It's a place the first ACT chief minister called "the bear pit", where policies aimed at women were met with resistance.
But when five new female members of the Legislative Assembly take their places in November, they will find themselves surrounded by more women than men.
While the 10th Assembly won't be the first time women have outnumbered men as ACT representatives, the 14 women who take up the role as an MLA will do so at a time when Australia is fighting its way out of a recession that has had an outsized effect on women.
Earning a seat at the table are the Greens' Rebecca Vassarotti, Jo Clay and Emma Davidson, who will join Labor's Marisa Paterson and Liberal Leanne Castley in steering Canberra's COVID-19 recovery.
For Dr Paterson, a former director at the Australian National University Centre for Gambling Research now representing Murrumbidgee, that means better support for women in the workplace.
She said entering the Legislative Assembly as part of the biggest female majority felt significant in many respects.
"I think the fact that it's a female-led Assembly will shift the lens in terms of how issues and policies are viewed," Dr Paterson said.
For Ms Davidson, a former Women's Electoral Lobby head also representing Murrumbidgee, any gender-based reform would need to recognise Canberra's intersectionality.
"We're going to have to work really hard to make sure we're bringing along the entire Assembly with us," she said.
"Sure 51 per cent of the population are women, but within that you've got a whole lot of people from different backgrounds."
In 2020, the Greens' election promise to "disrupt the current patriarchal system" seems within reach.
Where it started
In 1989 Rosemary Follett made history as the ACT first chief minister. Despite leading the new government, she felt that as one of four women in the 18-member Assembly, it could still be a battle to be heard.
"I had a women's budget and that was heavily criticised and heavily debated; it was very difficult to get those things passed in the Assembly," Ms Follett says.
While conceding the ACT Legislative Assembly was less combative than most parliaments, Ms Follett said most women would have found the "bear pit" atmosphere abhorrent.
"The early years of the Assembly were so turbulent that I think a lot of people were looking for opportunities a lot of the time to change the status quo," she said.
The second trailblazer, Kate Carnell, was just 39 when she was elected chief minister in 1995, one of six women and 14 men in the Assembly.
Re-elected in 1998, Ms Carnell said being both young and a woman meant pressure to pander to egos.
"When I was first elected there was a level of sexism from a whole range of people," she said.
From her own account, Ms Carnell was often portrayed as "all froth no substance", criticism she thought she wouldn't have had copped as a bloke.
She said her experience in public service taught her unequivocally that gender balance affects outcomes.
"That's the reason that having diversity in our parliaments is really important and it's not just about men and women, it's about young and old and people from different cultural and spiritual backgrounds," Ms Carnell said.
"If you have a whole lot of old, white men, which is what we've traditionally tended to have in politics, then your life view of what's important is going to be really different."
As the Liberal leader in the late 1990s, Ms Carnell said she had to push hard to get social issues like surrogacy and drug reform on the table.
Is the ACT special?
Australian National University politics lecturer Blair Williams said a female majority in the ACT was partially a result of high preselection numbers, the Hare-Clark system giving greater weight to candidate preference and a history of female representation.
Dr Williams said the ACT Greens' proposal for a gender-led recovery focusing on supporting women back into the workforce was in stark contrast to the federal government's neglect of women in the budget.
"That's one great example of what can happen when you have a majority of women in the Assembly itself," she said.
"Having women as a majority in parliament really just shows different views and different perspectives. Often it makes the parliament less aggressive and combative."
There may be evidence to back that up. In 2015, when the Assembly had 13 men and eight women, members were reported 37 times for unparliamentary language that year, with "coward", "dodgy" and "grub" thrown semi-regularly across the room.
After the 2016 election the following year, 13 men and 14 women formed the assembly, and perhaps coincidentally, just 13 members were reported for the same offence.
The 50/50 by 2030 Foundation is run out of the University of Canberra, with the sole aim of getting men and women to be equally represented at all levels of government in Australia by 2030.
The organisation's chair, former ABC presenter Virginia Haussegger said there was no doubt more women in key decision-making roles made a marked difference in policy outcomes.
She said the arrival of more women in decision-making arenas doesn't just affect tone, or behaviour, or political outcomes, but changes the world in ways men don't want to.
Speaking after the ACT election, Ms Haussegger said it shouldn't be expected all women in leadership will focus on women's issues.
"That isn't the case," she said.
"What [gender balance] does is bring a much broader, richer, rounder, diverse life experience to the decision-making tables."
With three female chief ministers in its short history of self-governance, Ms Haussegger called the ACT's record excellent.
"It's extraordinary, isn't it?" Ms Haussegger said.
"A woman for our first chief minister and the rest of the nation didn't notice, the sky didn't fall in. In fact, from having women in power right from the beginning of the piece, the ACT population have been served well, both men and women."
It's different up on the hill
Of the 151 members chosen to represent their constituents in the House of Representatives, more than two-thirds are male, earning Australia a 49th global ranking for women in national parliaments.
Ms Haussegger said the absence of policy discussion about women at the national level by government leaders saw women forgotten by the budget.
Despite overwhelming evidence of the negative impact COVID-19 has had on women, Ms Haussegger wrote for BroadAgenda, both the Prime Minister and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have failed to acknowledge either the severity of that impact, or the policy settings that continue to disadvantage women more than men.
"Women did not rate a mention - at all," Ms Haussegger said.
In 2016, former prime minister John Howard told an audience at the National Press Club that there would never be 50 per cent female representation in Parliament because women were, first and foremost, primary carers.
Australia's second-longest-serving prime minister went on to explain why he didn't believe in quotas to correct that imbalance.
"You can talk about targets and aspirations and goals and I would like to see a natural process whereby there are more women," Mr Howard said.
Getting on the ballot
A total of 137 candidates ran in the 2020 ACT election. Of those, 83 were men and 54 were female.
The Canberra Liberals put forward almost twice as many men as they did women, while ACT Labor achieved close to gender balance with a 13-to-12 split. ACT Labor's internal party rules have a quota for preselection gender balance, while the Canberra Liberals do not.
"Whether it's election quotas, whether it's party quotas or whether it's cabinet ministerial quotas or targets, we know most countries around the world who have successfully increased their representation of women in parliament have used some form of mechanism to do so," she said.
Ms Haussegger said this change wouldn't happen by osmosis or through simply wishing.
"If we wait and don't do anything constructive, according to the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Report 2020, we will be waiting over 200 years for equality of economic empowerment around the world - and in terms of political representation we'll be waiting well over 100 years," she said.
"I haven't got that kind of time."