ACT News


Birdman Rally's risks and rewards among Canberra's fond Lake Burley Griffin memories

Canberra's work safety boss doesn't even want to think about the risks of dropping into the lake from a great height on a pink bicycle, let alone the stability, or otherwise, of the scaffolding that launched so many amateur aviators' dreams.

As the 50th anniversary of Lake Burley Griffin approaches, Canberrans are recalling their favourite lake memories, captured in pictures like this shot from the Birdman Rally in 1987.

The image was taken after the event, when a group of teenagers took control of the tower. The actual competition had involved amateur inventors chasing big cash prizes for travelling the longest distance in garage-made gliders.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe was momentarily alarmed when shown the image on Monday, not realising it was a historic shot. 

When assured the scaffolding tower wasn't currently in the lake, Mr McCabe said: "Health and safety people often get accused of being the fun police.

"On this occasion, however, I would definitely not recommend that you try this at home – or on the lake, for that matter. I don't even want to think about how stable that scaffolding is, either."


The photographer, John Moulis, attended the Birdman competition regularly and said he was inspired to submit his images after the weekend's launch of  The Canberra Times' Our Lake – 50 Years photography competition

"They were just some young guys having fun after the competition; they may have even been a bit drunk," Mr Moulis said.

The Birdman Rally ran between 1985 and 1992.  A similar event is held in Melbourne and Mr Moulis said he hoped it would return to Lake Burley Griffin. 

"The event would attract thousands of people. Seeing the photos reminded me just how good it was in the days of the rally, and the Food and Wine Frolic."

Among the photographs entered for the competition so far is one by Heather Calman, showing two friends, Sally and Pru, enjoying a sunbake by the 'seaside' in the 1960s.

"There was very little shade but we really enjoyed being able to get a swim in hot old Canberra. People had said you shouldn't swim in it [Lake Burley Griffin] but my father said it was cleaner than the other local swimming spots," Ms Calman said.

Ms Calman, whose father was a project engineer for Lake Burley Griffin's construction, watched the process closely and still visits the lake every day.

Another person with a 50-year association with the lake is Fernando Ribeiro, who photographed his childrenstanding in front of the lake at Regatta Point as water from the Molonglo River began to slowly fill the construction site.

"Every day I had to drive down into the empty lake and up out near Albert Hall. I followed its process and watched anxiously to see the lake filled," he said.

The competition, which includes a category for contemporary shots as well, runs until the end of October. There is $1000 in prize money to be won. 

To enter the competition, send up to three photographs to as JPEG files of at least 150 kilobytes to a maximum of one megabyte.

Include your name, address, telephone number, photograph title and a description of where and when it was taken. Click or touch here for full terms and conditions.