Centenary can help foster a sense of ownership
Sunday Canberra Times
SO CANBERRA bashing has finally made it into the dictionary. It is unfortunate timing, as the celebration party to mark the capital's centenary steps up a gear in coming days.
It is regrettable but also likely that Canberra's celebrations and open displays of civic pride in the days ahead will draw some sneering from the usual Canberra bashers as the city prepares to mark a significant milestone.
The centenary program, several years in the planning, was designed as a chance for the nation to rediscover its capital and to take some pride in the city that was built to house many of the nation's greatest cultural treasures.
That many Australians still fail to see the capital as ''theirs'' and a repository of much of the country's history is a shame, but not unique in the world. Many other constructed capitals that are not the largest city suffer similar criticisms.
The centenary team co-ordinating the year of events has put together an extensive list of displays, shows and innovative ideas. Hopefully some of the events on offer will be enough to draw interstate visitors to discover some of the capital's many charms.
We have already been treated to world-class sporting, cultural and historical events, and there's plenty more to come. While the party may not be enough to convince the rest of the country to fall in love with Canberra, the celebrations have caused a noticeable swelling in pride in those who call the city home.
Canberrans have not only been shown how far we have come from the bare sheep paddocks of 100 years ago but also been given a glimpse of what we can become - a smart, sophisticated centre, a place that draws the world's best talent.
If the greatest challenge facing the city is changing perceptions of those outside, then it makes a lot of sense to instil a sense of pride in those already here. It is well known that the city's best ambassadors are its citizens, those who understand how the city works and where its real charms lie.
Canberra has a transient population where many of its citizens come for work, stay a few years and move on. If they can be made to feel some ownership of the city and take some pride in it, they too will help change attitudes when they leave.
The celebrations of our city should go a long way to convincing locals that they can be just as proud of their home town as anyone living in one of the larger cities.
If our ''very big year'' is able to give Canberra's residents a greater understanding of their past and sense of ownership of the city, then the celebrations will have been a success.