Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The story of John Blundell and his life on the Limestone Plains of Canberra in the 19th century. The hardships of the early settlers is discussed in this clipping with particular reference to the early hardships of agricultural pursuits. It was a time of bullock teams, sickles, river crossings and dingos. Sam Southwell, Fane de Sallis, William Farrer and James Wright of Lanyon get a mention amongst many other pioneers...

The Sydney Morning Herald - 28 May 1927

National Library of Australia

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Monday, November 29, 2010


From a time when owning a radio demanded a licence. A nice little earner for the government I am sure although it was very hard to ensure compliance by the populace. The thought of door to door inspectors being sent out in Canberra "to detect un-licenced radios" with threats of stiff financial penalties, even imprisonment, for being an un-licenced radio owner is I think incredible.

Still, I can remember my parents needing to licence the black and white television...

The Argus - 2 March 1954
National Library of Australia

Debate over licence fees raged and there are numerous clippings attesting to the fact

The Canberra Times - 2 October 1951

National Library of Australia

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Friday, November 26, 2010


Canberra based specialist documentary producer Richard Snashall made the following video series with the aid of an ACT heritage grant. The 8 video YouTube series journey begins at a hundred year old border survey post in northern Canberra and follows on through an array of ACT heritage related topics. I have wanted to put Richard's video links in the series together in one place for a while now. The first video presented is a preview of the series by ABC Stateline.

Preview Video - ABC TV's Stateline program previews Richard's latest film, The Stakeout of Canberra. The film was made with a grant from ACT Heritage, and will be distributed free to all schools in the Canberra region. The reporter is Melissa Polemini. Segment courtesy of ABC Television.

Presented by Richard Snashall

Video 1 - The Stakeout of Canberra Begins...

The first part of a program that looks at the history of Canberra before it became Australia's capital. How many of us stop to think about what was here before the nation's capital. Here we visit Elm Grove, one of the ACT's only surviving sheep properties that has been owned by two families in 160 years.

Video 2 - The first people of Canberra...

In the 2nd excerpt from The Stakeout of Canberra, Richard meets descendants of the Ngunnawal Ngambri Aboriginal tribe.

Video 3 - A Natural wonderland...

In the 3rd excerpt from The Stakeout of Canberra, Richard meets Brett McNamara, a senior Parks manager with the ACT. Brett has an extraordinary love for the land and speaks about why Canberra was a great location for the national capital of Australia.

Video 4 - The Terror of Argyle Parish...

Irish convict labourer John Tennant had plenty of skills, and he added to that list bushranging. Tennant took off from Canberry Station and began a campaign to stir up the neighbourhood. Historian Allen Mawer has written about this colourful Belfast boy, and took me on a tour of Tennant's old haunts.

Video 5 - A relic of the small people...

Crinigan's Hut is one of Canberra's historic treasures. Built in the early 1840's, it was the home to John and Maria Crinigan who were early agriculturalists. They lost of 9 of their 10 babies, and even had to deal with a murder at the hut! Crinigan's has been preserved thanks to Canberra Archaeological Society and members of the Crinigan's family.

Video 6 - Capital for a day...

For about 24 hours Tumut was elected capital of Australia, until the senate substituted Bombala. This occurred back in 1903, and despite the change of decision, the locals celebrated at the Oriental Hotel. I ventured to Tumut on the 105th anniversary of this vote to ask the locals what the town might have been like if it had become the capital.

Video 7 - Borderline of Australia's new Capital...

National Museum of Australia historian Matthew Higgins has a tremendous knowledge of the ACT border, having researched and written extensively on the subject. He has also walked almost the entire length of the border.

Video 8 - The final chapter...

The final chapter in the program, where I return to the spot where I started on Elm Grove, one of the ACT's last surviving sheep properties. And this is where the stakeout of Canberra is revealed!

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Thursday, November 25, 2010


A newspaper clipping from a time when sheep grazed on the footpaths in Civic and Eastern brown snakes were, of course, dispatched with tyre levers in the streets of Canberra...

The Courier-Mail - 13 November 1933

National Library of Australia

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Out past Uriarra to the west of Canberra is the Brindabella Road. The road rises to the peak of the Brindabella Mountain on the ACT border before descending into the Brindabella Valley of New South Wales and Tumut beyond. At the junction of Mount Franklin Road the intersection as long as I can remember has been known as Piccadilly Circus. A pretty grand name really for an intersection on a dirt road.

Apparently the name PC has not always been used with Mr W.P. Bluett of Brindabella putting forward an argument in 1953 that the original surveyors were instructed to name features after existing Aboriginal names and that this was not being adhered to with the appearance of a "Piccadilly Circus" sign at the mountains peak...

The Canberra Times - 11 September 1953

National Library of Australia


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Not seen in the wild locally since the 1950's, the Southern brush-tailed rock wallaby (info) is being brought back from extinction by a unique breeding program being undertaken by a collaboration between the Tidbinbilla nature reserve in the Australian Capital Territory and the Adelaide zoo in South Australia. By a process known as 'cross fostering' the  breeding program allows for female wallabies to have up to six or seven Joeys in the one year. Bred at the Tidbinbilla breeding facility, fifteen animals have already been released into the Grampians (info) and more are planned to be released into area's once populated by the marsupial soon.

Video from TamsACT YouTube channel:

"David Dobroszczyk, Senior Wildlife Officer at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve discusses the Southern Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby program. The Southern Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby is a critically endangered species. 


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Monday, November 22, 2010


Historian Mr Henry Selkirk gives us a detailed look at the life and times of Lt. J.J. Moore (bio) the first settler of Canberra and his subsequent purchase of  the 1000 acre station "Canberry". Moore had quite a life from his beginnings as the son of a gentleman farmer in England through his military service at the Battle of Waterloo, positions of authority in the new colony of New South Wales after immigrating and eventually his development of pastoral enterprises  from the outskirts of Sydney through the Goulburn area to present day Canberra. It is also known that his grazing interests eventually extended through the Monaro district south of Canberra. (J.J Moores Branding Irons)

Again in this article the argument that the area of the Australian Capital Territory was called a native name (today called Canberra) similar phonetically to Camburry as altered by Moore from his original name Canberry of 1823. The article asserts that the name Canberry is Aboriginal and pre-dated European settlement.

Federal Capital Pioneer - 20 August 1926

National Library of Australia

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Sunday, November 21, 2010


Located in the Brindabella Valley west of Canberra is the historic Brindabella homestead, home once to Authors  Miles Franklin (bio) and Gwen Meredith (bio). The historic property is today up for sale.

The expansive "Brindabella" Station was named by Aboriginal people with the meaning of "two kangaroo rats". Originally known as an outstation of "Yarralumla" in the Australian Capital Territory, Brindabella was first established by Joseph Franklin and his family when they settled there in 1861. Thomas Franklin built the first homestead. The following video gives us a glimpse of the homesteads history...

The Brindabella Station website is here


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Saturday, November 20, 2010


St John's Church is one theme in this article and it describes the church as the last remnant of the "old Canberra" on the Limestone Plains before the time of Federation. The building, it's construction and the tale of
the churches first minister, Rev. Gregory who "lost his life crossing the Murrumbidgee after ministering to the congregation in the outlying districts.

Duntroon is discussed with making reference to it's village like qualities with Duntroon's residents "comfortably housed in rows of cottages". The article concludes with a glowing report on the area of the Australian Capital Territory and the Duntroon Estates virtues...

The Sydney Morning Herald - 14 January 1922

National Library of Australia


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Friday, November 19, 2010


The weirs leading into the Cotter Catchment are displayed in this latest video from Johnny Boy's Walkabout entitled simply "A visit to Piccadilly weir, Lees Creek sawmill site, Ferny weir, Bulls Head weir, Warks weir and Blundells Creek weir." John captures some lovely footage of mountain creeks that eventually supply Canberra with it's pure drinking water.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010


Another reference to a link with Napoleon. This article is about a collection held By Dr. F. Watson of "Gungahlin" Canberra. The collection claimed to be in the possession of a set of armour worn by Napoleon in his campaigns in Egypt. The article also discusses the fortifications of the Gungahlin Homestead in response to rampant Bushrangers. The collection presented is varied with articles from several historical episodes of history in Australia.

Unfortunately for Doctor Watson Napoleon departed after the battle for the Nile (info) so rapidly that much provisions and equipment was abandoned and that several suits of "Napoleon's" armour emerged after that time. Who knows?

The Sydney Morning Herald - 30 October 1933

National Library of Australia

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010


A very professional video from Ian Champ at iSeaYak.com showing an amazing array of Canberra's native fauna. Taken in the beautiful Tidbinbilla Sanctuary in the Australian Capital Territory, he portrays images of, amongst other various animals, snakes, birds, wallabies and butterflys all set in the natural scenery of the park. The video will be screened shortly to visitors to the sanctuary. Ian is a freelance Canberra photographer/videographer for hire. Some beautiful images...

Tidbinbilla Sanctuary from Tidbinbilla on Vimeo.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The Waterloo Bridge (info) in London was built in 1817 and was destroyed during World War Two. Two stones from this famous bridge were presented to the Commonwealth and now reside on the southern shore of Lake Burley Griffin between the parallel spans of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. Photos below.

Waterloo Bridge - London 1814

The Advertiser - 18 December 1935

National Library of Australia

The Waterloo Bridge stones brass plaque says:

"The Waterloo Bridge across the Thames in London was constructed in 1817 to the design of Sir John Rennie [bio]. The granite bridge had nine arches each of 120' span and was 2,456' long including approaches. This bridge was replaced with a modern reinforced concrete bridge in 1942.

Stones such as these from the bridge were presented to Australia and other parts of the British world to become further historic relics in the British Commonwealth of Nations"

How very British...

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Monday, November 15, 2010


Following on from the previous post, the fate of old Acton House was known and protested against. The suggestions made for removal and re-establishment to a nearby site would have made an interesting historical feature to today's Lakeside. Ironically, after reading the article, Australia's National Museum sits on the old homestead's site...

The Canberra Times - 14 August 1940

National Library of Australia

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Demolished to make way for the old Canberra Hospital, which in turn was demolished to make way for the National Museum of Australia, Acton House was the original homestead erected by Joshua John Moore (bio) on the Limestone plains in the 1820's. This newspaper clipping from the Cairns Post dated 23 July 1941 discusses the homesteads use as the first settlers homestead until it's resumption by the new Federal Territory. The first also...

National Library of Australia
NLA Image - Acton House - here

There is a second article (here)

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History lost through lack of funding

  The following ABC article laments the possible loss of many historical audio visual records that are waiting for digitising into modern fo...