ACT News

Lee family portraits capture Lake Burley Griffin scene over 50 years

Dan Lee watched his two daughters grow from curly-haired little girls to young women in the time Canberra's famous lake went from a trickle of water to a large expanse. 

25 years ago: Dan Lee with his daughters Julie Anne and Margaret at Regatta Point in 1988.
25 years ago: Dan Lee with his daughters Julie Anne and Margaret at Regatta Point in 1988. Photo: Supplied

The changes have been captured in three precious family portraits of the trio, each snapped by Mr Lee's wife Nancye, over 50 years. 

They have made a point of posing for the same photograph every 25 years to document their changing faces and also the transformation of Lake Burley Griffin. 

50 years ago: Dan Lee with his daughters Julie Anne and Margaret in 1963.
50 years ago: Dan Lee with his daughters Julie Anne and Margaret in 1963.  Photo: Supplied

Mr Lee and his daughters Julie Anne Johnston and Margaret Gosper were first snapped at Regatta Point on Canberra's northside in 1963, months before the lake filled in.

"I just find that first photo quite astonishing, you can actually see the river winding through there," Mr Lee said.

It was the girls' first real experience of the capital after Mr Lee came to Canberra to work for what was then the Department of Customs and Excise the previous year.

His pregnant wife and the two girls remained at the family's home in Sydney's southern suburbs, with Mr Lee travelling back each weekend, until they moved into a Reid house in 1964.  

Just last year: Dan Lee with daughters Julie Anne and Margaret in 2013.
Just last year: Dan Lee with daughters Julie Anne and Margaret in 2013.  Photo: Supplied

The couple, who also had three sons, built their house in Lyons in 1968 and apart from a year working in Canada and three years in Brisbane, they have lived there ever since.

"This has been our home," Mr Lee said.

The girls attended Catholic schools in Canberra and by the time they set about recreating the image in 1988 both were married and worked in the public service.

"We knew that first photo was there and we knew it was taken in August so went at the end of July or early August to get the photo 25 years later," Mr Lee said. 

"There was a lot more water in the lake."

By the time the 50th anniversary of the first shot rolled around in 2013, Mr Lee was about to celebrate his 80th birthday.

In the background, the National Museum had replaced the old Royal Canberra Hospital on the New Acton Peninsula. 

Mr Lee often felt a bit nostalgic when he looked at them and observed the changes.

"That's one of the reasons we go back, it brings back memories."

"It is interesting to see how you looked - I used to have a bit more hair."

He made a point of wearing the same jumper he donned in 1988 when he posed for the most recent shot. 

He still had the item of clothing and joked he hadn't ruled out wearing it if he got the opportunity to pose for another photo.

"I'm looking forward to the 75th anniversary, I'll only be 106," he said.

Mr Lee said the lake had been "a tremendous thing for Canberra and a great amenity".