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Media told: stop bashing 'Canberra'

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She may have been preaching to the converted, but that didn't make Robyn Archer's impassioned defence of Canberra at the National Press Club yesterday any less rousing.

The creative director of the Centenary of Canberra called for the country's media to stem the flow of vitriol directed at the national capital by its constant negative references to ''Canberra'' when reporting on federal government activity.

''Canberra is not the same thing as our federal government,'' she said, adding that the name of the capital was usually only invoked in relation to bad news, while positive news was attributed to the government itself.

Ms Archer began her speech by rattling off a selection of headlines culled from recent news reports, all referring to ''Canberra'' as an irritant, a bully or even a ''force of evil''.

''Why would we be puzzled for even one second that there are some Australians who find it so easy to 'bash' their national capital, if Canberra is so often portrayed as such a hateful entity; indeed described relentlessly as an enemy of the people?'' she said.

''It effectively abuses 360,000 Australians in a way that would never happen to the citizens of any other Australian town or city. It causes genuine pain and shame, to the extent that many Canberrans themselves have become apologetic for the place they call home.''


She urged Australians to get to know their national capital - a city that required more than a casual overnight stay or school excursion to get to know. Many prominent Australians were proud to call Canberra home, but there was still a persistent handful of ''dedicated negativists'' who soured the national perception of the city - ''people who, for some inexplicable reason, need Canberra to be Sydney''.

''Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there; that's not the city's fault, it's your shortcoming in not being curious enough, not adventurous enough,'' she said.

''The majority of those who bag Canberra have never been here, and so their negative opinions are formed largely by what they read and the disaffection they have, from time to time, with federal government policy.''

It's a situation she described as ''arse-up''.

''Any capital, of any country, should somehow symbolise and enshrine all that that country aspires to, its noblest values and its highest ideals. Particular politicians, policies and parties should be judged on how well or how ill they uphold those values enshrined in the national capital - not the other way round.''

She also pointed out that beyond the sheer ignorance of people who had visited Canberra once on a school trip 30 years ago, a large proportion of Canberra bashing was generational.

''For baby boomers and before, there still remains what appears to be a tangible link to history: this generation and older is still wondering whether there could have been a better choice of site and design.''

She said next year's Centenary celebrations would be an ideal opportunity to allow people to at least get their facts straight.

''You should come in 2013 for the centenary - you could update your opinion, save yourself the embarrassment of displaying your ignorance about your own capital city: you can re-mix your attitude toward Canberra which, I swear, is going to do some very surprisingly beautiful things in 2013.''