Canberra Day

Celebrated on the second Monday in March in the Australian Capital Territory, Canberra Day is a public holiday that celebrates the official naming of the capital city of Australia: Canberra. This city was named in March of 1913 by Lady Denman, wife of then Governor-General Lord Denman. This holiday is celebrated in a variety of different ways including the Canberra Festival and annual events associated with Hands Up For Canberra Giving Day.

The History of Canberra Day

In January of 1901, the colony of Australia was united under the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act and became the Commonwealth of Australia. Once the country was officially founded, it needed an official capital city, which naturally started a heated debate between Melbourne and Sydney. To solve this debate, section 125 of the Constitution was passed that declared a capital city be chosen in the State of New South Wales and be not less than 100-miles from Sydney.

In 1902, Federal senators, armed with a team of surveyors, began a tour of New South Wales to evaluate the areas that might be the new Federal Capital Territory. In 1908, the area of Yass-Canberra was selected as the site for the new Federal Capital Territory and it was made official by the passage of the Seat of Government Act.

A design competition began in 1911 to find the best design for the Federal Capital and on May 24, 1912, Walter Burley Griffin was announced as the winner. On March 12, 1913, Lady Gertrude Mary Denman stood on the base for the Foundation column and announced that the name of the city would be Canberra. Ever since that fateful day, Canberra Day has been celebrated on the second Monday in March to commemorate the founding of the capital city.

Interesting Facts About Canberra

Even though many people outside of Australia may not have heard of Canberra or Canberra Day, there’s a lot to be said about this capital city. And there’s also a lot of things worth mentioning about it that people might not know. Below are some fun facts about Canberra that we think everyone can appreciate.

  • It’s believed that the word Canberra means “meeting place” in Ngunnawal, one of the languages used by the Aboriginal Australians.
  • Canberra has three sister cities. These cities are the Chinese city of Beijing, the Japanese city of Nara, and the New Zealand city of Wellington.
  • There are over 30 different wineries around Canberra.
  • Canberra has one of three NASA stations in the world providing communication with spacecraft exploring the solar system.
  • The National Gallery of Australia, the Australian War Museum, and Parliament House are all located in Canberra.

Observing Canberra Day

Since this is a public holiday in the Australian Capital Territory, government buildings and schools are closed on this day. On this day, people attend special displays and events, concerts, and sporting events. It’s also a day for people to enjoy the extended weekend by camping or taking trips. The Canberra Festival is a major event on this day, as is the Chief Minister’s Canberra Day Awards Ceremony to name the Canberra Citizen of the Year.

Where is Canberra Day celebrated?

Australia - Australian capital territory Show all 1 locations