ACT News


Just shake off the Canberra bashing: Gallagher

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says Canberra should shake off its cringe and react with a ''whatever'' when unfair criticism is levelled at the city.

Ms Gallagher said she had been initially angry at some criticisms of the national capital in the lead-up to its 100th birthday on Tuesday.

But she believed Canberrans should simply ignore the attacks. ''In the words, of a 15-year-old: 'whatever','' Ms Gallagher said.

''I think there is an element of us that has to get over the cringe that we have from being always referred to as 'Canberra' in a derogatory sense … we are 100 now - it's time to accept that people have different views of our city.''

The lead-up to the centenary has seen a mixture of positive and negative media commentary about Canberra.

An online BBC article said that in the Australian public imagination Canberra was ''dull and devoid of soul'', while Melbourne writer Martin McKenzie-Murray's description of a sterile and chilling city sparked a fierce backlash from some residents on social media.


Ms Gallagher said local residents were naturally defensive because of past ''Canberra bashing''.

''The city I live [in] isn't the city that's been described by different commentators, many of whom have spent time here, but they've never made this place their home. For anyone who's lived here, that's not our city. We've got to have a calm acceptance that we know what's great about Canberra and if it's not recognised universally, so what?''

But Ms Gallagher said there would always be room for serious debate about what could be done to make Canberra a better place.

''In some ways it's healthy to always be looking at what you you've become and what you like and areas you need to develop more as a city,'' she said.

Liberal senator Gary Humphries said the creation of Canberra was a great achievement for all Australians, not just those who lived in the national capital.

''My view has always been that if people choose to be a bit contemptuous or dismissive of Canberra that's fine, these are people who don't appreciate what a great city Canberra is to live in,'' Senator Humphries told ABC Radio.

Centenary of Canberra creative director Robyn Archer said Australian attitudes towards Canberra were changing.

''The loudest critics are those who have had strong ties to politics,'' Ms Archer said. ''I've travelled all around Australia and think the national conversation about Canberra is changing in a positive way.''

Former Labor leader Kim Beazley, who first visited Canberra as a baby when his father was an MP, said Canberra was a city of which Australians could be enormously proud.

Mr Beazley, now ambassador to the United States, said he did not agree with former prime minister Paul Keating that Sydney should be the federal capital.

''I don't agree. I can understand how somebody might say that, coming from the mother colony [NSW], so to speak,'' Mr Beazley said.

''But we in Western Australia [his home state], I think, took it as an article of good faith that the capital would not be any of the old colonial capitals but would be in a totally new one.''