Women in the making of Canberra - Arriving

Until Canberra's development accelerated in the 1960s and 1970s, and the city gained its cover of trees and gardens, arriving in Canberra could be a shock to newcomers.

Amirah Inglis came to live in Canberra in 1959 when her husband joined the Australian National University.

Canberra, the town, had left few impressions in my memory; now we were here to stay and it glared, barren and ugly in day after day of relentless heat. The house allotted to us by the ANU was one of a pair of newly built three-bedroom brick boxes in O Connor, a suburb of fibro, wood and brick Our house stood on the corner block in a desert of seared grass.

Amirah Inglis, The Hammer & Sickle and the Washing Up, Hyland House, South Melbourne, 1995, pp162-3.

For the first few decades of Canberra's development, most women coming to Canberra either did so as the partners of male public servants or academics, or as public servants themselves. Single women were often accommodated in hostels such as Gorman House and Acton House.

Marion Mahony Griffin

New housing in Canberra in the 1950s
By permission of the National Library of Australia

The vast majority came from Anglo-Celtic ethnic backgrounds. Since the 1970s women from a wide range of ethnic groups have come to Canberra, including many more Indigenous women. The increased participation of women in the Australian workforce is reflected very strongly in Canberra, in both the public and private sectors.

A significant number of Canberra women belong to multicultural community groups, including ethnic clubs, schools, churches, cultural and social networks that make up the cultural landscape of the ACT.

Previous Page
Next Page
Published by the National Foundation for Australian Women, March 2004