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Video clip synopsis – In 1913 the Basic Living Wage of 2 pounds 8 shillings a week is introduced. Politicians, including William Morris (Billy) Hughes, lay the Foundation Stone for the new National Capital in Canberra.
Year of production - 1913
Duration - 1min 32sec
Tags - Australian cities, Australian History, identity, national identity, see all tags


The Founding of Canberra

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About the Video Clip


The Founding of Canberra 1901-1951 is an excerpt from the film Cavalcade of Australia 1901-1951 (34 mins), produced in 1951.

Cavalcade of Australia 1901-1951: Produced by the Australian National Film Board to celebrate the Jubilee of Federation, Cavalcade of Australia 1901-1951 provides an historical review of the development of the nation between 1901 and 1951. The film opens with the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary) to Australia in 1901 to open the first Commonwealth Parliament. Through the use of historical footage, the film not only covers notable events in the Commonwealth story but also social development, fashions and economic growth over the period.

Cavalcade of Australia was produced by the Department of the Interior.

Curriculum Focus


Students explore how and why civic and political rights, government policies and national identity have changed over time in Australia.

Students consider the influence of key events and ideas in Australia’s development as an independent, self-governing democracy from colonisation to the present.

Background Information


In 1907 Australia became the first nation to develop the concept of a minimum living wage. This was the result of the 'Harvester’ decision of Justice Higgins of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Higgins came up with the definition that a fair and reasonable wage was one that met 'the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilised community’.

In his judgement Justice Higgins wrote:

If A lets B have the use of his horses, on the terms that he give them fair and reasonable treatment, I have no doubt that it is B’s duty to give them proper food and water, and such shelter and rest as they need; and, in stipulating for fair and reasonable remuneration for the employees, means that the wages shall be sufficient to provide these things, and clothing, and a condition of frugal comfort estimated by current human standards. This, then, is the primary test, the test which I shall apply in ascertaining the minimum wage that can be treated as 'fair and reasonable’ in the case of unskilled labourers.

In 1913 the new Commonwealth Parliament accepted the site of Canberra, a sheep station in New South Wales, as the site of the new national capital. It was chosen because of rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney to be the capital, so it was accepted as a compromise between those two cities.

Classroom Activities


1. Discuss with students who has been to Canberra. Using an atlas locate Canberra on a map of Australia and calculate the distance in kms from their town /city to Canberra. Collect travel brochures about Canberra, including places to visit. Who lives there? Does the Prime Minister live there? What does the ‘Australian Capital Territory’ (ACT) mean?

2. Having considered Canberra as Australia’s national capital city and the location of the Australian national government, investigate with students, using the video clip, the internet and other sources, when, why and the circumstances Canberra was chosen as the site for the nation’s capital. Discuss why all countries have a capital city. To what extent can capital cities become a national iconic symbol of a nation? To what extent does the location of Canberra, as our national capital, reflect our federal system of government?

3. This historic video clip was made in 1951. What evidence is there that it was made in the early 1950s? Explore with students why the film might have been made at this time. List, in chronological order, the major events included in the video

4. In small groups, investigate the location of some other capital cities. Explore the idea that the location of a nation’s capital is reflective of the democratic system operating in that country.

Further Resources


Go to An Ideal City?