Canberra leads a double life: by day the federal capital, crafting legislation and performing on the world stage; at night it is transformed into a suburban neighbourhood where people cook their meals and pay their bills and water their gardens. But a pervasive view of Canberra is that it is the home only of public servants on secondment; that it is just a waste of a good sheep paddock. This is a stereotype in which I was instructed pretty much as soon as I arrived in Australia in the early 1990s. On my first visit to Canberra I saw exactly what I had been schooled to see: low-rise buildings emanating a dull power; orderly but sparsely populated streets. Not until moving here at the end of the 1990s did I come to know the quotidian nature of the town, the disorder lurking just below the bureaucratic structures, and the raffish, dreamy quality that is a remnant of Walter Burley Griffin’s adulterated plans.
Different views of the federal capital in its centenary
by Paul Daley
NewSouth, $29.99 hb, 325 pp, 9781742233185
The Invisible Thread: One Hundred Years of Words
edited by Irma Gold
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Jen Webb is Distinguished Professor of Creative Practice at the University of Canberra, and Director of the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research in the Faculty of Arts and Design. Her recent work includes the scholarly volumes Researching Creative Writing (Frontinus Press, 2015) and Art and Human Rights: Contemporary Asian Contexts (with Caroline Turner; Manchester UP, 2016), and the poetry volumes Watching the World (with Paul Hetherington; Blemish Books, 2015), Stolen Stories, Borrowed Lines (Mark Time, 2015) and Sentences from the Archive (Recent Work Press, 2016).
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