For the love of Canberra

I’m up at 730am, this is a sleep in for me – I would rarely get up any later than this no matter what day it is. Carpe Diem. Bed early up early is my motto. Penelope and I have breakfast and hang out, soon after Anton wakes and we decide to go for a walk so he can show me around the area through the beautiful tree lined streets.

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We walk down to Lake Burley Griffin, a man made lake with a new harbour side café vibe, seems similar to Melbourne’s Docklands but on a quieter, smaller and more stylish scale. Beautiful apartments throughout the Kingston foreshore and luscious walkways surround the waters edge.

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It’s a crisp Canberra morning with the sun peaking through the clouds, looks to be a lovely day ahead. It was great to take in the sites again as it’s been a while; Anton has touched down in Canberra about 200 times since my last visit.

We stop by the uber cool industrial style Mr and Mrs Jones Cafe so Anton can get his morning  caffeine fix.

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A cross of the road gets us back home and we organise ourselves for a big day of being tourists. Selfie Stick – Check! Penelope stays home and hangs out with the roomies. The lovely day we thought we were in for has turned to shit as it is absolutely pouring rain right now. It’s a beauty we have the car to get around but a boat might be appropriate in this weather.

First stop is Parliament House, Anton shows me around the corridors again, it’s a little different as the last tour I had here the ALP were in Government. It’s a grand and open building, looks like it would be enjoyable coming to work in this space each day – spacious offices are in abundance. We did a round of hellos and then decided to move on. Old Parliament House looks like a Lego building in comparison to the current one.

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Parliament House
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Old Parliament House

The National Archives of Australia is at the foot of Parliament House, there is an Exhibition on that I am eager to see called Without Consent: Australia’s past adoption practices so we head along to the gallery.

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This exhibition details the previously hidden adoption practices of Australia’s past. It is suggested 250,000 adoptions took place and a large proportion of these were forced upon mothers that were unmarried. This exhibition gave those affected by forced adoption the opportunity to share their experiences. In 2013, the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered a National Apology to those affected by forced adoption.

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It was confronting to see these faces and to read the many stories from mothers who were forced to adopt out and from those who had been adopted. Women were drugged and coerced into giving up their children and told to go on and live a normal life. It was difficult not to get emotional whilst looking through the exhibition and viewing the artworks.

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Whilst at the National Archives we spent sometime in the Reading Room analysing our parent’s migration to Australia in the early 70’s. Although we knew of their stories, it was fascinating to read through this print in history. In the future we would like to bring our parents here and request the original documents of their transition from Europe to Australia.

As we leave the archives the weather doesn’t get any friendlier, Canberra has definitely turned on the winter switch for us. We pit stop at the supermarket to grab goodness for fresh rolls and head home to hang out with Penelope while we scoff a late lunch before heading out again.

Australian War Memorial is our final tourist stop for the day. I’ve seen this a couple of times previously but in all of Anton’s time in Canberra he has never been through the entire memorial. Upon entrance it is noticeable the memorial has had a bit of an upgrade since I last visited, the new permanent exhibition in the First World War Galleries is quite extraordinary.

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Ben Quilty, one of my fave Aussie artists has an exhibition on display called After Afghanistan. He was commissioned by the Australian War Memorial and spent three weeks in Afghanistan recording and interpreting the experiences of those Australians deployed. As the official war artist Ben expressed a need to tell the stories of these men and women and did so through his paintings, which formed the exhibition.

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After sighting the Exhibition we make it to the foyer just in time for the final tour of the Hall of Memory. We are shown through the Roll of Honour and the Tomb to the Unknown Solider. This was our chance to place a poppy.

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We learnt many stories by the volunteer tour guide. The youngest Australian Solider to die at war was a 14 and 9 month year old boy, he lied about his age in desperation to fight for his country. His parents held the guilt for giving their consent to go as he was under the legal age of 18.

We also heard the story of a young Aboriginal man who volunteered to fight for Australia despite Aboriginal people being exempt to fight. In order to serve we were told how many Aboroginal servicemen had to lie about their heritage, stating they were Islander or PNG as oppose to being Aboroginal. It particularly heroic for Aboroginal people to serve their country, the same country, which did not formally recognise them or provide them with equal rights or the right to vote.

The building the tomb of the unknown solider lay was painted by a veteran who lost his arm in battle, the arm that he drew with. This soldier had to learn to use his opposite arm and took twenty years to finish the mural on the roof.

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At closing time, each day the War Memorial invites the family members of a fallen soldier to a Last Post ceremony. It is a moving and powerful ceremony where the fallen soldier is remembered with a tribute to his life, the Last Post is played, wreaths are laid and the Ode is read.

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It is getting dark and it’s freezing so we get going to the warmth of the house. We had such a big lunch that the thought of food doesn’t excite us… for once! I catch up on Real Housewives of Melbourne and revisit old Kardashian episodes with the house mates, no brainer TV but always worth watching. This sees us through to another early bedtime.. x

Anna Owens is the founder of ownsit! A mama working in Community Development and Partnerships Education. Anna is a colour crazy, creativity enthusiast who loves to design, collect shoes, eat & travel.. x

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