Canberra Camps, Settlements & Early Housing-Westlake by Ann Gugler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://canberracamps.webs.com/.
Copyright Ann Gugler © 2012
This section is devoted to what remains in the area of native bushland that has survived the 'invasion' of Europeans that is in the centre of the city of Canberra. On the Gura Bung Dhaura hills are the reminders of the people who have lived and walked on them. Many of the trees were fully grown before the arrival of Europeans and here the endangered wildflower, the button wrinklewort has survived. This land is not a public park, but land put aside for national purposes. Its survival depends on the knowledge of people and the desire to keep this small old area as public native bush parkland for all to enjoy and remind us that Canberra remains the 'BUSH CAPITAL'.
The following file is one that was prepared for an exhibition that shows the major European of occupation in the park along with a few Ngunawal sites.
Timeline European History of the Park. This time line was prepared for a submission for a grant for 2013 celebrations.
STIRLING PARK, YARRALUMLA - FORMER WESTLAKE in the GURA BUNG DHAURA HILLS, CANBERRA ACT
See: Westlake - In the Westlake section there are studies using GPS to mark the sites of Howie's Settlement and Tradesmen's Camp in the area of Section 3, Block 128 Stirling Park, Yarralumla. This block is opposite Lotus Bay and has recently been further sub-divided which suggests possible development in the area of the Settlement and Camp. On the hillside of Block 3, Section 128 Stirling Park is an old 19th century road that cuts across the hill and numerous stone arrangements and scarred trees.
Stirling Park Yarralumla is part of the former Westlake in the Gura Bung Dhaura Hills. It was a part of the Ngunawal pathway from Black Mountain to Red Hill, Tuggeranong and Tidbinbilla. In mid 19th century some limited mining probably for gold, took place. In the 1920s the hills were used to house construction workers [700 in 1925] in three tent camps, Contractor John Howie's settlement and Federal Capital Advisory Committee's settlement of temporary portable timber cottages first known as 'The Gap Cottages' and later as just 'Westlake'. The latter settement remained until 1965.
In the late 1930s Lord Casey's red brick house was constructed in the area of the park and in the early 1940s the American Embassy was built - followed by the 1950s by the French Embassy and South African High Commission.
One of the hills - Capital - consists of two hills known to Europeans as Camp and Kurrajong Hills. Kurrajong, which was also known as Capitol Hill, was the highest of the hills in the small Gura Bung Dhaura range. Today it is the site of the new Federal Parliament House opened on 9 May 1988. The Provisional Parliament House now known as Old Parliament House that opened on 9 May 1927 is on the former Camp Hill. On 12 March 1913 the foundation stones were laid and Lady Denman opened the gold cigarette case to take out the small card with the name of our city - and named it - Canberra. This was somewhat of a relief to many, because this was the Ngunawal name of the area that was used by the early settlers with the spelling of Canberra becoming the norm in the late 1850s. The foundation stones were laid on the centre of the Departmental Plan for the city. On 21 June 1920 (a week later than intended - the Prince had earlier had the flu) the Prince of Wales laid another stone to mark the centre of the city - this time Walter Burley Griffin's plan.
A small section of the hills have survived development, however, the area known as Stirling Park is slowly being eroded with development of the eastern end [former Block 1, Section 128] already being developed by the Chinese Embassy for [I have been told] for additional accommodation. The area oppostie Lotus Bay on the eastern end known as Block 3, Section 128 has already been further subdivided - in readiness for development? Block 4, Section 128 in the area of Haines Creek that cuts through the park separating the eastern side from the western side - the latter set aside as one of a few sites for a new Prime Minister's Lodge - is an undeveloped road joining Empire Circuit with Marina Place.
The area now known as Stirling Park Yarralumla is in the centre of the city of Canberra. [Belconnen, Tuggeranong, Woden etc are satelite cities]. By chance this small area of land has survived the arrival of Europeans, with a few additional scars, and in addition to having native trees that were fully grown before the arrival of Europeans, it has the endangered wild flower the button wrinklewort and other wildflowers which may be a reason for the land to survive further development. Stirling Park, although it has the name of a park is not really a park, but land that can be developed.
I am concerned at the quality of some of the reports I have read in the period mid 2000s to present time. Around 2007 Block 1 which is the block nearest to Flynn Drive, was further subdivided with the largest portion - Block 5 - being transferred (sold? given?) to the Chinese Embassy for development. This block had a number of stone arrangements that stretched back about 150 metres on the block. Many of the patterns are repeated throughout the park. These stone arrangements were never fully investigated. One report stated that they were the remains of garden beds belonging to houses built sometime after 1952. There is no evidence of houses on the site in the 20th century or in 19th century records on the block. Nor is there evidence of disturbed earth that would indicate gardening had taken place. [if houses had been built on Commonwealth land there would be planning permission given, plans submitted - infrastructure - water, sewerage etc etc required.]
Since this report was made another more substantial one was made in which for the first time the construction workers who lived on the hills in the camps and settlements were acknowledged. However, a major mistake was made in that all the settlements and camps were placed in The Gap [Section 22]. The area of Block 3, Section 128 - opposite Lotus Bay, which has recently been further sub-divided into more blocks was not mentioned. On this block was Contractor John Howie's Settlement and the Tradesmen's Camp. Both sites hold clear evidence of their use of the land. If any development it to take place it thorough examination and documentation of these sites should be made. They are the only known remaining sites of a settlement and camp used by construction workers who came to build the city and the major federal buildings - ie parliament house, office buildings and the hostel where the politicians stayed.
In the area of Block 4, Section 128 - the undeveloped road - near Haines Creek - is a concrete septic tank. It is the only known tank built for use in the major settlements and suburbs before the main intercepting sewer was ready for use in 1927. I have photographed and measured the area of the tank, but have not dug down into it. If a road is built this tank should be thoroughly investigated and documented. The road if built would also mean the moving of the tree planted by the oldest surviving Westlake men and our Westlake plaque.
The fact that the park is the major site of the endangered button wrinklewort wild flower may work towards saving this area of native bushland in the centre of our city that has trees fully grown before the arrival of Europeans that I believe should remain for the benefit of all to enjoy. The fact that it holds the evidence of the sites of the homes of men who came to built the city too should be of importance. This city was built to hold the Federal Parliament House - the meeting place of the nation's politicians - and their history is well documented. The history of the people who came to build the city and run the business of the nation and provide for the locals has been ignored.
I believe that no further development of Stirling Park should occur and that it should remain parkland for the people of Australia to enjoy and that the history of all who lived on the land be acknowledged.
[A citation for Stirling Park written for the ACT National Trust in 1999 still languishes somewhere, but fortunately the significance of the button wrinklewort has now been acknowledge. However, the scarred trees have been put down to possible animals rubbing against the tree/s and the 1925 sewer vent - one of three surviving ones - may be heritage listed but we are not sure - the others are.] Ann Gugler
Following are files that identify the glass and other artifacts found in the park.
Chapter One - Dating Glass
Chapter Two Identification of Beer Bottles
Chapter Three - Glass cordial & soft drink bottles
Chapter Four Kitchen Glass
Chapter Five Patent Medicine
Chapter Six Milk Glass
Chapter Seven Metal
Chapter Eight Crockery
Chapter Nine Glass & Stone Tools
Chapter Ten Glass Bottles
Chapter Eleven e-bay similar bottles etc
Chapter Twelve - Bricks
Because this area has now been developed I will add this general study of the central area of the block where the stone arrangements have now been destroyed because of development. This is an initial study.
This walk brochure was the first of two. It was produced for the ACT National Trust in 1997. The view following is side on - apologies - it you want a copy best is to print it.
Before development work began on the former Block 1, Section 128 Stirling Park (next to Flynn Drive) took place a report was made by a local consultant. Mr and Mrs Don Bell, Ngunawal elders, requested my presence at the three meetings which took place - two on site. I was given copies of two of the reports - an interim one and the final report. In my opinion, no thorough examination of the site took place. The block was covered with thick layers of leaf litter grass etc which obscured the many stone arrangements. Assumptions were made that the stone arrangements were post 1952 because they did not show up in the aerial photograph used to identify sites etc. The presumption was made that the contour ploughing which crosses the block up to the area where a major old track crosses it was around 1952. The ploughing in fact shows up in the area in 1920s aerial photographs taken by Mildenhall and I believe that they were put in as part of the drainage systems (ref Moriarty's descriptions of land). That the stone arrangements do not show in the aerial photograph is not surprising. The same year, my father took a photograph of me standing in our backyard 27 Westlake. Just behind me is Mum's rock lined garden bed with stones around the same size as those in the arrangements on block 1. My house in the same aerial photograph is about one eighth the size of my little finger nail. Following are comments that I made on the report and my concern that no full examination of the block was made prior to development taking place.
Near the entrance to Block 5 (sub-division of former Bl 1) - Chinese Embassy area - where the earth has been flattened by vehicle traffic numerous old hand made nails and other metal pieces have come to light. In the nearby area of Block 2 in the area not spoilt by fill (I believe from the time when State Circle was cut through Camp Hill in the area closest to Forster Crescent) there is evidence of a burn area that contains charcoal - may be something to do with a blacksmith area? Before any further development takes place in Stirling Park, I believe that thorough archaelogical examinations should take place. The hills of Stirling Park still hold the history of human habitiation that can tell us a little more about those who lived there including Ngunawal and construction workers who came to build the city.
Esplanade: Now a rather barren meeting point of the southern shore of Lake Burley Griffin and the Parliamentary Zone, this space provides a superb developmental opportunity. An esplanade which consolidates retail and social components into an attractive foreshore setting can capitalise on direct exchange with the water. The Esplanade could become a favoured place for Canberrans and visitors to relax and enjoy the city's natural beauty.
National Campus: The Parliamentary Zone is really the national campus, the place containing the icons and values of democracy in Australia. Proposals include encouraging people to gather and use the space as a People's Mall by welcoming pedestrains, encouraging events and greatly expanding the range of attractions and activities in the area.
Forum: Old Parliament House having been vacated by the principal instrument of our democracy may now be returned to the people as a people's place, perhaps as a meeting place for expression of views and opinion. It could also be used as an administrative centre for a national institutiion such as the Australian Archives or Museum of Australia or for non-profit community organisations. The space between old and new Parliament House was identified as a more transitory space requiring a deliberate and purposeful journey of a more processional nature in contrast to the less formal People's Mall.
Lodge:The thought of the team was that perhaps the Prime Minister's Lodge could be relocatged at the northern end of Kings Avenue in order to provide a direct visible connection with the National Campus. The Lodge would certainly add strength to the 'whitehall' character of Kings Avenue and symbolically suit the precinct.
Government House: Again for symbolic reasons, the Governor General's or President's residence could be sited on the southern side of Mount Pleasant terminating the Constitution Avenue axis placing the Head of State close to the National Triangle and acknowledging his or her role in the process of Government.
Residential Development: The team nominated several areas of possible residential and commercial development. The under-utilized area along the Kingston foreshore and towards Fyshwick appeared to provide an opportunity for residential and mixed use redevelopment based on principles of economically sustainable development. [This area is now developed - orginally for mixed housing that was to include government housing - but has developed into an up-market area].
In Yarralumla, beyong the extension of the diplomatic area into Stirling Ridge is an area which can be developed for medium density and detached housing.
Acton Peninsula West Basin remains a possible site for redevelopment, particularly the foreshores of West Basin to draw the city closer to the lake.
Diplomatic Zone: The diplomatic zone can be extended in Yarralumla and Forrst to allow for the increase in foreign representation over t he next 10-15 years. [Already encroached into Stirling Park with the area of Block 3, Section 128 that has been further subdivided suggests this area also ready for development.]
The key to the descriptions follow this map.
ESPLANADE: Now a rather barren meeting point of the southern shore of Lake Burley Griffin and the Parliamentary Zone, this space provides a superb developmental opportunity. An Esplanade which consolidates retail and social components into an attractive foreshore setting can capitalise on direct exchange with the water. The Esplanade could become a favoured place for Canberrans and visitors to relax and enjoy the city's natural beauty.
NATIONAL CAMPUS: The Parliamentary zone is really the national campus, the place containing the icons and values of democracy in Australia. Proposals include encouraging people to gather and use the space as a People's Mall by welcoming pedestrians, encouraging events and greatly expanding the range of attractions and activities in the area.
FORUM: Old Parliament house having been vacated by the principal instrument of democracy may now be returned to the people as a people's place, perhaps as a meeting place for expression of views and opinion. It could also be used as an administrative centre for a national institution such as the Australian Archives or Museum of Australia or for non-profit community organisations.
The space between old and new Parliament House was identified as a more transitory space requiring a deliberate and purposeful journey of a more processional nature in contrast to the less formal People's Mall.
LODGE: The thought of the team was that perhaps the Prime Minister's Lodge could be relocated at the northern end of Kings Avenue in order to provide a direct visible connection with the National Campus. The Lodge would certainly add strength to the 'Whitehall' character of Kings Avenue and symbolically suit the precinct.
GOVERNMENT HOUSE: Again for symbolic reasons, the Governor General's or President's residence could be sited on the southern side of Mount Pleasant terminating the Constitution Avenue axis placing the Head of State close to the National Triangle and acknowledging his or her role in the process of Government.
RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT: The team nominated several areas of possible residential and commercial development
The under-utilized industrial area along the Kingston foreshore and towards Fyshwich appeared to provide and opportunity for residential and mixed use redevelopment based on principles of economically sustainable development. [Development has now taken place in this area and is expanding with a new suburb towards Fyshwick. The Kingston Foreshore Development was initially to include mixed housing that included government housing. This has not occurred and now it is an up market area. The new suburb has a few problems. The old timers who informed the powers that be that there was a big dump there were not heard. Now the cleaning up of the site I believe is expected to go into the millions.]
In Yarralumla, beyon the extension of the diplomatic area into Stirling Ridge is an area whcih can be developed for medium density and detached housing. [The former Bl 1, Section 128 Stirling Park is now part of the land belonging to the Chinese Embassy and nearby is another block which has become the site of future development for the Russian Embassy. Block 3, Section 128 Stirling Park has also been further sub-divided - in preparation for further development? This block was not identified as the sites of the Tradesmen's Camp and Howie's Settlement in the last major report. Information including NCA maps that showed the site were given by me to the firm carrying out the report, but this information that included reference to the site of our second Westlake plaque seems to have been missed or ignored. This site also has scarred trees and stone arrangements.]
DIPLOMATIC ZONE: The diplomatic zone can be extended in Yarralumla and Forrest to allow for the likely increase in foreign representation over the next 10-15 years. [see comment previous section - this concept also does not take into account the endangered wild flower - button wrinklewort, legless lizard, and the history of human habitation of the area etc].
THE Y PLAN: The Metropolitan Y plan could support the intesification of the central national area creating a threshold for efficient public transport, followed by further expansion of the satellite towns [Woden, Tuggeranong, Belconnen, Gungahlin etc]. The external roads carry inter-town traffic while roads to the central area predominately serve the central area. The Y Plan could serve a population of about 700,000. This could be reached in 30 to 100 years which is beyond the range of detailed transport planning as demands and systems will change.
TRAM: The intensification of the central area would support the upgrading of buses to a transi system. Two light rail routes could be supported the first from Belconnen to Queanbeyan via Constitution Avenue, the second from Gungahlin to Tuggeranong via Civic and Woden.
Parkes, Civic, Barton and Russell, currently contain a workforce of 45,600 and in the long term this figure is expected to double. A tram around the National Triangle is proposed as a distribution system to the metropolitan transport system. This system would also serve tourists.
PONTE VECCHIO: While some may see a Ponte Vecchil style bridge linking Queanbeyan and the Exchange was transgressing the Jerrabomberra Wetlands, the idea is founded upon absolute preservation of the flora and fauna in the area. The bridge would carry the Fast Train (at low speed) and light rail would provide travellers with a gently unfolding, yet magnificent vista to Canberra on arrival.
One kilometre long, the Bridge would also contain 500 apartments. The project which would provide essential transport links would be revenue neutral.