale.

In the 1840s fossils of brachiopods and trilobites from the Silurian period were discovered at Woolshed Creek near Duntroonmarker. At the time, these were the oldest fossils discovered in Australia, though this record has now been far surpassed. Other specific geological places of interest include the State Circle cutting and the Deakin anticline.

The oldest rocks in the ACT date from the Ordovician around 480 million years ago. During this period the region along with most of Eastern Australia was part of the ocean floor; formations from this period include the Black Mountain Sandstone formation and the Pittman Formation consisting largely of quartz-rich sandstone, siltstone and shale. These formations became exposed when the ocean floor was raised by a major volcanic activity in the Devonian forming much of the east coast of Australia.


The ACT Legislative Assembly building
The ACT has internal self-government, but Australia's Constitution does not afford the territory government the full legislative independence provided to Australian states. Laws are made in a 17-member Legislative Assemblymarker that has all state and local government functions. However, its decisions can be overruled by the Australian Governor-General (effectively by the national government) under section 35 of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988. (See also Electoral systems of the Australian states and territories). Members of the Legislative Assembly are elected via the Hare Clarke system. The ACT Chief Minister (currently Jon Stanhope, Australian Labor Party) is elected by members of the ACT Assembly. The ACT Government is a member of the Council of Australian Governments.

Unlike other self-governing Australian territories (e.g. Norfolk Islandmarker, Northern Territorymarker), the ACT does not have an Administrator. The Crown is represented by the Governor-General in the government of the ACT. The Chief Minister performs many of the roles that a state governor normally holds in the context of a state, however the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly gazettes the laws and summons meetings of the Assembly.

In Australia's Federal Parliament, the ACT is represented by four federal members: two members of the House of Representatives; the Division of Fraser and the Division of Canberra and is one of only two territories to be represented in the Senate, with two Senators (the other being the Northern Territory). The Member for Fraser and the ACT Senators also represent the constituents of the Jervis Bay Territorymarker.

In 1915 the Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Act 1915 created the Jervis Bay Territorymarker as an annexe to the Australian Capital Territory. In 1988, when the ACT gained self-government, Jervis Bay became a separate territory administered by the Australian Government Minister responsible for Territories, presently the Minister for Home Affairs.

The ACT retains a small area of territory on the coast at the Beecroft Peninsulamarker, consisting of a strip of coastline around the northern headland of Jervis Bay (not to be confused with the Jervis Bay Territory, which is on the southern headland of the Bay). The ACT's land on the Beecroft Peninsula is an "exclave", that is, an area of territory not physically connected to the main part of the ACT. Interestingly, this ACT exclave surrounds a small exclave of NSW territory, namely the Point Perpendicularmarker lighthouse which is at the southern tip of the Beecroft Peninsula. The lighthouse and its grounds are New South Wales territory, but cut off from the rest of the state by the strip of ACT land. This is a geographic curiosity: an exclave of NSW land enclosed by an exclave of ACT land.


ACT Ministers implement their executive powers through the following government departments and agencies:


In the 2006 census the population of the ACT was 333,667, of which only 869 were outside Canberra. The ACT median weekly income for people aged over 15 was in the range $600–$699 while the population living outside Canberra was at the national average of $400–$499. The average level of degree qualification in the ACT is higher than the national average. Within the ACT 4.5% of the population have a postgraduate degree compared to 1.8% across the whole of Australia.

Urban Structure

bikepath to Weston Creek
Canberra seen from Spot Satellite

Canberra is a planned city that was originally designed by Walter Burley Griffin, a major 20th century American architect. Major roads follow a wheel-and-spoke pattern rather than a grid. The city centre is laid out on two perpendicular axes: a water axis stretching along Lake Burley Griffinmarker, and a ceremonial land axis stretching from Parliament House on Capital Hillmarker north-eastward along ANZAC Parademarker to the Australian War Memorialmarker at the foot of Mt Ainsliemarker. The area known as the Parliamentary Trianglemarker is formed by three of Burley Griffin's axes, stretching from Capital Hill along Commonwealth Avenue to the Civic Centre around City Hill, along Constitution Avenue to the Defence precinct on Russell Hill, and along Kings Avenue back to Capital Hill.

The larger scheme of Canberra's layout is based on the three peaks surrounding the city, Mt.marker Ainsliemarker, Black Mountainmarker, and Red Hillmarker. The main symmetrical axis of the city is along ANZAC Parademarker and roughly on the line between Mt.Ainslie and Bimberi Peakmarker. Bimberi Peak being the highest mountain in the ACT approximately south west of Canberra . The precise alignment of ANZAC parade is between Mt. Ainslie and Capital Hillmarker (formally Kurrajong Hill). The Griffins assigned spiritual values to Mt. Ainslie, Black Mountain, and Red Hill and originally planned to cover each of these in flowers. That way each hill would be covered with a single, primary color which represented its spiritual value. This part of their plan never came to fruition. In fact, WWI interrupted the construction and some conflicts after the war made it a difficult process for the Griffins. Nevertheless, Canberra stands as an exemplary city design and is located halfway between the ski slopes and the beach. It enjoys a natural cooling from geophysical factors.

The urban areas of Canberra are organised into a hierarchy of districts, town centres, group centres, local suburbs as well as other industrial areas and villages. There are seven districts, each of which is divided into smaller suburbs, and most of which have a town centre which is the focus of commercial and social activities. The districts were settled in the following chronological order:
  • North Canberra, mostly settled in the 1920s and '30s, with expansion up to the 1960s, now 14 suburbs
  • South Canberra, settled from the 1920s to '60s, 13 suburbs
  • Woden Valley, first settled in 1963, 12 suburbs
  • Belconnen, first settled in 1967, 25 suburbs
  • Weston Creek, settled in 1969, 8 suburbs
  • Tuggeranongmarker, settled in 1974, 19 suburbs
  • Gungahlin, settled in the early 1990s, 18 suburbs although only 12 are developed or under development

The North and South Canberra districts are substantially based on Walter Burley Griffin's designs. In 1967 the then National Capital Development Commission adopted the "Y Plan" which laid out future urban development in Canberra around a series of central shopping and commercial area known as the 'town centres' linked by freeways, the layout of which roughly resembled the shape of the letter Y, with Tuggeranong at the base of the Y and Belconnen and Gungahlin located at the ends of the arms of the Y. Development in Canberra has been closely regulated by government, both through the town planning process, but also through the use of crown lease terms that have tightly limited the use of parcels of land. All land in the ACT is held on 99 year leases from the national government, although most leases are now administered by the Territory government.

Most suburbs have their own local shops, and are located close to a larger shopping centre serving a group of suburbs. Community facilities and schools are often also located near local shops or group shopping centres. Many of Canberra's suburbs are named after former Prime Ministers, famous Australians, early settlers, or use Aboriginal words for their title. Street names typically follow a particular theme; for example, the streets of Duffymarker are named after Australian dams and reservoirs, the streets of Dunlopmarker are named after Australian inventions, inventors and artists and the streets of Pagemarker are named after biologists and naturalists. Most diplomatic missions are located in the suburbs of Yarralumlamarker, Deakinmarker and O'Malleymarker. There are three light industrial areas: the suburbs of Fyshwickmarker, Mitchellmarker and Humemarker.


Almost all educational institutions in the Australian Capital Territory are located within Canberramarker. The ACT public education system schooling is normally split up into Pre-School, Primary School (K-6), High School (7-10) and College (11-12) followed by studies at university or TAFE. Many private high schools include years 11 and 12 and are referred to as colleges. Children are required to attend school until they turn 15 years old, most finish year 10 (around 16 years old).

In February 2004 there were 140 public and non-governmental schools in Canberra; 96 were operated by the Government and 44 are non-Government. In 2005 there were 60,275 students in the ACT school system. 59.3% of the students were enrolled in government schools with the remaining 40.7% in non-government schools. There were 30,995 students in primary school, 19,211 in high school, 9,429 in college and a further 340 in special schools.

As of May 2004, 30% of people in the ACT aged 15–64 had a level of educational attainment equal to at least an bachelor's degree, significantly higher that the national average of 19%. The two main tertiary institutions are the Australian National Universitymarker (ANU) in Actonmarker and the University of Canberramarker (UC) in Brucemarker. There are also two religious university campuses in Canberra: Signadou is a campus of the Australian Catholic Universitymarker and St Mark's Theological College is a campus of Charles Sturt University. The Australian International Hotel Schoolmarker offers degree and diploma level courses and operates the Hotel Kurrajong in Bartonmarker. Tertiary level vocational education is also available through the multi-campus Canberra Institute of Technologymarker.

The Australian Defence Force Academymarker (ADFA) and the Royal Military College, Duntroonmarker (RMC) are in the suburb of Campbellmarker in Canberra's inner northeast. ADFA teaches military undergraduates and postgraduates and is officially a campus of the University of New South Walesmarker while Duntroon provides Australian Army Officer training.

The Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) offers courses in computer game development and 3D animation.


  2. Australian National Accounts: State Accounts, 2007-08
  3. National Archives of Australia - Seat of Government Act 1908 (Cth)
  4. National Archives of Australia - Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 (Cth)
  5. National Archives of Australia - Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910 (Cth)
  6. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1307.8 - Australian Capital Territory in Focus, 2007
  7. Michael Hall, Early Administration in the Territory, from "Australia - 100 Years as a Nation", Canberra Times, 1 January 2001
  8. Parliament@Work - At a Glance Australian Capital Territory
  9. National Archives of Australia - Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 (Cth)
  10. The area of ACT land on the Beecroft Peninsula is clearly shown in the New South Wales Roads Directory (Map 177, grid ref. S 2), which is published by the National Roads and Motoring Association and is based on NSW Department of Lands maps. Several maps showing the boundaries of the ACT exclave on the Beecroft Peninsula are available online, for example:
  11. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002 Yearbook of Australia, retrieved 22 July 2007
  12. ACT Heritage Register — Woolshed Creek Fossil Site
  13. Australian Heritage Database — State Circle Cutting
  14. National Trust of Australia — Deakin Anticline
  15. Although ACT lands on the Beecroft Peninsula are shown on official and other detailed maps of the area, it is not widely known that this area forms part of the ACT. This is probably because the area has no permanent residents, being reserved as a live firing range for the Royal Australian Navy. However, retention of this strip of coastline ensures ongoing compliance with the legal requirement, as set out in section 4 of the Seat of Government Act 1908, that the ACT "shall ... have access to the sea". The Point Perpendicular lighthouse, at the very tip of the Peninsula, is a small exclave of NSW territory cut off from the main part of NSW by the ACT land. A good online GIS map showing the Beecroft Peninsula, and those areas which are part of the ACT, can be found at the website of the Shire of Shoalhaven, the adjacent NSW municipality. This is the URL (NSW lands shown in yellow, ACT and JBT lands shown in pink):
  16. Wigmore, pp. 60–63.
  17. Wigmore, p. 67.
  18. Wigmore, p. 64.
  19. Google Earth
  20. Wigmore, pp. 64–67.
  21. Sparke, pp. 154–155.
  22. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2005. Schools in the ACT
  23. ACT Department of Education and Training. 2005. Enrolments in ACT Schools 1995 to 2005
  24. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2005. Education in the ACT

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