Early Canberra

MANUKA SHOPS 1920s 30s

The Canberra Times 14 October 1926


Added impetus is being given to development at Civic centre and Manuka by arrangements which have been made for a new development company.  Extensive building operations are contemplated.  At Civic Centre a number of leases have been acquired on which shops will be erected for letting.

On the company’s Manuka holdings, an arcade is to be commenced shortly, and shops will be erected on other leases.

For some time there has been increasing attention to property in the shopping centres at Manuka and Civic Centre. As pointed out in these columns recently, Manuka Centre has yet to come into its own, and development there has not been speedy hitherto, pending certainty as to the dates of transfer of the civil servants from Melbourne. Private residences are only beginning to come into occupation at Blandfordia and Red Hill and it will not be until February next that the population will reach the figure which will repay the outlay involved in establishing businesses at Manuka.  Leaseholders at Manuka have decided however, that the right moment has arrived to commence building to meet the demands of the population next year, and within the last few weeks some shops and residences have been commenced and plans for others are being prepared.

Around Civic Centre, however, the growing suburbs of Ainslie already provides the population which will support shopping establishments and afford opportunities for other classes of trade which are restricted to that centre.

In both Manuka and Civic Centre there have been leaseholders who have been prepared to sell their leases, and gradually these have been drawn into firmer hands. The limit has been reached now in both centres, and all leases are now in firm hands.

Considerable development which was foreshadowed in Civic Centre and at Manuka is to be accelerated by the operation of a new company which has secured leases at both centres and proposes to build extensively for letting. Arrangements have been completed for the formation of a company known as Canberra Shops Ltd which has a nominal capital of £50,000 in shares of £1 each. Of the nominal capital 25,000 shares have been subscribed and are held by the promoters and an issue of 20,000 shares has been made privately.

The increasing popularity of investment in real estate throughout Canberra was evidenced by the celerity with which the available share issue was taken up. It is understood that the whole of the available 20,000 shares were subscribed within a few hours.  The company commences operations with Messrs WG Woodger, SJ Goulston and AJ Morgan as first directors. The real estate business of the new enterprise is to be handled by Woodgers and Calthorpe, and the registered office will be at Civic Centre.

The company’s objects are to acquire and develop the leases of business blocks at Civic Centre and Manuka.


Activities at Manuka will surround an arcade site which was sold in the sale of leases on December 12, 1926. The block is the largest in the Manuka Centre business subdivision, and has a frontage of 69 feet to Road E23 on the opposite side of which is the Picture Show and Theatre site. The site has a depth of 130 feet and gives in the rear onto a roadway 40 feet wide. On the opposite side of the roadway is a reserved site which will be occupied by the Manuka Post Office, which will be the main suburban post office for Eastlake [Kingston], Blandfordia [Forrest], and Red Hill. 

At the original sale this lease was purchased by Mr SJ Goulston of Sydney for £875, and Canberra Shops Ltd will erect on it large premises in which there will be a considerable amount of letting space for rental shops.


At Civic Centre operations will be more extensive. Several leases have been purchased in the first sub-division of Civic Centre and include some of the best situated blocks in the area. Four leases are to be built on immediately. These comprise leases numbered 2, 4, 26 and 28.   Leases numbered 2 and 4 are corner sites and 26 and 28 respectively, adjoin them.  Lease No 4 was purchased at the first sale by Mr SJ Goulston. It has a depth of 60 feet from Road A18 and City Circuit.  Lease No 28 which adjoins it, has a frontage of 20 feet with a depth of 64 feet 10½ inches. The two adjoining leases giving a compact block in favoured position. Leases 2 and 26 have the same dimensions respectively as leases 4 and 28 and are also very well situated, as they are the nearest shopping sites to the industrial area, and the present residential development.

The Canberra Times 13 January 1927



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From the pure Snow Waters of the Cotter back to Crystal Canberra Ice


Has commenced Production of Ice at its New Factory at Ainslie [Civic Centre – Braddon]



SSHEEKEY’S FAMOUS CORDIALS – Canberra Water, Lemonade, Ginger Beer, Ginger Ale, Hop Beer, Lime and Soda, Orange Crush and Soda Water

Orders delivered to any address




The Canberra Times 17 June 1927


The last few weeks have brought rapid changes round Manuka Centre, and building operations though in their initial stages in some directions point to healthy future for Canberra’s second shopping centre on the Southern side of the city.

Considerable activity is now in evidence in the residential area immediately surrounding Manuka while the shopping block itself is taking more definite shape.

By the Spring a new complexion will be put on Manuka’s position but it will not be until the Capitol Theatre is opened that Manuka will become an important centre under present conditions.

Although the whole of the 23 leases sold for retail trading purposes at Manuka centre in 1924 are to be completely developed by December 12 next, on several leases building has not progressed beyond the foundations. Nevertheless sufficient buildings have been completed to enable Manuka to be recognized already as the location of several businesses. The first was that of Mr JW Keegan on lease No 14, followed by the establishment of Misses Edwards and Nolan on lease No 7.  Meanwhile the lock-up shops had been erected on lease No 2. To-day, however, buildings have been completed on leases No 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11 and 14.  The buildings on these leases provide an aggregate of eleven shops and fine residences.

Buildings on several other leases are on the point of completion.  A shop and residence had been completed on lease No 19 for Mr JG Harris of Queanbeyan and on lease No 16 a shop and residence has been built for Mr JH McInnes. Construction is well advanced of a shop on lease No 12 for Mr CE Francis of a shop and residence on lease No 20 and of a similar structure on lease No 15.  The largest building is the arcade on lease No 17 which reached first floor level and the directors of Canberra Shops Ltd the owner of the property expects completion of the premises by December. Active development has not yet to be proceed with of leases Nos 1, 3, 6, 9, 10, 13, 18, 21, 22 and 23.

A number of these leases are held by the Canberra Building and Investment Co Ltd which proposes to devote considerable attention to the development of Manuka, externally as well as internally.  The completed programme at Manuka entails 42 shops and 20 offices, the latter being accommodated on the second storey of the arcade building.  The problem of Manuka to-day is how these premises are to be occupied profitably by about 50 businesses. It is to its surroundings that Manuka must look.

Until quite recently the only residences close to Manuka were the first Blandfordia cottages [Forrest, Ducane and Franklin Streets – built 1923 by FCAC] which belong to the Federal Capital Commission and which number about a dozen [16]. Plans for residential development of Blandfordia [which also includes as well as Forrest, Griffith] in the immediate vicinity of Manuka have not proceeded by any means according to schedule. One of the outstanding features of this has been the reduction of a large contract from 100 to 25 cottages. Originally signed by the Molonglo Constructions Ltd [sic Monolyte Co – this contract was let for 100 concrete cottages] for cottage construction was for 100 cottages to be completed by May. The contract has been varied by the reduction of houses to 50 and later to 25.  None, so far, has been completed and taken over by the Federal Capital Commission. Meanwhile certain internal troubles of the contractor have affected the position, but arrangements have been made for the completion of the contract.

During the last few weeks material progress has been made with another contract between the Federal Capital Commission and WH Mason [Queanbeyan Contractor who also went broke later on] for the erection of 60 cottages in Blandfordia near Manuka.  These are being pushed on with vigorously and rapidly the isolated appearance of Manuka is fading. Another place of residential development is, or course, that of private enterprise. Already a number of private residences have been commenced on behalf of private owners at Blandfordia in the vicinity of Manuka and a larger programme if foreshadowed.

The feature of the recent sale of residential leases at South Blandfordia [Griffith] was the operation of the Canberra Building and Investment Co Ltd which secured a …[?] of residential blocks on which cottage construction is  to be commenced. The effect of this will be to assist to push Manuka about [?] externally and supplement the actual shopping development which the company has in hand.

Behind the immediate settlement round Manuka is the main portion of Blandfordia and Red Hill which will be important factors.  There is to the south some excellent residential land in Manuka Height [Mugga Way?] which will prove an attractive sub-division when made available to the public, but no move in this direction is yet in sight.

There is beyond serving its residential suburbs, another distinct future for Manuka as a business centre. Opposite the shopping centre the Capitol Theater is looming big. This edifice is in an advanced stage and the roof trusses are now being added.  Completion is expected before the end of the year and on the opening of the building, Manuka will immediately become the amusement centre of Canberra.  This, of course, may not be for long as another lease for similar purposes may be made available near Civic Centre after the Manuka theatre is established.

Manuka circle has not been counted on as a very important asset to date but this will be an enclosed sport’s ground next year and should attract sportsmen to Manuka.

In considering the future of Manuka also, it is well to bear in mind that the design of Mr Walter Burley Griffin visualized it as the chief commercial centre on the southern side of the city and although it has not the appearance of this to-day, its egographical situation is quite in keeping with this and the development at present contemplated appears to confirm Manuka’s position.


The Canberra Times 17 September 1926

HOW TO MAKE BOTH ENDS MEAT! By purchasing from JW KEEGAN The Pioneer Butcher, Manuka. Primest Meat Only, fresh daily. Orders called fro and delivered daily. A TRIAL ASKED FOR – SATISFACTION WILL FOLLOW. Phone Manuka 16.


The Canberra Times 26 July 1928


Manuka Arcade, first floor rooms single or double; convenient bathrooms and conveniences. Power points in each room, floors covered with line. Refreshment rooms handy. Apply. WOODGERS & CALTHORPE LTD, City Canberra FCT


The Canberra Times 28 March 1929

MANUKA ART SCHOOL – DRAWING AND PAINTING TUITION – Tuesday and Thursday from 7.30pm.

Instruction in Italian language and Fencing. Fees on application.

Sig. L Nobili, Instructor. The Arcade, Manuka. Tel B394.

The permanent Exhibition of Oil Paintings by the artist will be open to the public every Saturday from 7.30pm to 10.30pm.


The Canberra Times 24 May 1929


Excellent accommodation is available for married couples on the first floor Manuka Arcade Building.  Power points are provided in every room and floors are covered with lino. Ample bathroom and lavatory accommodation. Chip heaters installed in bathrooms. Full particulars as to rent etc from WOODGERS & CALTHORPE LTD CANBERRA CITY.

The Canberra Times 20 July 1932


With the co-operation of Miss Yelland of Manuka Arcade, the Canberra University College Student’s Association has completed arrangements for the formation of a book exchange.

Miss Yelland has taken steps to provide accommodation for the books in her premises at Manuka, although the real value of the exchange may not be felt until the new year, when students are planning their year’s work.

The committee of the association has made certain stipulations with respect to the exchange which must be observed by students.

It is hoped that with the co-operation of students the exchange will prove a really valuable instrument in cheapening the cost of education in Canberra.


The Canberra Times 13 December 1933


The majority of business houses at Manuka have co-operated this year to bring before the public their ability to cater for seasonal needs right at the doors of the main Southern residential suburbs.

Although Manuka Centre has not yet realized the intensions of the city planner, it fulfils an important place in the life of the city. It may be termed the centre of recreation, for her are situated the Canberra Baths [The Swimming Pool generally known as Manuka Baths], the Manuka Oval, the central tennis courts, and the city’s house of entertainment – The Capitol.


Articles which serve a definite purpose in everyday home life make ideal gifts for not, only to they constitute an integral part of the  household management, but their very useful business keeps memories fresh in the minds of recipients.

A smoker’s stand will prove a boon companion to any devotee of Lady Nicotine, and at the same time be a welcome addition to the home furnishings.  Smokers’ stands may be purchased in bronze or oak. Other items such as palm stands, occasional tables, tabourettes etc, traymobiles, coloured cane and seagrass chairs, card tables and lamp shades all enhance the interior appearance of th home.

For the housewife, kitchenware such as electric jugs, electric irons and kettles will help to lighten the burden of household management in the New Year.


‘To the heart through the feet,’ is the slogan displayed by Messrs Redpath and McCarthy shoe specialists of Manuka. Tennis shoes in the latest styles and designs are always acceptable gifts, and undoubtedly a warm comfortable pair of slippers must have a beneficial effect on the disposition of the wearer.

Slippers in a variety of styles equally attractive for their appearance as for their utility may be purchased at reasonable prices.


‘Say it with music’ is the motto of Mr CL Watson, radio designer of Manuka Arcade; and what music could be better than that produced by a high grade radio, specially built to meet local requirements.

Not long ago, a wireless set was regarded as one of the most expensive luxuries but now, a modern radio is considered and indispensable adjunct to a well furnished home. Mr Watson’s sets are absolutely the last work in radio construction and embody all the latest improvements. A high degree of selectivity brings to your home talks on interesting current topics by world authorities, news and music.


No matter how expensive or artistic the interior furnishings of a home may be, pictures are essential to add a touch of colour and art to the walls, especially in Canberra, where wall paper is not used to any great extent.

C Tobler of Manuka Arcade, had received new stocks of beautiful prints by such well-known artists as F Arnold, Levis Harrison, Dovaston and Bennett. The subjects include beautiful old English scenes, old masters, landscapes, portraits and Eastern scenes.

The pictures are set in artistic gilt frames which alone are worth the surprising low price asked.

Of outstanding merit is a painting ‘The Last Chance,’ by M Dovaston. The rich backgrounds and faithful adherence to detail make this a picture well worth having.


Those artistically inclined will be more than satisfied with the tasteful display of useful gifts arranged by Miss Jones.

For the book lover, there is a large choice of modern fiction and general reading, including special booklets for the tiny tots.

Whether you play contract or auction, you will be delighted with the variety of attractive designs in bridge scorers or other accessories, all obtainable at a very modest outlay.

A special feature is the recently acquired stock of beautiful Tasmanian pottery and hand painted china-ware.


Whether your gifts are for father, mother, sister, brother, relations or friends, something suitable may be found in the large assortment of fancy ware offered by Miss Yelland.

For children of all ages there is a large choice of books by well known authors. Fairy tales, old and new, cleverly drawn pictures and adventure stories seldom fail to captivate and develop the imagination of a child.

Gifts reflecting the good taste of the donor, such as attractive poker work ornaments, letter knives, fancy hand made pottery, cards and bridge sets, prettily designed calendars and china ware may be purchased at prices suiting every purse.

A large range of toys, games and puzzles and other ideal items for the festive frivolities should greatly facilitage the solving of the annual problem, ‘What shall I give?’


A dainty selection of sweets is indispensable to the Christmas celebrations. As presents acceptable to old and young alike boxes of high class sweets will prove valuable additions to the shopping list.  A large fresh stock of all leading makes including Nestles, Cadbury’s and McRobertson’s is always on hand.


A fine selection of Christmas fare, including high class cakes, biscuits, plum puddings etc made by such well known firms as Arnott’s Ltd and Cartrell White is stocked at the Caledonial Tea Rooms by M Rennie.

Home baked cakes and pies with the real ‘Christmassy’ flavour will prove popular additions to the festive board.

‘The Caledonia’ is also home of real Scotch Shortbread, baked with the true flavour of the Highlands and the scent of heather.


There is ample evidence of a widespread belief in the famous slogan, ‘It’s moments like these you need Minties,’ but at Christmas time more than at any other time in the year, the proverbial Mintie or some such delectable dainty is especially welcomed. Good sweets always lend a charm to the festivities. A comprehensive assortment of beautifully boxed sweets is always on hand at the Capitol Café.


Gifts, combining beauty, utility, and inexpensiveness are offered to discriminating gift buyers by RH Carter, Chemist of Manuka.

Included in the comprehensive selection is an exclusive range of Chinese handworked novelties and embroidery. This is definitely the only display of its kind in Canberra.

Ladies with a delicate taste in perfumery will readily appreciate the high grade articles made by such firms as Yardley’s.  The latest craze in the world of women is the Flap jack powder compact. The enterprising firm which originated this useful article has already sold 23,000,000 of them. Flap Jacks may be bought in sizes to suit all handbags at prices to suit all purses.


Anyone desiring an exclusive permanent wave by Miss J Hamilton should secure an appointment at once as only a few bookings between now and Christmas are left.

Old waves may be touched up or re-set over the holidays.


Articles that give years of service to the recipients are most acceptable gifts. House name plates, sun visors, rear vision mirrors and other motoring accessories, and plate glass ware may be purchased for a reasonable outlay from Robert Briton, glazier, Manuka.


The Canberra Times 18 February 1937


Miss Alma Woodley-Taylor known professionally as Madame Hestia, astrologist and vocational guide of Manuka Arcade Manuka, proceeded against John Cross of Durville Crescent for unlawful detention of goods.

Miss Taylor in evidence said that she had divorced her husband, whose name was Cross and had taken her maiden name. The defendant John Cross was her son. On October 10 she had come to Canberra from Hurstville and had brought the furniture of her house with her. She had gone to live with her son and his wife and some time later had left them.  When she asked for the furniture she had brought from Hurstville with her, her son had refused to let her have it.

In reply to Mr Phippard, Miss Taylor admitted that she had written to her son asking him to help her when she was in Hurstville. Her son had paid freight on the furniture but she had paid her own fare to Canberra. She said that her son had not objected to her having clients come to the house.

William Henry Lavender, carrier, stated that he had carted furniture from Canberra Railway Station to Cross’s house and that Mrs Cross had paid him the rail freight and cartage by weekly installments. He said that he estimated the value of the furniture at about £30.

Helen Emily Cross, wife of the defendant said that on October 3 she had gone to Hurstville and arranged the packing and carting of the furniture. Miss Taylor had come to Canberra on October 10.  When Miss Taylor had come to Canberra she had started to hold séances and astrological readings, and Mrs Cross and her husband had objected to her clients coming to the house. Miss Taylor had also kept two Pekinese dogs one of which slept on her bed. Mr Cross said she would agree to Miss Taylor taking the furniture if she paid the freight and cartage  charges on it.  She did not agree with Miss Taylor’s assertion that the furniture was worth £166. She valued it at about £10 and said that it was very old and vermin infected.

Mr Dickenson on behalf of Miss Taylor offered Mrs Cross 10/- a month in payment of the freight charges on condition that the furniture was handed over immediately, but Mrs Cross refused and offered to hand over the bedroom furniture and the balance when the freight charges had been paid.

Mr Britz ordered that the furniture be returned to Miss Taylor on or before February 20 or in default that Mrs Cross pay the plaintiff £40, plaintiff to pay 10/- per month in settlement of the freight charges.

Mr WHB Dickson appeared for Miss Taylor and Mr Phippard for John Cross.


The Canberra Times 13 April 1937


At the Canberra Court yesterday before Lt Col TH Goodwin, John Cross Durville Street Griffith pleaded guilty to two charges of having on April 10 assaulted Miss Alma Woodleigh-Taylor, 23 Manuka Arcade and Miss  Elvina Parkinson, Furneaux Street Griffith and was fined £2 on each charge.

In evidence Constable Weiss said that, at about 8pm on April 10 Miss Taylor and Miss Parkinson had been walking along Furneaux Street Griffith and had seen Cross, who was walking in the same direction. They had stopped to let him pass and when Cross came up to them he immediately attacked them, striking Miss Parkinson a number of times with his closed fist, and striking Miss Taylor and knocking her into a hedge. Miss Parkinson had run towards her home screaming for help, and in the driveway, Cross had overtaken her and again hit her, knocking her down. As she fell she had caught Cross by the legs and he had fallen also. He then kicked her in the ribs and had used insulting words.

Witness later interviewed Cross and taken him to the police station and charged him.

Mr Phippard, who appeared for Cross said that the facts of the assault were not disputed, and went on to say that Mr Taylor, who was Cross’s mother, had prior to coming to Canberra been living in Sydney in straightened circumstances.  Cross had brought his mother to Canberra to live with him, but there had been a dispute about furniture and she was now living at Manuka Arcade. On the night of the assault Cross had seen Miss Taylor and wanting to speak to her had gone up to her in Furneaux Street. He did not remember anything about the assault.

Cross, contined, Mr Phippard had lived in Canberra for 25 years and had not previously been in court. He had originally come here in 1912 at a horse trainer at Duntroon and prior to that had served seven years in India with the Imperial Army. In 1914 he had gone to the war and had served four years there during which time he had suffered shell shock – the effects of which were now beginning to show. When excited Cross was unable to control himself. This, Mr Phippard said, had happened on the night of the assault. Cross remembered going up to speak to his mother and Miss Parkinson but after than remembered nothing.   Mr Phippard submitted that in view of the circumstances Cross should be bound over to be of good behavior.

Lt Col Goodwin, in dining Cross said that when the assault had occurred Cross had evidently not been in his right mind but that he was unable to simply bind him over to be of good behavior. Cross was fined £2 on each charge with doctor’s expenses of £2/2/- and was bound over to be of good behavior for six months of a surety of £20.


The Canberra Times 10 November 1939


In the sunny fertile land of the Australian Capital Territory there is always a bounteous supply of the delicious products of tree, vine and plant. In a district such as this fruit should be much more popular that it is, for country people should be the first to realize that it has great health producing powers and is rich in sustaining mineral salts.  [NB in the 1940s I along with other school children were given iodine tablets because of lack of same in the earth here in the Canberra area.]

When a town has a dealer such as Mr EO Gumley of Manuka Arcade Manuka who can supply fruits and vegetables at wholesale city prices, there is absolutely no reason why every home should not always have sufficient supplies on hand.

To ensure an efficient supply of the choicest high-grade fruit and vegetables it is only necessary to communicate with Mr Gumley or the courteous staff at his Manuka Arcade Store [which was on the left hand side corner of the entrance to the Arcade if one stood with one’s back to the Capitol Theatre] and you will find that your requirements are promptly attended to.

Mr EO Gumley has had an exceptionally wide experience in the fruit and vegetable business in Manuka for about the last eight years. A special feature about Mr Gumley’s business is that he makes a point of visiting the growers regularly and procuring a choice selection of fruit and vegetables which he offers to his customers at exceedingly low prices.

In addition to fruit and vegetables, Mr Gumley maintains a most replete stock of groceries, confectionery, chocolates and cordials, all of which are attractively displayed and conducts a milk bar where only the richest milk is served in any desired flavour. All perishable goods are kept in a most modern and up-to-date refrigerator so that customers can always be sure of purchasing fresh and wholesome food at this store.

Mr Gumley has a ‘free’ refrigerator that is not hired from the manufacturers. Consequently he is able to carry any lines and pass cheaper products on to his customers.


Causeway Welfare Association 1943


A fine example of the value of practical community self-help has been provided by the operations of the Causeway Welfare Association which holds its annual meeting tonight.  This association represents the co-operative effort of the Causeway people to promote social activities which all their people can enjoy, to aid patriotic and charitable causes and particularly to provide a useful healthy outlet for the energies of the younger generation. The story of the achievements of the Causeway people in this respect is one of conspicuous success and which deserves to be more widely known. 


The origin of the Causeway Welfare Association may be traced in part to an address a couple of years ago by Mr Glover of the YMCA in which he expressed the opinion that some of the Causeway boys were tougher than could be found in Chigago.  This outspoken statement aroused some justifiable resentment among Causeway parents, but it also stirred them to efforts to ensure that their children enjoyed the facilities to which they should be entitled.


At that time the Causeway hall was a dilapidated affair with broken windows and the evidence of long neglect.  When the Causeway Welfare Association was formed one of its first actions was the appointment of three hall trustees, Mess CP Hiland, H Bladen, Roy Douch – who immediately approached the Department of the Interior for renovations of the hall and its surrounds, giving assurances that if this work was done the Causeway people would make good use of the hall and would provide a fair revenue from it.


Since the hall has been the social centre for the association’s activities and for the community life of the Causeway residents.  The first important function marking the change was held in the hall on June 27 1941 when, in the presence of Her Excellency, Lady Gowrie, the then Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll), unveiled a roll of honour bearing the names of Causeway men who had enlisted for this war.


Since that date the association has gone from strength to strength.  It has received valued assistance from the YMCA, Rotary and other organizations, but its chief success has lain in the team work and public spirit of the people of Causeway themselves.  There has been only one break in the activities of the association which occurred when for several months the hall was occupied by the RAAF.  The trustees received some criticism for agreeing to this occupancy but they did so because they recognized that the national interest must come first.  On the RAAF vacating the hall the association resumed its activities with renewed vigour.

Since September last old-time dances have been conducted by the association in the hall every Saturday night and substantial profits from them have contributed to the patriotic causes and to benefits for families in distress.  These benefits by the way have not been confined to Causeway families. 


All the work in the management of the Association’s social functions is voluntary.  Ladies make it their task to decorate the hall each Saturday afternoon and also to see to the cleaning and tidying of it after each function.  Moreover they conduct a cloak room at each dance, the donations by the patrons being handled in full to the baby health clinic.


The establishment of this clinic goes to the credit of the association which made portion of the hall available for the purpose, and which now, through the voluntary work of the ladies on its committee sees to the tidying and cleaning of the clinic each week.


Another useful activity of the association has been, with the co-operation of the department to have the tennis courts placed in order and to assist the establishment of a tennis club on a firm financial basis.


Among the achievements of the association through its vigorous representations to the authorities have been the reconditioning of roads, the improvement of housing accommodation, the provision of pathways and the renovation of the tradesmen’s mess.  Realising the needs of the war position however, the association has refrained from making any requests not of an urgent nature.


Among the younger generation the work of the association may best be judged by the tributes of the Territory police to the behavior today of the Causeway boys and girls and to the absence now of acts of vandalism.


Since June 1941 the association’s receipts have been about 1,000 pounds and today it has a balance of 140 pounds in the Welfare account and 130 pounds in the trustees’ revenue account. During that time it has conducted two very successful children’s Christmas treats, and is now negotiating to place 50 pounds on fixed deposit as a start towards the cost of a fitting welcome home for the fighting men of Causeway when the war ends.


It is an interesting feature of the association’s activities that all the residents of Causeway are classed as association members, are entitled to a full voice in its direction, and have succeeded in working together unitedly and amicably.  The present officers include Mrs HL [sic WL] Sheen (president), Mr F Hopkinson (treasurer), Mr CP Hiland (secretary), Mesdames Miller, Janette, Kinlyside, Hecklin, Hipkinson, and Messrs Bladen, Douch, Sheen, Hopkinson and O’Brien.




Frank Dunshea's memories Power House



By Frank Dunshea 2010

I believe that it is extremely unlikely the name Barber-Green Alley appears on any map or official records of the Kingston area but it certainly existed and remains in the memory of many people who worked in and around it.  The alley was not very long, had galvanized iron building on each side and was blocked at one end, where it reached the large side door of the Mechanical Fitting Workshop. This concrete building is still standing – maybe it has heritage listing.

You may ask how this short lane came by its imposing name. For most of its existence it remained unnamed and it had no name when I first walked along it to begin my Electrical Apprenticeship in 1942.

As you entered the lane from what could be called the Giles St end the galavanised iron buildings on the left were all annexes of the Mechanical Fitting Workshop.  These consisted of Moulding Shop, Welding Shop and Blacksmith’s Shop.

Wonderful things were done in the Moulding Shop creating all sorts of replacement parts for machinery that were unavailable because of the War.  A very skilled pattern maker named Norm Macgregor would make a replica of the part out of wood and other materials, from this a mould would be made into which molten metal would be poured to create the part required.  These parts would then be machined as required in the fitting shop.

The moulding shop was, to my young mind, a wondrous place with furnaces, crucibles of molten metal and all sorts of sand and other materials for making moulds.

The welding shop a place where all types of oxy and electric welding were carried out was run by a tradesman named Bill Eastwell who was an extremely obliging bloke.  He would willingly do any welding jobs for us fellows from the Electrical Section and would give the job priority if it was a private request; these jobs were called foreign orders.

The Blacksmiths Shop was another remarkable place.  It had no doors and was open to the lane.  As well as the usual variety of anvils and forges and a large water tub for quenching it had a huge block of steel that must have weighed several tons with holes in that were in it that were used for hammering and shaping.  Also there was an electrically driven hammering and bending machine with a large flywheel.  The Blacksmiths’ Shop was presided over by Blacksmiths, Mick Grady and Jack Goodwin.  My wife and I later lived with Jack and Mrs Goodwin in Giles Street after our wedding in 1950.


It was good to be able to watch the Blacksmiths at work shaping and bending steel, repairing tools etc.  I was fortunate on a couple of occasions to see large hammer welds being carried out. The Smithy’s would swing the large steel object being welded out of the forge with the joint area glowing white hot onto a large anvil.  Two Strikers, one on each side of the anvil would rain blows with large sledgehammers working in perfect synch causing masses of sparks to fly at each blow.  This procedure was then repeated until the steel was fused together. That was a memorable sight.

On your right as you entered the lane from the Giles Street end were further galvanized iron buildings. At the Giles Street end there was a toilet and shower block followed by a depot for the Electrical Linesmen. The Electrical Workshop building which included a depot for the installation section and a substation for electricity supply to the area completed that side of the lane.  Entrance to the Electrical Workshop from the lane was by a large vehicle access door with a small judas door cut into it for personnel access.

The large door at the end of the lane which provided access to the Mechanical Fitting Workshop also had a personnel access door cut in it.  Inside this building there was a variety of wonderful machines, many types of lathes, milling, shaping, grinding, drilling, cutting and other appliances on the workshop floor and work benches along the walls. A large mobile crane ran overhead for the length of the building.

The man in charge of the Mechanical Workshop was Frank Scott, with Vic Styles and Bill Barr being two of his supervisory staff.  Although this building was fairly large it was due to lack of working space inside it that led to Barber-Green Alley receiving its name.

In the last half of the 1950s when the development of Canberra was increasing rapidly and construction was starting on Lake Burley Griffin the Department of Works and Housing purchased a large amount of earth moving equipment. The bulk of this machinery bore the logo of THE BARBER-GREENE COMPANY.

As earth moving equipment always requires a lot of repair work and maintenance the space available in the Mechanical Fitting Shop was stretched and this resulted in work on this machinery having to be carried out in this lane.  Much of the lane was soon taken up with partly dismantled bulldozers, trench diggers, scrapers, etc nearly all bearing the Barber-Greene name.

The Fitters who had to work outside in these very poor conditions were paid a higher hourly rate to compensate them. I can recall a remark from a very good friend of mine, Maury (Moe) Dowthwaite, who had served his apprenticeship as a Mechanical Fitter at the same time as I served my apprenticeship. Moe said in disgust, after spending a very bad day working in the lane, still covered in grease and hydraulic oil, ‘I spend five years apprenticeship and going to night school for this and the monkey who sits on top of the machine pulling the levers earns nearly twice as much as I do.’  Maury achieved the last laugh because in later years he became the owner of an earthmoving company and he was hiring the men who sat on top of the machines.

Vehicles going to and from the Fitting and Electrical Workshops had to weave their way through all this activity and were often held up while a mobile crane removed or replaced a piece of machinery.

It was not very long before the lane became known as Barber-Greene Alley and the name became semi-official when a large professionally painted sign was installed high up on one of the buildings at Giles St end saying BARBER-GREEN ALLEY.  This impressive sign was made by Sign Writers from the Paint Shop, which was situated a few hundred meters away from the alley towards the Railway Station.

On entering the Electrical Workshop from the alley there was a small area built in to the left of the door. This area housed the Electrical Mechanics or installation Section Depot.  It was from this Depot that I worked for the first three years of my apprenticeship before transferring to Electrical Fitting Apprenticeship and working in the workshop.

The men supervising the Installation Section when I started work there were Viv Stephens and Charlie Denton. The usual bosses Gordon (Nugget) Hay and Arthur (Unc) Hussey being away serving in the RAN. Another senior man Murdoch Macgregor returned after I had been there several months and took charge of the section. He had been doing coastal patrol duties with the army reserve. Nugget and Unc returned to take charge of the section after the war and Murdoch took up the position of Chief Electrical inspector.

A lot of the work of the installation section consisting of installing equipment such as stoves and water heaters in government houses and additions and alterations to office buildings. During this period I also worked on many interesting projects.  These included jobs such as the construction of Harman Naval Base, a Radio Base for the US Navy in old Molonglo buildings, the rewiring of the Yarralumla Brickworks, construction of the second half of Melbourne Buildings, installation of special lighting in the Australian War Memorial, special equipment in the CSIR, installation of equipment at Mount Stromlo Observatory and many other special sites, but this is getting away from the subject of the Kingston Foreshore Area.

The Electrical Workshop was a steel-framed building with corrugated iron walls and roof with no ceiling. There were grimy windows along each side. The floor was bare concrete with wooden duckboards arranged in front of work benches, that ran along each side wall and long the centre of the building.

The machinery in the workshop was very basic and ancient and were all driven by a single electric motor that drove a shaft system that ran up high under the roof with flat leather belts coming down to each piece of equipment. Fairly often a belt would slip off its pulleys and someone would have to switch off the motor and then climb a ladder up to a catwalk that ran along the roof beams to replace it. On occasion a belt would break and come flapping down knocking equipment and tools off benches. Surprisingly no injuries ever occurred from this that I have any knowledge of.

One of the pieces of machinery, an old pedestal drill looked so decrepit that a workmate, John (Dippy) Foster was moved to make up a sign saying, PLEASE MOVE ON AFTER VIEWING RELICT by order of the museum trust. While it was not appreciated by the management it stayed there for some time.

The workshop had no installed heating or cooling system except for one cast iron stove with a long flue pipe going up through the high roof. It was mainly fuelled by coal purloined from the Power House. This heater was only of help to any person close to it thus most of the considerable area was left stone cold even though the fire box and flue pipe would be glowing bright red.  On very frosty mornings spanners and other tools would be placed near the heater to make them warm enough for handling.

In later years of the workshops existence two more steel heaters constructed by The Blacksmiths and Welding Shops across the Lane were installed.

The Superintendent of the Electrical Workshop was a small Scotsman named Bill Mitchell.   Mr Mitchell was a stickler for being punctual. He would enter the judas door into the workshop each morning as the 7.30 whistle was sounding. He would then walk through the working area to his office at the far corner of the building.  If any member of the staff was not at his workbench ready to start, he would be called into the office later and be asked for an explanation. It the explanation was not considered satisfactory the worker would have time deducted from his daily time docket.

An increase in staff numbers in the post war years resulted in the workshop personnel being divided into two separate sections.  One section was known as the Maintenance Branch had a Scotsman, Dave Lamond as its supervisor.  Another section that was known as the Substation Branch was supervised by Bob Kelly an Australian and ex-world war 1 digger. Bill Mitchell was made Superintendent in charge of both sections.

There were three old large and heavy transformers stored in one corner o the workshop that were out of service but still performed a useful function for some years. The Industrial Award at that time stated that employees who did not have work available out of the weather would be stood down without pay for the remainder of the day after a specified amount of rain had fallen before noon.  While this did not affect us workshop staff, it was of great concern to the linesmen from The Mains Branch.  On very wet days a gang of linesmen would appear and move these transformers across to the diagonally opposite corner of the building.  These transformers had no wheels and were moved by levering them by up with crowbars placing lengths of steam pipe under them to roll on. This exercise also involved moving and replacing the benches in the centre of the building so the move would take them the whole afternoon.  The next really wet period it would be deemed necessary that the transformers should be returned to the other corner.

Everything in the area was subject to the effects of pollution from the adjacent Power House chimney and it was necessary to wipe your bench space clean of a thin layer of soot with cotton waste every morning before starting work.

Even though the Electrical Workshop suffered from these and many other disadvantages it served as the base for the maintenance of most of Canberra’s electrical equipment for many years. This included equipment in government offices, houses, hostels, schools, hospitals and defence establishments.  The Cotter Pumps and other water supply and sewerage installations as well as all The Electricity Supply ground work which included the Power Station, Sub-Stations and underground cables. This work was carried out fairly efficiently from these old premises until a new more modern workshop was built facing Wentworth Avenue between the Power House and Mundaring Drive in 1956.

At the rear of the old Workshop, less that 3 meters from the wall ran the railway line that carried the coal trucks supplying the Power House. The railway line was in regular use with these deliveries and it was not unusual for a number of empty coat trucks to be parked on the line adjacent to the workshop.  The area where the workshop and mains branch vehicles were parked was across the railway line from the building.  It was common practice to walk though the gaps between the parked railway trucks. This led to tragic accident.

At the rear of the Power Station an employee was using a steam powered winch to move loaded coal trucks further down the railway line. One of these trucks ran on to the end of the line of empty parked trucks causing them to concertina together. At the same time Harry Charlton, a linesman from the mains branch was going through the narrow gap between two trucks and was crushed between huge steel couplings. I was one of the first to arrive on the scene and helped push the coal trucks apart to release him. He died before reaching hospital.

Another accident occurred sometime later on the railway track that might have resulted in a tragedy but ended up slightly amusing.  A small Bedford utility truck that was driven by Ernie Neilson and Electrical Inspector, was hit by a shunting engine coming past the workshop buildings. The buffer on the train engine went into the open window space of the utility lifting it clear off the ground and carried it about 30 meters along the track.  A very shaken Ernie Neilson clambered out uninjured from the truck and was able to see the train buffer occupying the passenger space where, fellow, Electrical Inspector Eric Stanwell had been sitting only about a minute before. Thankfully Ernie had stopped at the entrance to Barber-Greene Alley to let Eric out.  Eric Stanwell had been a Prisoner of War of the Japanese and worked on the construction of the Burma Thailand Railway.

After this incident a flagman was used at this spot when a train was coming through.

There was another branch railway line that ran through the Government Stores yard and the rear of the Government Printing Office. This line ended between the Moulding and Blacksmiths Shops and the Transport Depot (this building is now known as the Bus Shed Markets). I have no recollection of ever seeing a train on this end of the line.

The Transport Depot as well being a garage for busses had a large workshop area for the repair of busses, trucks and cars. The vehicle fleets for many Departments were supplied and maintained from there. It was also the depot for the Commonwealth Govt. and the Ministerial car fleet. There was also another building closer to the Power Station with large hoists for servicing busses and large trucks.

The Superintendent of the Transport Section, Mr Roach, I can’t recall his first name as he was usually referred to as ‘Cocky’ Roach. 

The vehicles used by The Electrical Section were supplied from the Transport Depot and what a motley collection they were. All the vehicles were pre-war (except for a few ex-army jeeps) and most of them were well and truly pre-war and had seen a lot of service. The cars and utes, that we used were mostly Vauxhall Tourers or Bedfords but there were also some old Fords and Chevs.  There was even an old A Model Ford is still being used.

When a vehicle needed repairs, which was often, we would have to try and persuade the head mechanic (whom it was important to remain friendly with) to issue you with a replacement. These vehicles were usually more dilapidated and less serviceable than the ones we normally drove.

Across Giles St from the Transport Depot also facing on to Wentworth Ave there was the Government Printing Office. This fairly large red brick building handled the printing requirements of most govt. departments and employed a fairly large staff often working three shifts per day. The building was set away from the main road with a driveway leading to the front entrance with an area of grass and trees in between. It was a common sight to see members of the staff waiting under these trees for a change of shift.

A number of the Govt Printing Office staff lived at the Kingston Guest House which was situated on the block surrounded by Eyre, Kennedy, Dawes & Leichardt Street. This boarding house was originally known as the Printers Quarters.

One of the major functions of the Govt Printers was the printing of Hansard and to this end a system of brass tubes about 80mm in diameter were installed underground from Parliament House to the printing office.  The Hansard  Reporters typed sheets were placed in containers and transported swiftly though the tubes using compressed air. This system enabled a member to read in print  what he said in the House within an hour. The system known as Lampson Tubes was extended to the later Govt Printing Office a much larger solid concrete building built on the corner of Wentworth Ave and Cunningham St when the original building was demolished. The newer building has now also been demolished.

The Govt Printer was a man named Vic Johnson he had a reputation as a strict disciplinarian and hard boss. I know of a few tales that tend to confirm this.

I had several good friends who worked in the old Govt Printing Office and my wife worked there in the Book Binding Section for a period after our marriage, but the only time I got inside that building occurred early in my apprenticeship. The Tradesmen I was assisting and myself were in the building replacing light fittings there with a more efficient type and this allowed us to see most of the functions of the place in operation. An employee was assigned to watch us the whole time we were in the building. I recall that we put him to good use handing tools and equipment to us when working up ladders.

At the rear of the Govt Printers there was a large area fenced off with high steel mesh and with several strands of barbed wire on top and inside this enclosure there were several small buildings and one much larger building. This complex was known as the Govt Stores Yard. The Railway Line that finished at the rear of the Transport Depot ran through the  Govt Stores area. The main stores building had a platform along its length adjacent to the tracks. The Govt Stores supplied all Commonwealth Departments with items from as small as paper clips to plant and supplies weighing several tons.

It was very difficult for the Electrical Section to obtain any materials without going through Govt Stores (I assume this applied to all Departments of the Interior Branches).  An order in quintuplicate ie four carbon copies was required to obtain material and thee order forms had to be approved by the Chief Engineer. WE (Bill) Gray The Chief Engineer made a daily visit to the supervisors of each section and while there he would sign as many blank forms as it was estimated would be required for that day.

This routine was continued by HA (Alan) Jones (who later became the first chairman of the ACTEA) after Mr Gray’s retirement. The Electrical Branch was indeed fortunate to have had such wonderful and understanding men running the show.

In spite of what appeared to be strict security and an extremely beaurocratic system, the Govt  Stores were involved in several scandals.  They lost their almost exclusive right to supply when the branches of many govt departments gained some independence and the stores closed down in the late 1950s or early 60s.

Across the railway tracks at the rear of the Electrical Workshop and about 80 meters towards the river the Plumbers Workshop was built circa 1946.  This was a fairly large steel framed building and its walls and roof were clad with heavy gauge corrugated iron fibrocement sheeting.  I was able to watch much of the construction of this building whilst working in the Electrical Workshop.

As well as being a depot for the plumbers carrying out construction and maintenance work around Canberra the building contained machinery for manufacturing of all types of plumbing equipment. Of particular interest to us Electrical Fitters were the tools for cutting g and bending sheet metal. Whilst the Electrical Workshop had a guillotine for cutting and bending machine for folding sheet metal these imp0lements were not very big and lacked several desirable features.  The equipment in the Plumber’s Shop was much better for handling many of our sheet metal jobs.  When we would arrive at the Plumbing Shop carrying a large sheet of mild steel the ritual would inevitably be the same. The Plumbers Shop Foreman, Frank Tonkin would complain about the metal being of too heavy a gauge and that it would overstrain his equipment etc, but he would eventually give us advice of how to do the job.

This was typical of the co-operation between all the difference section of Govt Depts in the Kingston area and for many years much work was carried out with one section doing jobs for the other.  Only with the larger jobs requiring lots of time and material was any paper work required.

To the west of the Plumbers Shop and closer to the river were some old cottages and other buildings which I think were originally built for fire station staff as I believe the Fire Brigade operated from this area before moving to Forrest. Some of the cottages were still occupied. I can recall a Mrs Kelly and family and Bill Witt and family living there.

One of the old buildings was used by the Radio Branch of the Electrical Section (known later as The Electronics Branch) which was run by Mac Fowler. Mac was a man who would have to have been considered a pioneer in his field of mobile radio. He obtained his grounding in radio as a signaler during World War 1 and continued working in radio after the war.

Two way radios for vehicles were not available commercially so these were designed and manufactured by Mac Fowler and his staff in this old building.

Transistors were yet to be discovered so the radios had to use thermionic valves that required a huge voltage supply. Various methods  were experimented with to obtain these high voltages from the battery in the vehicle. The method most commonly used involved using an electro-mechanical device called a vibrator to chop up the DC battery voltage allowing it to be transformed to a higher voltage.

The Radio Branch supplied and maintained two way radio equipment to the vehicles and the bases of the Electricity Supply, the Police, Fire Brigade, Ambulance, Forestry (bush fire), Water and Sewerage and Transport Departments.  In the early years of its operation communications directly between vehicles was not achieved and messages were received  and retransmitted by a unit in the old Radio Section Building that required manual switching. To achieve this the base unit in the old building would receive a message from one vehicle and transmit it on to the other vehicle.  When the caller in the 1st vehicle had completed their message they would say ‘over’ and a member of the staff in Base Station would switch over to let the 2nd vehicle reply.

The Radio Branch also carried out many other functions, such as maintenance of radio and internal communication  equipment in offices, schools, hospitals and public buildings as well as supplying and installing public address systems for many sporting and cultural activities.  The section was deeply involved in the installation of audio equipment in Old Parliament House.

The Electrical Fitting Apprentices all enjoyed our time spent working for Mac in the Radio Branch. The old building was destroyed by fire after serving for several years and a lot of valuable equipment was lost. The Electronics Branch (as it was called then) was later housed in several other temporary location before moving into much more suitable accommodation in the new workshop building in Wentworth Avenue in 1956.

A new building was constructed on the site of the old burnt out sheds as an office and depot for the Mains Branch, who installed and maintained the overhead and underground electrical system. A large yard was fenced off next to this building and the vehicles and equipment used by the linesmen were stored there. The equipment supplied for the line gangs was very basic those days much of it being designed and constructed by the men on the job and a lot of the heavy work was done without the assistance of machines. In spite of these drawbacks the linesmen, with great supervisors like Ken Scarlet and Bill Byrne did a very good job and were mostly a helpful and cheerful group.

After the war, a number of migrant refugees were assigned to the mains branch to work as laborers, mostly digging trenches for underground cables. They were obliged to stay for a set time, I think it was 2 years.  Some of these men stayed on and trained as linesmen and became valued employees of the ACT Electricity Authority.

The area of the yard adjacent to the Mains Building was used for manufacturing concrete slabs. These slabs were about 120cms long 20cms wide and 8cms thick.  They were laid on top of underground cables for protection from mechanical dame. Sam Truesdale, a Leading Hand Linesman was the man in charge of this work and some wag once erected a sign saying, ‘Sams Superior Slabs.’  These slabs were used for many years and there must be still several thousand of Sam’s slabs buried in central area and the older suburbs of Canberra. Also manufactured in Sam’s yard were a number of steel and concrete poles known as Stobbie Poles, named after their inventor an Engineer in SA. The larger versions of these poles were used in the construction of the 22kv substation to the Cotter Pumping Station. This line originally ran from an 11/22kv substation in Latrobe Park Deakin. It was later shortened to run from Woden Zone Sub Station in Lyons when it was built in 1964.

A smaller version of the Stobbie Poles were manufactured for use in the Narrabundah and O’Connor areas.  This area was also used for storage of drums of cable and conductors, spare transformers, cable jointing equipment etc.

In 1953 the NSW Electricity Commission established a diesel power station on the river side of the railway lines near Mudaring Drive. The power station was one of the many temporary package plants as they were called rushed into service throughout the state to meet the large sudden increase in demand at that time.

This power station had a generating capacity of 5,000 KVA and consisted of 4x1 1,250 KVA Brush Alternators driven by Harland and Wolfe diesel engines. The station ran regularly until 1956 when it was shut down. It was later sold to the Commonwealth Govt minus one of its units and was kept as an emergency supply for Parliament House. It only had periodic test run after this time.

If you went east from Linemen’s Depot past the Plumbers Shop and the Stores Yard who would come to the Govt Sawmill.  This was a fairly large saw mill with a variety of saws, ranging from huge ripping down saws to quite small units. Most of the timber cut there was hardwood hauled down from the Brindabella Mountain Range. The mill was surrounded by racks where the sawn timber was seasoned. A large percentage of the older houses in Canberra contain the well seasoned timber from this mill.

The supervisor of the Govt Sawmill was a genial chap named Les (Doc) Rowe. His nickname Doc was not because of any academic qualification but related to his ability as a Saw Doctor. He was exceptional at sharpening and setting any type of saw.

Doc Rowe married Gwen Ryan who lived two houses from My Family in the Acton Cottages.

Between the sawmill and Wentworth Avenue there were a number of smaller buildings that served as depots for section of the departmental work force such as Water and Sewerage, Roads and Bridges, Painting and Sign Writing and The Joiners Workshop.

The Joiners Workshop repaired and manufactured furniture and a lot of special equipment for was produced there. The Supervisor was Bob Lennon and his son Don Lennon served and Electrical Fitting apprenticeship in the old Electrical Workshop and was with the ACTEA for many years.

A well known personality who worked in this area was Pat Hammond. Pat who lived in the Causeway and worked in The Roads and Bridges Depot. He was a great union man. He was considered by many to be the local guru on industrial awards and union matters. He often gave me good advice during my time as an official of the Electrical Trades Union.

In later years, a large garage for busses was built in this area nearer to Wentworth Ave serving as an annex for the Transport Depot.

A quaint little building existed further east along Wentworth Ave across from the intersection with Dawes St known as the Friendly Societies Hall. This hall was hired out for a variety of functions and meetings and I can recall playing in card games such as crazy whist and euchre tournaments there.

A group which I enjoyed being a part of hired the hall a few times for dances. Entertainment was fairly scarce in Canberra during the war, so this group with Dud and Ron Berry as leading members would arrange dances where a hall and pianist were hired by the group for this purpose and just enough charged to cover costs. Other halls that were hired by the group for this purpose were the Hockey Pavilion at Manuka and the Tennis Pavilion in Forrest. Muriel Hartigan or Claude Bensley were the pianists we mostly used.  These artists were hired till 11 pm but usually because we were enjoying the night the hat would go around and money raised to keep the dancing going till midnight. Both Murial and Claude later led dance bands and played at major functions in Canberra and the surrounding district.

Some distance in from Wentworth Ave where it intersects with Eyre and Dawes Sts there was a fairly large area fenced in by wire mesh about 2.5 meters high. Several buildings constructed of weatherboard fibro cement and galvanized iron were contained in this area. This was the campus of The Canberra Technical College.

The CTC was also known as the Trade School when I first attended it in 1942 before starting my apprenticeship.  I would go to the Trade School after finishing work on a milk run starting at 3am. As students of the Trade School we were taught the use of hand tools by instructor Ken Sinclare. The first lessons consisted of being given a block of cast iron, the top surface of which we had to make flat using files and scrapers and then had to cut grooves across this surface using hacksaws, hammers and cold chisels.

Then we would have to chop off these grooves with a cold chisel and repeat the process cutting more difficult shaped grooves.

One of the instructors at the college was Jerry Kilmartin who had a pig farm out near where the Federal Highway becomes Northbourne Ave. Some of the Trades School students who had been there the previous year told stories of jerry taking them in the back of a truck out to the farm where they learnt the use of tools by building pig pens. He kept them well supplied with things like pies and soft drinks so they were happy doing this.

For more formal school lessons we had to walk or ride bikes to Telopea Park School.  These lessons were mostly of things I had already learnt at Canberra High so I gave this away as not being very helpful after several weeks. I returned to the Technical College several months later when I started my electrical apprenticeship.

The instructor of Electrical Fitting Certificate classes at the Tech College was Jack Melluish who I found to be extremely knowledgeable and good teacher. When I first started doing courses at college. Jack was only employed as part time instructor. He also worked at …(?) Supply at the Electrical Workshop. Not long after I began my apprenticeship Jack became a full time teacher at the Technical College.

With the establishment of the RAAF Training Camp at No 2STT in Fyshwick near the Railway Station, the Technical College became the place where the trainee Air Force technicians did most of their study so Jack Melluish and I suspect several other instructions became full time college employees. The CTC at that time was controlled by the Sydney Technical College and I think was considered to be an Annex of STC.

The CTC was mostly restricted to teaching the traditional trades. Such as the building trades, mechanical and electrical fitting, automotive trades, welding etc.

The electrical section consisted of a large room in one of the long buildings with a blackboard and desks like a traditional school room. There was also workbenches situated along one side and the back of the room. A variety of mostly well used instruments and test equipment and an old motor-generator set was about the extent of the teaching aids provided. Plumbing trades were another group included in this building.  The Administration Section was situated in another similar building on the far side of the compound.

A two storey building at the western end of the area was used by the mechanical engineering students, the ground floor containing a variety of metal working machines. A much smaller building built of corrugated iron houses the welding section where Bill O’Neill and other instructors taught oxy and electrical welding.

There was a cottage constructed near the gates to the compound by the various building trades apprentices I don’t think this building was ever occupied.  Adjacent to the building trades classrooms at the rear of the college were several fairly elaborate arches built by the bricklaying students.

The electrical apprentices and the apprentices from most of the other trades attended the college one half day each week in the employer’s time and two nights a week in their own time.

We would get a short break during out afternoon sessions and at that time Wilkie would arrive with his pie cart and do brisk business.  Some of the chaps used to challenge him with the call, ‘double or quits, Wilk.’  Wilkie who was a keen gambler would toss a coin and if they won they would get their pie free and if they lost they paid double.  I guess he would have come out even over time.

The Motor Mechanics’ Classroom contained a car engine mounted on stands with sections of the engine block cut away so that all the moving parts could be seen in action when it was rotated.  A few of us electrical students were looking at this one day when ‘Muggins’ decided to feel the top of a piston at the same time as someone else decided to give the flywheel a push. This resulted in a trip to hospital with a squashed finger that luckily wasn’t broken but took many months to return to its normal shape.

The two storey building that had the machine shop on the ground floor with a variety of lathes, drills, shapers and milling machines. The first floor contained a workshop and classroom. This upper floor was used by the RAAF to train recruits in the use of hand tools.  I heard stories of bags containing roughly cut steel pieces that were shaped using files and hacksaws and a ten shilling note being lowered from the first floor window. The apprentices in  the machine shop would then process these items using milling and shaping machines and sent them back up without the bank note.

The CTC remained on this site for many more years before moving to new premises at Reid and I had the experience of attending some further courses there as a tradesman and also doing some part time work there as an instructor.


I have left the inclusion of the Steam Power Station and its associated buildings and equipment till last because I consider it to be very important to the history of the area and I was also heavily involved in work carried out there. I will probably  get a bit technical at times but I hope I shall be forgiven for this.


The Old Power House Building which has a heritage listing is still there and is now serving a very useful function housing the Glassworks. In spite of the popularity of the Glassworks I think it is a great pity that all of the original equipment was ripped out of it. What a great tourist attraction it would be if it still had all its boilers, turbines, alternators and associated equipment in place.


My intimate association with the Power Station’s electricity generation and distribution system stated in the early 1950s/ Around that time the Electrical Workshop staff were divided into separate sections each managed by its own supervisor.  One of these sections was known as Substations Branch. I was transferred to this section shortly after its formation.


The Supervisor appointed to the Substations Branch was Bob Kelly, a World War 1 veteran who had served in France, he still suffered on occasions from the affects of gas used in that campaign.  The section was often called the Kelly Gang, perhaps with some justification. A well as having responsibility for substations, associated main switchboards and the jointing of underground cables, the Substations Branch was given the responsibility for all the electrical equipment in the Power Station and the Cotter River Pumping Station. Probably because Bob Kelly considered that I possessed a greater knowledge of electrical theory than most of the other members of the gang, he had me carrying out most of the more technical jobs in the Power Station  Area.


In recording of my recollections of the  Power Station Area I consider it necessary to include the adjacent switchyard and switchboard buildings as being part of a single unit in conjunction with the generation component in the main building.


The Superintendent of the Power House was a steam engineer named Tom Trevillian who had previously ran a power station in Goulburn that produced direct current electricity. Tom’s eldest son, Harry also worked on the steam plant at the station. When Tom retired in the early 1950s George Saint one of the shift engineers took over the control of the Power Station.


The Power Station area included the old building that remains today plus a chimney stack the base of which still remains on the eastern side.  On the western side there was a small brick building containing a 6.6.kv switchgear. This building known as the 6.6.kv switchroom was separated from the main building by a vehicle access area. Attached to the 6.6.kv room was the switchyard.


The switchyard area was surrounded by a high wire mesh fence topped with strands of barbed wire.  A brick switchroom building was built on the western end of the switchyard in the late 1940s.  This building remained empty for many years before the installation of an 11,000 volt switchboard in it.  The switchyard and adjacent switchboards were later known as Kingston Zone substation.


A large heap of coal was piled between the switchboard and the railway lines that continued on for about 200 meters past the rear of the Power House.


There were also two cottages situated near the corner of Wentworth Avenue and Mundaring Drive that were occupied by employees of the NSW Dept of Public Works (later the NSW Electricity Commission). These men were responsible for the maintenance of the Commission’s power lines in the ACT and surrounding district. Cec Maynard, Reg Moebus and Sullivan are a few of the householders I can recall living in these houses.


My earliest association with the Power House building was when as a very young apprentice I assisted one of the tradesmen from the Installation Section with the wiring of an air raid siren.  This siren is still in place on the roof peak at the southern end of the building and was used during the war fortunately only for practice alarms. [Frank told me that he thought the other siren was in the tower at the Old Canberra High School. I recall the sirens going off for practice and we would be marched from out class rooms at Telopea Park School down to the trenches. – c1942 onwards.] At this time the equipment in the Power House Station was a complete mystery to me and I didn’t know that later I would become very familiar with all of its workings.


The heart of the Power House would have to be the Machine Floor. If you enter the Power Station Building from the western side and go up the stairs, you will enter the machine floor at the top. This large high roofed area contained the steam engines and the power generating equipment.  Above the machines an overhead hoist was mounted on a cross-beam that was in turn mounted on rails running for the full length of the building. The hoist which was operated by thick ropes looped over pulleys.  Near the top of the stairs was a large square hole in the concrete floor covered by solid wood which could be removed to allow the loading or unloading of equipment by the hoist to the ground floor below.


In addition to the generating equipment the machine floor also contained two separate switchboards; a small 4 15/240 volt one at the far (northern) end which controlled the stations’ auxiliary power and the 5.5kv switchboard and the station instrument and control panels were situated on a raised stage like platform on the western side of the floor with steps at each end.


Through the war years The Machine Floor contained five alternators each with its associated steam engine. The biggest and most impressive of these units were also the oldest and least powerful. These were the two Bellis and Morcomb triple expansion steam engines driving a brush alternators. Standing 5 meters tall and having a black glass finish with chrome and brass attachments they dominated the interior of the Power House.  Installed in 915 as Canberra’s original power generators, they each produced 600va with an output voltage of 5.5.k whilst spinning at the slow speed of 250 RPM.  They had a steel walking platform with a brass railing ran around the top section. Side plates could be removed when the plant was shut down providing good view of the huge pistons inside the engine. These two units also had huge steel flywheels between the steam engine and the alternator.


The Brush Alternators were of an open construction with the rotors mounted on separate pedestal bearings which allowed the interior of them easily visible.  The windings on rotors, the poles and the interpoles were easily seen.  The DC Generators (Exciters) were also separate at the end of the shafts with their windings, comutators and brush gear in plain sight.


This contrasts greatly with what visitors see in a modern power station where the entire units are usually just one big metal cylinder with pipes and cables attached.


The Bellis and Morcom units generated at an output potential of 5,500 volts. These two units were the original ones installed and first went into service in 1915.


In 1947 one of the Bellis and Morcomb steam engines with its Brush alternator was sold to a timber mill in South Australia where it operated for many years.   The other unit remained in the Power House until it was sold for scrap with the rest of the equipment in the mid 1960s.


The next generating until was a British Thomspon Houston  Curtis turbo alternator (known as BTH). This machine which was installed in 1927 ran at 3000 rppm and had a generating capacity of 1500KVA.  Although the BTH looked small alongside the Bellis and Morcom machines being less than half their size it produced nearly three times the power. The BTH was the mainstay of the power station for many years.  It also had a voltage of 5.5KV.


During the war years and for some years after the BTH was run about 20 hours each day exclusive of supplying the large transmitter at Belconnen Naval Station. At times you could pick the keying of the morse code by the changes in tone of the hum of the alternator.


The other two units which were installed in 1939 had more cylindrical appearance similar to modern machines, but were not totally enclosed, their exciters being separated and the sliprings visible.  These units Brush-Ljungstrom turbo alternators ran at 3000 rpm and each produced 1500 KVA with an output voltage of 6600 volts. They were unusual machines as they consisted of two separate alternators on the same shaft with the turbine in between.  The alternators were connected by cables running under the turbine and had excitation supplied by a common generator mounted on the end of the shaft. These machines and their associated boilers were installed by and remained the property of the NWS Department of Public Works (later the NSW Electricity Commission) but were operated and maintained by the Canberra Electrical Supply.


A couple of incidents regarding the Brush-Ljungstrom units come to mind. On one occasion I was given the job of repairing damage to the connecting leads to the sliprings on one of the alternators.  The housing on which the sliprings were mounted had moved on the shaft and broken the connecting leads. The spliprings were heat shrunk onto the shaft and the connecting leads were quite substantial so it was impossible to see how this could have occurred as the only mechanical load applied to the rings by the carbon brushes was very light.


After making some inquiries I found out how this had occurred. The staff operating the steam supply to the turbines had been instructed that at the end of a shift and the machines were shut down they were to remain on site until all equipment was stationary.  The Brush-Ljungstrom turbo alternators were well balanced and heavy units spinning at  3000 rpm and would keep spinning for at least 20 minutes after the load and steam supply was disconnected.  Some member of the night shift anxious to get home in the early hours of the morning had discovered that this time could be reduced by inserting a length of timber between the steel housing and sliprings and using it as a lever to provide a braking effect.  This method apparently worked for some time until the night when he applied too much weight causing the damage.


The other incident was when an insulation breakdown occurred in the 6.6.KVT cables connecting the two alternators on one of the brush Ljungstrom units. Steve Harker and myself, a leading hand and young tradesman respectively were called in on a Saturday to repair the damage. We were required to work under this machine in a hot and confined space with years of accumulated grease, oil and carbon dust coating everything.  We finished about 5.30pm and with just half an hour left till the 6 0’clock closing we rushed straight to the Kingston Hotel without cleaning up or changing our overalls.


We arrived to find that the bar was closing early as they often did at that time because of beer shortages.  Steve was a member of the Canberra South Bowling Club and insisted that we go up there despite my protestations about our appearance. The clubhouse was crowded with bowlers dressed in creams; so these apparitions who must have looked worse that coal miners coming off ship, were given a wide berth at the bar and managed to get a very welcome beer before being firmly asked to leave.



At the southern end of the Machine Floor a wire rope came down through the rood to a level of about 5 feet from the floor. This rope operated a steam whistle that was mounted on the peak of the station rood.  This whistle came from HMAS Australia, the flagship of the Fleet in World War 1 when the ship was decommissioned in the 1920s. It could be heard all over Canberra in those times.


In the 1930s and 1940s the whistle was blown at 7.30am, 8.00am, 12 noon, 12.42pm and 5.00pm.  I think the 8.00am signal was for shift workers such as the Printing Office and that the public servants were rich enough to

…(section missing) in the late 1940s the working week was reduced to 40 hours and after that the final whistle was blown at 4.12pm instead of 5.00pm thus reducing the working day to 8 hours.


The whistle was mostly blown by the shift electrician and he would usually act on a signal given by the Station Superintendent who stood outside the door of his office which was located well down the building beyond the control of the board.  The office contained a large pendulum clock and radio; the signals that occurred on the hour were often given to coincide with the ABC time signal.


When steam operations ceased the steam whistle was replaced by one driven by compressed air. The whistle lacked the resonance of the original one but it remained in service for many years whilst the Power House Building served as the control centre for ACTEA.



The Main Control Panels and the 5.5.KV switchgear occupied the stage like area that is situated on the western side of the Machine Floor. 


The 5.5.KV switchgear was situated towards the rear of the stage like area, with a working space behind the switchgear between it and the western wall of the Power House.  The switches (oil circuit breakers) were enclosed in separate concrete chambers and were operated by steel rods that ran from the switches to operating levers mounted on the front of the control panels.  The operating rods ran close to the floor across a working space behind the panels. A wooden decking was built over these rods.  This arrangement provided plenty of protection to the operator from a switchgear fire or explosion, which was in contrast to the protection at the rear where plywood covers on the concrete enclosures were the only protection. Maybe the maintenance elect fitters were considered expendable.


Above the 5.5.Kv switches ran an exposed copper busbar system with isolating links and connections. Under the heavy loads caused by rapidly increasing demand the connections tendered to overheat.  To check on the heating of the copper bus system the station staff taped a wax candle on to a link stick (a rod made from varnished wood or other insulating material with a hook on one end to operate live high voltage connecting links) if the wax of the candle melted when it was held against the copper overheating was indicating.  Repairs would then be carried out at the first opportunity. In later years infrared camera equipment was supplied to detect hot spots on the system.


The switchboard controlled the input from the 5.5.KV alternators and several outgoing feeders. The high voltage supply to Canberra’s suburbs was at 5.5.KV in the early days. In the 1950s this reticulation was converted to 11KV which involved a working program stretching over several years for the substations section for which I was then working and for the linesmen from the mains branch.


To the front of the 5.5.KV concrete enclosed switches separating from them by a working space of about 1 meter were the metering and control panels. These panels were mounted on a solid steel frame pipe frame. The individual panes were about 1 meter wide and 1.3 meters high and made of solid slate at least 50mm thick so were very heavy. The panels were installed in pairs one above the other which gave a board about 2.6 meters high. Large bolts about 18mm in diameter with chrome heads bolted these panel onto the frame.  The front of the panels was highly polished and edges were beveled giving the board an impressive appearance.


As well as the operating handles for the 5.5KV switches the panels displayed a range of meters and indicating lamps. They also contained equipment for adjusting the excitation and power factor of the alternators, recording instruments and an alarm panel.  There was also control switches for operating the 6.6KV and 66KV switchgear that were external to the main building. Many changes and additions took place to the equipment on the panels in the 1950s and 60s and I was fortunate to be involved in most of the work.


At the southern end of the control panels, a hinged panel that could be swung into positions that made it visible from each of the steam engines and the control switches existed. It was on this panel that I first installed the first synchroscope to go into service at the station. A synchroscope is an instrument with a rotating pointer that is used for determining the correct instant to close the switch when an alternator is being connected to run in parallel with other alternators.


The speed and direction at which the pointer of a synchroscope rotates is determined by the speed of the machine that is to be connected on to the system, the closer the alternator gets to the correct speed the slower its rotation. The steam engineer would need to adjust the engine speed until the pointer was rotating very slowly and the shift electrician would close the switch when the pointer was at the 12 o’clock position.


Before the installation of the synchroscope this procedure was carried out using three lamps.  The three light globes were situated at the points of triangle and would light up in a sequence that depended on the incoming machine’s speed.  When the alternator was running close to the correct speed they would light up in sequence very slowing. The shift electrician would then have to estimate the centre of the dark period of the lamp at the apex of the triangle and close the switch at that instant.  If the timing of the closing of the switch (circuit breaker) connecting the incoming alternator to the system was not very close to synchronism, a surge of current would occur tripping the circuit breaker and the whole procedure would have to be repeated.


The lamps were used for this synchronising were old carob filament lamps similar to those first used by Thomas Edison. These lamps were very robust electrically and could take the rapid switching on and off much better than tungsten filaments and had a much longer operating life but were quiet insufficient for illumination.


This leads me to a story that has nothing to do with Kingston but is topical these days when we are being encouraged to replace our tungsten filament lamps with more efficient types. I was a visitor at my good mate Bert (Bomber) Brown’s father in law’s house in Sydney back in the 50s.  Whilst sitting in his fairly gloomy lounge room the old chap started to rave on about how they don’t make light globes like they used to and that he had some lamps that had lasted for years and years and pointed at the ceiling. Looking up I saw a big old carbon filament lamp hanging on the end of a light cord. He was obviously so proud of his lamps I wasn’t going to tell him t hat he was using about three times the energy to get about one third of the illumination.


In the centre of the rear (Eastern) side of the Machine Hall, a door led to several steps giving access to the Boiler Room which ran the full length of the building. The Boiler Room contained six coal fired Babcock and Wilcox boilers that were fed by chain grate stokers.  The coal was picked up by the chain conveyor system from a hopper at the northern end of the station which could be filled straight from the railway trucks. This system which required very little manual handling of the coal was considered very state of the art in the early years of the Power House operation.


At the rear of the Boiler Room a door led into a gloomy low roofed area with many rows of cast iron dome shaped lids covering holes in the floor. This room was known as the Economiser room, was a hot smoky and unpleasant place but as it contained very little electrical equipment I didn’t have to enter it very often.  This room used the heat from the furnaces to provide extra heat to the steam from the boilers.


After the station was shut down and all the equipment removed this area was used as a mechanical workshop by ACTEA. This workshop mainly carried out repairs to the Authority trenching and earth moving equipment.


On the ground floor below the turbines there were large steel tanks separated by thick concrete walls. These tanks formed the condensers into which the steam was dissipated after the use in the steam engines.  The remainder of the ground floor consisted of some storerooms and an area where equipment could be loaded and unloaded using the crane from the Machine Floor above.


At the northern end of the ground floor a large pit about 5 meters deeps contained electrically driven pumping equipment for pumping water for the boiler from the river. At the western side of the ground floor an area of about 1.5 meters lower than the main floor was fenced off by heavy steel mesh with a locked gate. This area was known colloquially as the Dungeon.


The Dungeon contained a variety of equipment which included a bank of cast iron resisters which were part of the station’s earthing system and a number of oil filled lighting surge arrestors situated along the western wall.  These arrestors which were connected via a spark gap to the outgoing 5.5.KV feeders had to be changed daily. This was done by the shift electrician pulling on a chain which operated an insulated rod closing the gap. This procedure created spectacular arcing within the gloomy dungeon.


The dungeon also contained two fairly large coolant filled capacitors for power factor correction of the stations 415 volt system. These capacitors also had old carbon filled filament lamps connected to them which acted as pilot lamps and as a discharge circuit.


Myself and others carried out repairs on the capacitors which involved dipping our hands into the coolant. It wasn’t till years later when they were being taken out of service that we discovered that the coolant was not transformer oil, a substance we handled on a regular basis, but that it askarei that consists mainly of deadly PBC. Luckily none of us seem to have suffered any ill affects.


About 15 meters from the western side of the main building was a small brick building which housed the 6.6.KV switchboard.


The 6.6.KV switchboard consisted of a row of 7, metal clad Westinghouse truck switches with solenoid operation. They were connected to the two Brush-Ljungstrom Alternators, the incoming grid supply and some outgoing feeders.


This building also contained a bank of batteries with a trickle charger to supply 120 volt control and indication for the station. A motor generator set supplied booster charging when required.


There was also a panel of bulk metering and protection equipment which was the property of the NSW Dept of public work  (later the NSW Elect Comm). This provided metering of the power received from NSW and protection for the 66KV to 6.6.KV main supply transformers and the incoming 66KV lines which were also their property.


In the early 1950s the usage of electricity worldwide increased rapidly and this put a lot of pressure on existing installations and created long waiting lists for new equipment from manufacturers. The 6.6.KV switchgear at the station was a typical example of this, suffering overheating from the heavy loads encountered at the time. The small hours of the morning were the only time when it was possible to take a switch out of the system for maintenance and I have many recollections of either Bill Austwick or Arthur Searson knocking on my bedroom window and calling me in to the station.  Bill and Arthur were doing most of the system switching at this time and when they needed an electrical fitter at this hour, they would call on Bert Brown and or myself as we both lived nearby in Kingston.


One switch in particular was badly overloaded and we even went to the length of cutting a hole in the top of its steel cubicle and fitting and exhaust fan and having another fan blowing onto the front of it to help keep it cool.


A small door led out of the western side of the 6.6.VK room into the switchyard. The Switchyard covered a fairly large area and was surrounded by a high chain wire fence with barbed wire on the top.


The switch yard, later known as the Kingston Zone Substation, consisted of high steel framework built with a square box sections of heavy gauge angle iron supporting overhead copper bus bars and isolating switches. The concrete floor contained a mismatch of switchgear, transformers and other equipment that had been installed piecemeal over many years.  The busbars around the yard consisted of 66VK, 11VK, 6.6.VK and 5.5VK systems which could be very confusing for the uninitiated and it all gave the yard a scary appearance.


Steve Harker, Harry Ryan and other old hands who were there at the time were fond of telling the tale of an incident that occurred in the late 30s when work was still very scarce from the depression. The steelwork in the switchyard was showing signs of rust and the electrical staff were given the job of repainting it.  The Painters Union heard about this and demanded that this work for their members and were awarded the job.  A few days later the painters arrived on site and unloaded ladders, paint pots and other gear from the truck.  They then asked for the yard to be switched off so they could commence work.  It was then explained to them that it was out of the question to switch off the yard as there was no other way of supplying Canberra and that the painting would have to be carried out with the yard energized.  They immediately put their gear back on the truck and cleared out leaving the electrical staff to finish the painting without further complaints.


Despite the fact that the switchboard was a piecemeal arrangement with a lot of exposed high voltage conductors and terminals many of which were fairly low, I have no knowledge of any fatalities occurring there. A bad accident did occur there in the late 1940s when Electrical Fitter, Mick Gallagher and Alf Farrer were doing a wiring job  in the centre of the yard. Mick served in the RAAF during the war and Alf had served for many years in the Navy including the war years.


The accident occurred when a length of steel conduit being handled by Alf came in contact with a live 11KV terminal on the transformer. Mick didn’t  panic and realizing that the resulting arcing would soon bring others to the scene stayed with Alf and applied resuscitation. Alf survived but spent many months in hospital with burns to his hands and terrible burns to his back that was in contact with the earthed steel railing. Alf returned to work in the Power House as a shift electrician until his retirement many years later.


The electricity supply feeding into the switchyard consisted of the output from the 5.5.KV and 6.6.Kv Power Station alternators and from two 66KV transmission lines from the NSW system. One line came from Burrinjuck Dam and the other from Goulburn this line connected through Port Kembla.  Another 66KV line went from the switchyard to Captains Flat  These three transmission lines were suspended by high twin wooden poles and came across the river flats from the Duntroon direction.


The 66KV transmission lines terminated at the top of the steel framework of the switchyard and then fed down through isolating links and long liquid fuses.  These fuses were about 1.5 meters long with solid glass tube containing the arc quenching liquid surrounding the fuse element.  Removing and replacing these fuses and opening and closing the 66KV isolating links that were mounted high up was a test of strength and coordination for the operator.


Standing on a small portable platform about 1.5 meters high and wearing thick rubber gloves he would have to carry out the operation using a long wooden link stick with a 10mm steel pin on the top end. This pin had to be maneuvered into a ring on the fuse or link about 40mm in diameter. The length of the link stick caused them to bend considerably when being used and they were also fitted with a copper cone about 2 meters up with a cable connecting it to earth to provide extra protection for the operator.


The fuses were taken out of service and replaced by circuit breakers circa 1950 but the isolating links remained.


When I first became involved in the working of the yard the main transformer capacity consisted of 1 X 7500kav transformer and 1 x 5000 kava transformer the 7500kva was of Australian General Electric manufacture whilst the 5000kva was of Compton Parkinson manufacture.  Those transformers stepped up the voltage regulation.


The 7500 kva transformer had been in service for at least 4 years when around 1950 the NSW Department that owned  it decided to have a Buchholz gas detection relay fitted to it. This is a device that collects gas generated within the oil filled tank of the transformer and rings an alarm after a certain amount is collected. It will also trip the circuit breakers and isolate the transformer if there is a sudden rush to gas into the relay.


After the Buchholz relay had been in service for about one day it gave an alarm signal and it was assumed that this was caused by air trapped in the tank during installation so this gas was bled off without any concern.  When the alarm repeated itself for several more days it became obvious that something was causing gas generation inside the transformer tank.


The transformer was taken out of service and a solid wood fame built over it so that hoists could be hung from it to lift the heavy lid. Several hundred gallons of oil were drained off, the terminals  disconnected, holding bolts removed and the lid raised about 40cms. The leads connecting 66VK supply were extended to allow energisation of transformer.


There was quite a gathering of engineers from NSW and the ACT present for the switching on of the transformer.  After it had been energized a senior engineer from Goulburn, It thin his name was Ogle, climbed up the latter and stuck his head under the lid of the transformer(I recall thinking rather him than me).  After about one minute he shouted, ‘switch off I can see arcing.’


Then came the job of finding out what caused the arcing inside the transformer.  To do this the core of the unit which weighed many tons, needed to be removed from the tank.  To achieve this the transformer was dragged on its small steel wheels along sheets of steel at least 2.5cms thick into the Power House under the hoist.  This involved the use of winches and a large Caterpillar Tractor, the door into the Power House also had to be enlarged.


When the core was raised the cause of this trouble was soon discovered. A very large nut at least 9cms across was found sitting on the steel core allowing eddy currents to flow between the steel laminations. This nut had probably been there since manufacture. After the nut which was badly pitted, was removed and a small hole in the laminated steels cleaned up and varnished the whole procedure was reversed and the transformer returned to service for a few more years.


I could not help thinking when this unit went out of service that it probably would have finished its time with the nut still in it and no one would have been concerned if the Buchholz Relay had not been installed.


In 1953 the 5,000kva and 7,500kva transformers were replaced by 1 x 10,000kva transformers of English Electric Manufacture. These transformers had a voltage ratio of 66,000 to 11,000 volts and this changed the main supply voltage of the yard from 6.6kv to 11kv. I was heavily involved in the installation of these units and was given the job of installing the control system by Bob Kelly who was Sub Station  Branch Supervisor. This proved to be a very interesting and enjoyable exercise.


The transformers had been originally intended for use by the Sydney County Council but had been diverted to Canberra due to the rapid load increase here and the control cabinets supplied with them were designed and built the SCC.  Wiring diagrams of the transformers and the control cabinets were supplied but no interconnecting diagrams of overall schematic diagrams were available. Working out the necessary interconnections and drawing up my own schematic diagrams was a great experience for a young Electrical Fitter.


These two units remained in service until 1957 when one of them was removed and two 15,000kva English Electric Transformers were installed.  The remaining 10,000kva transformer was replaced by a 150,000kva transformer of Tyree manufacture in 1961.  In 1965 another similar Tyree transformer was added and fans were fitted to them which increased their capacity to 19,000kva. I was heavily involved in the installation and commissioning of all these units.


In 1959 the NSW Electricity Authority handed over the yard and the equipment to the Canberra Electricity Supply. By then the NSW Authority had established a 132kv/66kv sub station at Oaks Estate and this became their main supply point and two 66kv transmission lines ran from there to Kingston.  The outgoing line to Captains Flat then ran from Oaks Estate but the line from Goulburn remained.


The Kingston  Zone Substation which was the Power House Yard became, served as the sole source of power supply for Canberra until a 66kv/11kv substation known as North Ainslie Zone Substation was commissioned in 1961.  This substation which was situated on the corner of Officer Cres and Majura Ave was commissioned in 1961.  It was decommissioned and removed in 1979 when the 132kv/11kv City East Substation on the foothills of Mount Ainslie went into service.


In 1974 a 66kv/11kv 19,000kva transformer of Tyree manufacture was removed from North Ainslie and installed at Kingston Zone Substation. This unit was mainly used as a standby for other transformers.


A brick building with a large cable tunnel beneath its concrete floor was built at the western end of the switchyard in the late 1940s as a switchroom. This building which was still standing, remained unused until 1960 and during t his time it became a venue for a form of indoor cricket and many other activities. This naturally without the knowledge or approval of the management.


An 11 KV switchboard with Westinghouse truck oil circuit breakers was installed in the building in 1960 and the building was then known as the 11kv Switchroom. This allowed relocation of the outgoing feeders and removal of the cubicles scattered around the yard. This resulted in the substation looking much less cluttered and resulted in the removal of the low down exposed 11kv terminals.


The 11kv switchboard was later extended to take additional feeders, these 11kv circuit breakers and the 66kv circuit breakers and transformers etc were all monitored and controlled from the control room in the Power House building.


The Kingston Zone Substation remained in service until the mid 1980s supplying most of the inner South Canberra area including the Parliamentary Triangle until it was replaced by the adjacent 132kv/11kv Telopea Park Zone Substation. I remember having the honour of being one of a very small group invited to witness its final decommissioning where the Operating Engineer Trevor Domaschenz carried out the switching which ended the supply of electricity from the Power House Complex.


The area where the zone substation once stood is now sealed over and has become a car park for the Glass Works.










Trades & Labour Day Picnics

I came to Canberra with my parents in 1941 just before my fourth birthday. We lived at Westlake (Now in the area of Section 22 Stirling Park, Yarralumla.  There were several important days in the lives of children in the temporary suburbs - Children's Christmas Party - run by parents in the hall - Santa arrived and gave every child a present; Bon Fire Night - community bon fires on Empire Day - later Commonwealth Day; and the Trades & Labour Picnic held at the Cotter.  The trucks would arrive and we children we loaded on the back - sat on low benches - and off for a day of fun that included free ice-cream and a bag of lollies.  This was still the era when many children went to school without shoes - rationing and in the war years - many fathers away at war.  The following articles are a few from the beginning through the 1940s.

The Canberra Times 19 November 1938

Labour Picnic

At Cotter in January

The Canberra Trades and Labour council will hold its first annual picnic at the Cotter River on the Sunday prior to Anniversary Day, January 22. A ball will be held on Saturday evening January 21.

It is intended to make the picnic one of the most attractive outdoor events of the year, and preparations will be made to cope with a crowd of at least 1,500 persons.

Children will be admitted free, and a nominal charge will be made for adults.


The Canberra Times 30 December 1939


Organising Canberra Outing

The Canberra Trades and Labour Council is planning for a record gathering at the second annual picnic to be held at the Cotter River Picnic Grounds on Sunday, January 28.

A programme of sports events for young and old has been arranged and in this respect the Council acknowledges the support of business firms which have made donations and provided trophies for the contests.

Motor truck owners have also co-operated with the organisers of the picnic, and arrangements have been made to pick up passengers at Manuka, Westridge, Westlake, Ainslie and Civic Centre.

It is anticipated that a picnic will be officially opened by Mr D Watkins MHR. Adults will be charged 1/- for admission to the grounds but children will be admitted free of charge.

The programme of sporting events will comprise three sections of tug-o-war teams, races for men and women, teams relay race for members of affiliated unions, throwing at wicket, rope, quoits, sack races, truck drivers’ races, and a number of contests for children. In addition each child will receive an ice cream, and a bag of lollies.  Hot water will be available.


The Canberra Times 19 January 1940


Canberra’s Annual Outing

The picnic committee of the Canberra Trades and Labour council has allotted the trophies for the various sporting events to be held at the annual picnic at Cotter River on Sunday January 28.

Many fine trophies have been donated and these are on display at Freebody’s Sports Depot Kingston. It was decided to include in the programme a 100 yards open foot race for members of the Defence Forces (Naval, Military and Air units).

Unless three teams nominate for the ladies’ tug-o-war the event will be cancelled.

Transport arrangements will be completed early next week, and the public will be notified regarding the pick-up depots and times of departure through the columns of this paper.


The Canberra Times 27 January 1941



Granted fine weather the Trades and Labour Council’s carnival at the Manuka Oval to-day should be a success.  It is expected that more than 3,000 people will attend. More than 3000 unionists will march from the Canberra Railway station to the Manuka Oval. The march is scheduled to commence at 9.30am.

The Manuka Oval during the week-end presented a hive of activity. Marquees have been erected around the ground and a merry-go-round has been installed for the younger generation. Many families are making the day a picnic one and hot water will be provided free. Races for women and children will take up the morning, while in the afternoon the pedestrian events which have aroused considerable interest will be decided. At night, a dance will be held in the Albert Hall.


The Canberra Times 7 September 1945


At its general meeting on Wednesday last the ACT Trades and Labour Council decided to advise all affiliated unions to lodge a claim to the Industrial Board for an annual picnic day.

It was felt that the time had arrived when Canberra Unions should fall in line with the States in having a day set apart as Labour Day. If a public holiday was proclaimed for the day Council is confident that an annual picnic and sports programme could be promoted that would be worthy of the Federal Capital city of Australia.


The Canberra Times 6 March 1946


The ACT Trades and Labour Council has taken every step to guard against mishap at its fourth annual picnic which will be held at the Cotter River to-day, and which is the first trades union picnic holiday given under ACT Industrial Awards.

A special marquee has been provided for mothers with babies and a child welfare nurse will be in attendance. St John ambulance tents will be established at the swimming pool and in the main picnic grounds, and there will a patrol of the river, while watch tower has been provided at the swimming pool.

The picnic will be officially opened by the President of the Council (Mr SR Rhodes) who last night received a message from Mr Bert Kelly a former treasurer of the Council new in New Guinea, wishing the picnic every success.

All tickets for the special buses have been sold out necessitating restriction of travel to ticket holders, but the Council has arranged for private trucks to supplement transport arrangements. The special buses will move off from Kingston and Ainslie at 9.30.

No food will be on sale at the picnic grounds, but there will be a supply of boiling water at the picnic ground and the swimming pool.


The Canberra Times 6 March 1947


More than 5,000 attended the annual picnic at the Canberra Trades and Labour Council yesterday. It was the most successful function yet held.

The secretary of the Council (Mr BJ Blumenthal) said last night that he was pleased with the result and paid tribute to the Departments of the Interior and Works and Housing, whose efforts helped to make the picnic a success.

From early morning cars and lorries co-opted to carry the crowds to the scene of the picnic at the Cotter. Men, women and children clambered aboard buses, while elderly people and very young children filled the three special buses which were provided.

At the picnic area special squads of men patrolled from the dam to the swimming pool in case of accident, but no casualties were reported.

All members of unions covered by Industrial Board awards enjoyed a holiday and only essential services were maintained in Canberra. Shops were closed for the day.

The crowd at the picnic reserve extended from the dam to well past the kiosk.

Highlight of the day was an unclaimed prize – a pair of silk stockings. Officials did not know the prize winner and no claim was made.

The President of the Council (Mr SR Rhodes) said it was wish of the Council that the day should be a successful one. He expressed the desire that unity should be the keynote of success.

‘In recent years many changes have taken place in our working conditions. Many changes are coming and we hope that the day of the industrial worker is about t o dawn,’ said Mr Rhodes.

He added that another great step forward would be the introduction of the 40 hour week.

Results were:

·         25 yards girls under 4: S Bennett 1, P Harker 2

o    Boys: David Lette 1, Tony Kevans 2

·         Girls 4-6 years: baby Hartley 1, Barbara Brinkman 2    

o    Boys: Colin Smith 1, D Higgins 2

·         Girls 6-8 years: Diana Lewis 1 Norma Campbell 2

·         Boys: Denis Kevans 1, Frank Gellately 2

·         100 Yards Men’s Open (KB Cup) M Evans 1, L Thomas 2, L Ingersoll 3

·         Ladies Open 100 Yards (Ladd & Pitt Trophy); Lila Williams 1, M Boreham 2, H Beazley 3

·         Married women 30 & Under (Winn Trophy), Mrs Ealdwin q, Mrs Tormey 2, Mrs Thomas 3

·         30-40 (Westcott Hazel Trophy), Mrs Fisher 1, Mrs Kevans 2, Mrs Stewart 3

·         Over 40 (Chandler’s Trophy)’ Mrs Petty 1, Mrs Lette 1, Mrs Humphries 3

·         Truck drivers, 30 and under (Flag Ale Cup); D Moore 1, S Emblem 2

·         Over 30 (PP Cox Trophy); A Sykes 1, F Smith 2

·         Single Ladies under 21 (Anthony Horden’s Trophy); E de Smet 1, B Keeley 2, J Maxwell 3.

·         60 yards old buffers: C Southwell 1, K O’Reilly 2.

·         Teams relay race (Civic Cup); Electrical Trades 1, Engineers 2, Plumbers 3

·         Delegates to Council (Angus and Coote Cup), C Fisher 1, J Grahame 2.

·         Tug-o-war (2CA Trophy); Transport Workers Union 1

·         Throwing at Wicket: P Quigg.

·         Quoits: J Sutton

·         Three-legged race, ladies (T Rowe and R Bain Trophies); Mr Kevans and Mrs Gourlay 1, Mrs. Humphries and Mrs Lette 2

·         Under 30 (Lustre Trophy); Miss Scott and Miss Kent 1, Mrs Boreham and Miss Hudson 2.

·         Gents: Gowie and Grahame 1, Blandon and Hawke 2.

·         Under 30; Pearson and Scarlett 1, Seeley and Blandon 2.

·         Sack Race Ladies: L Keeley 1, Z Williams 1

·         Girls under 14: J Lette 1, A Devlin 2

·         Men: J Hawke 1, P Harman 2

·         14-16 girls (Beth Gorman Trophy) Z Williams 1, J Scott 2, A Keeley 3

·         Boys under 14: McCullough 1, Fisher 2

·         14-16 boys sprint (Scott Cup): R Southwell 1, J Parker 2.


The Canberra Times 2 March 1948


The annual picnic Of the Canberra Trades and labour Council will be held at the Cotter Reserve to-morrow. More than 2,500 members of unions, under the jurisdiction of the ACT Industrial Board have been granted a public holiday for the occasion. Trucks from all suburbs will operated between 9am and 10.30am to convey members and their families to the Cotter where a sporting programme has been arranged.

The annual picnic day has been incorporated in awards governed by the Industrial Board. More than 300 shop assistances are covered by the award.


The Canberra Times 3 March 1949


A record crowd estimated at 7,000 attended the annual picnic conducted at the Cotter yesterday, by the Trades and Labour Council and which was favoured by ideal weather.

Despite the record crowd, supplied of free cool drinks and lollies were not exhausted, while the ice cream did not run out until the last hour.

The main events on the programme resulted:-

·         Open 100 yards, R Southwell

·         Ladies open 100 yards, Mrs Solway

·         Married Ladies under 30 75 yards, Mrs Baldwin

·         Married Ladies under 40 50 yards, Mrs Fisher

·         Married Ladies over 40 50 yards, Mrs Lette

·         Al Bearse Trophy for Apprentices, 100 yards, R Southwell

·         Truck drivers under 20 100 yards, B Cain

·         Truck drivers over 30 100 yards, P Quigg

·         Single Ladies under 21, 100 yards, M McGovern

·         ‘Old Buffers’ race, C Southwell

·         Affiliated Unions’ relay, Transport Workers Union

·         Delegates to Council 75 yards, M Gallagher

·         Tug-o-war, Transport Workers Union.

Council will urge the Department of the Interior to order an inspection of the Cotter River with a view to removing broken bottles from shallow water.

The secretary (Mr S Blumenthal) said last night that to his knowledge no cuts were caused by broken bottles in the swimming pool, but other swimming holes along the river were mainly shallow and broken bottles could be removed.

St John Ambulance officials attended 38 persons during the day. The low number of casualties was surprising. Last year 50 persons were treated.

A woman suffered a fractured wrist and abrasions when she fell during a running race. She was treated at the Canberra Hospital and allowed to leave.

Two women competitors collapsed through exhaustion.


Mr Holt asked in the House of Representatives today if the Government would examine the allocation of 60 to 70 trucks and departmental buses to holiday makers for the Canberra Trades and Labour Council picnic at Cotter Dam yesterday.

Replying, the Minister for Post War Reconstruction (Mr Dedman) said that workers were as much entitled to transport as members of Parliament. He said he would refer the question to the Minister for Fuel. (Senator Ashley)




JB Young Pty Ltd Kingston, Canberra

JB Young's was one of Canberra's well known stores.  They have all gone.  JB Young, looked after his staff and they had picnic days etc. Two houses in Tench Street, Kingston, were provided for his manager and ?.  JB Young, who was trading in Queanbeyan before Canberra, bought the first lease of land at Eastlake (later renamed Kingston).  Whether it was Hayes & Russell or JB Young who built the first store at Kingston is a matter of contention.   Brendan O'Keefe in the Canberra Historical Journal New Series No 62, October 2009 wrote an article - An Architect of the 1920s James Wallace Sproule in which he notes that Sproule was the architect who designed the Kingston Store of JB Young and that it was built by John Howie & Son whose men lived in Howie's Cottages at Westlake (Block 3, Section 128 Stirling Park Yarralumla).  He notes that the development application was submitted on 7 April 1925 and that the store opened on 10 Decmber 1925.

The Canberra Times 11 November 1939



In every town of appreciable size there seems to be one business enterprise that is outstanding as an organisation founded on a policy of community service, square dealing and reliability. It is not surprising therefore, to find in Canberra and Queanbeyan, such an undertaking in the firm of JB Young Pty Limited, conducting a large trade throughout the district, housed in extensive and imposing premises and enjoying a tradition of over 25 years trading.

Messrs JB Young Pty Ltd’s stores have gained remarkable popularity under the competent guidance and directorship of Mr HG Colman and through their sound methods of trading the organisation has grown and flourished until to-day it is the foremost general business in the Canberra and Queanbeyan districts.

JB Young Pty’s premises are situated prominently in Civic Centre, Kingston and Queanbeyan. The phone numbers are Canberra 525, and Queanbeyan 25 or 174; and JB Young Pty Ltd Canberra is sufficient address.

These stores carry an extensive stock of every conceivable necessity in town and country life. Every department shows a wealth of find products from leading manufacturers, including grocery, electrical goods, hardware, ironmongery, garden requisites, dress goods and ladies’ wear, cosmetics, children’s wear, men and boy’s wear and the myriad of items which go to make up the stocks of to-day’s modern departmental store.

This company commenced business in Queanbeyan in 1914, having purchased one of the oldest businesses in the Monaro district. At the first auction sale of leases at Canberra in 1924, the company purchased the first block offered, on which they subsequently erected the Kingston store premises. These premises were greatly enlarged about five years ago to meet the steadily increasing trade, and to-day are most up to date in every respect.

The branch at City, Canberra was commenced about seven years ago in a very small way and has a most active and improving trade.

The company enjoys the confidence and respect of the community and it should be a satisfaction to the residents of Canberra and Queanbeyan and the surrounding districts that they have such fine stores as JB Young Pty Limited – ‘The Live Firm’ in which to conduct their shopping and they are well worthy of the utmost patrionage.


Christmas 1941

The Canberra Times 25 December 1941



Christmas Eve in Canberra reflected the spirit of the times: there was moderation in festivities, in buying and in travel. Everywhere the slogan was, ‘There’s a war on and we can take it.’

As shops and offices began to close late in the afternoon the crowds in the streets increased proportionately. A few more cars than have been seen about lately, made their appearance in the streets and along the roads on the small rationing of petrol which they apparently saved for the occasion.

Trade in the various shops of Civic Centre and Kingston was as brisk as in former years. This is accounted for by two facts.  Although shoppers are spending money on luxuries more shoppers are actually spending money in Canberra because of their inability to leave the ACT through holiday restrictions.

Grocery stores reported that trade kept up an even t...(blurred) throughout.


Owing to the reductions in staff due to military service, few stores were able to deliver goods yesterday. Men have been replaced by young women in various stores ‘with good effect’ managers report, except of course where heavy bags and boxes have to be moved. Under the Industrial Award women taking the place of men receive equal pay.

‘Staff problems give me a real headache,’ one store manager said. ‘And the future looks black but the girls who have replaced the man are doing good work.’

Children’s needs have not been overlooked during the second of war Christmases. Most toys are of Australian make and although there is not the same variety as used to come from overseas. War toys such as aeroplanes, tanks and soldiers were in demand by boys, while painting books and dolls were popular gifts for girls.

Butchers, bakers and grocers have found it expeditious over the last few weeks of petrol rationing to combine their service to outlying districts. Places as far afield as Belconnen have had as much as a daily delivery.

In haberdashery and Manchester stores, Christmas gifts had taken a practical turn, even tea-towel’s serving as presents. Gift boxes of stationary were more popular than in previous years, while inquiries for books showed an increase. Where people have not been able to purchase the gifts they desire they have willingly turned to other lines.

‘This is the worst Christmas ever,’ said the owner of one garage, ‘ but we are patriotic and can take it. I notice that everyone is saying, ‘Have as merry a Christmas as possible.’ Most of the motorists will be staying at home this holiday season.’

Rush hours for the bus service in Canberra were at lunch time and after 5pm when there was hardly standing room on buses going to the shopping centres. For the Melbourne and Sydney trains, buses were again jammed to capacity at 8pm.

The Canberra railway station was so busy yesterday that it was practically impossible to communicate by telephone. Both second and first-class seats were booked out to Sydney so that extra carriages had to be attached to the trains.


1942 Big Bertha [German gun] moved


The Canberra Times 11 September 1942


Canberra’s Landmark

The big gun, which has been a well-known Canberra landmark for the last twenty years, is being dismantled with a view to sending the carriage and mountings elsewhere for temporary defence purposes.

It is understood that, the parts to be removed will later be returned and the gun reassembled.  The gun, which was a familiar sight with its camouflage painting, was situated close to the Canberra railway station. It was a German 28cm railway gun captured by the Australian Corps in August 1918 near Harbonnieres France.

It was brought to Sydney where it remained for a period, after which it was transported to Molonglo. Later it was installed in the position that it had occupied until this week.

In order to effectively dismantle the gun, a short railway line was put down to shunt it to a siding where the special railway crane, due to arrive from Sydney to-day will be used to accomplish the dismantling of the barrel.


1942 Trenches at Hospital

The following article has information about proposed trenches at the hospital and other war time needs.  I recall that at Telopea Park School we had air raid drill - the power house whistle would blow and we were marched down to the trenches.  Aerial photographs in the Australian National Archives show views of some of the trenches in Canberra.  We also had communal trenches at Westlake and in our back yard we an air raid 'bunker'.  During the war the street signs were removed and petrol rationing was in place. Dad had the headlights covered with a metal 'ask' which allowed a thin stream of light to show. To travel out from the territory I believe - people had to obtain permits?

The Canberra Times 28 February 1942



Total was means total protection declared Mr J Muir at a meeting of the Canberra Hospital Board yesterday.

Mr Muir was speaking in reference to Dr Nott’s request for trenches for patients at the hospital. He said that he had asked the Chairman of the Board last week to call a special meeting when Senator Collings had first raised the question of the hospital getting priority but that he had remain until yesterday to express his opinion.

‘I appreciate Dr Nott’s interest in the patients,’ Mr Muir continued, ‘but it is an anomaly that Dr Nott has been urging the Minister to supply trenches. My views are in opposition to both those of the Minister and of the Superintendent and I resent the fact that Dr Nott was urging his views while I could not express mine.’

It was moved and carried that no information on matters of policy he made by any member of the hospital staff except with the approval of the chairman.

Dr Nott, who was called into the Board’s meeting, said that he felt that the safeguarding of patients in times of emergency was essentially his responsibility.

He added that he had hoped for a special meeting of the Board long ago and had tried to contact the chairman several times. He pointed out that all the staff, through continued practice knew their posts for duty but there were still no trenches.

Describing the kind of trenches which he had discussed on Thursday with an expert from the Department of the Interior, Dr Nott said that they would have exits, higher levels for patients to recline on and lower ones for nurses to work in. He wanted to see netting on top for camouflage.

Declaring that he had consistently waged war against trenches Mr Muir said that the staff required rest and sleep and that he wanted to see deep shelters for that purpose and for sick patients.  He then explained that there was a well drained limestone area near the obstetric ward.

It was decided that the Chairman should contract the Minister for the Interior and the ARP authorities and demand that trenches be made immediately, the deep underground shelters be commenced and the Acton House, as well as the hospital roofs be camouflaged.



The Commonwealth Government has prohibited formation of any unauthorised enemy raid precautions organisations.

 National Security Regulations ...(?) yesterday prohibit any member of an organisation which has not governmental approval from taking any measures for enemy raids pre...(?)

The regulations do not however, apply to enemy raids precautions organisations consisting substantially of employees formed by any State or Commonwealth undertaking or any company or firm.


The NRMA technical department explains that when in the fitting of headlamp masks, he bulb is removed out of focus, better diffusion is achieved. If properly fitted the approved headlight mask projects all the rays to the ground at a distance of 10 feet and provides illumination sufficient for the restricted speed of 20 mph. It is important that the rays do not strike the ground nearer the car than 10 feet.

In adjusting the masks make sure the slots are parallel with the floor and that the height of the light when projected upon a vertical surface 25 in front of the car is less than the height of the upper slot from the floor. Thus properly adjusted there will be no glare at the eye level of an approaching driver.


YWCA & YMCA Accommodation for service women and men

The Canberra Times 30 July 1942



War Cabinet Approves

Special facilities for the accommodation and entertainment of service personnel in Canberra will be provided almost immediately.

War Cabinet yesterday approved of proposals submitted by services’ Ministers but detailed arrangements have yet to be made.

The Prime Minister (Mr Curtin) said that the facilities would include a hostel for women personnel, extension of the Canberra Services Hut and accommodation for Red Cross and other voluntary workers.

Mr Curtin said that Cabinet had approved the proposal subject to priority being given to the accommodation of governmental administrative staffs in Canberra.

The Canberra Times 8 November 1943


The president of the Canberra YWCA (Mrs CC Dawson) and the general secretary (Miss M Jones) reported on their return from Sydney on Saturday that the National YWCA Conference held in Sydney last week was one of the most successful yet held and was attended by 50 delegates from all associations throughout Australia.

Business included reports on the war service  work, trends in work among civilians, decentralisation of national work and opening of new work, recruiting personnel, training of staff members, finances, rehabilitation and reconstruction, international and religious education.

Social occasions, which provided delightful breaks in the serious work on conference were a luncheon at Admiralty House, when Her Excellency, the Lady Gowrie, welcomed the delegates and officially opened the conference; afternoon tea at State Government House as the guests of Lady Wakehurst; an afternoon by Lady Reading to interstate delegates at the Royal golf Club and a luncheon by the Sydney Board of Directors when Professor M Tasman-Lovell was the guest speaker on ‘The Voluntary Organisations in Reconstructin.’

Devotions preceding each morning’s  session, were taken by Miss Camillia Wedgwood principal of the Sydney University Women’s College.

The report of the National general secretary  (Miss Winifred Carruthers) outlined the growth of the YWCA in Australia since 1941, and showed the extension of work into 20 new towns and cities where four holiday houses, 26 leave houses for Service women and nine hostels for munition workers had been opened.

Leisure-time activities had been greatly increased and diversified.

New types of work included:

·         A community centre administered by YWCA at Mildura

·         Open house in special buildings with canteens, lounges, dance halls in Melbourne and Adelaide.

·         Recreation activities in all associations for Service women as well as civilians.

·         Service women’s clubs, with canteens, lounges, toilets, in Sydney, Melbourne an Perth

·         An officers’ club in Melbourne.

·         A down town club for civilian women and girls in Melbourne.

Thirteen training courses had been held in different States to prepare staff and voluntary workers in connection with the above activities which involved the services of many hundreds of women.

Beyond Australia the YWCA secretaries were serving in Great Britain, India, Canada, New Zealand and for special war work in Egypt, Palestine, Libya, Iraq and iran.

YWCA war service personnel in Australia included a commissioner, six assistant commissioners, 50 representatives in camps and three supervisors for housing of munition workers.

Officers of the Services attended conference sessions and expressed their thanks for service that has already been rendered and outlining further opportunities for the Association.

Tribute was paid to the Australian Comforts Fund, through which the YWCA Service work in finaced.

The closing devotional service led by Mrs FC Kumm, president of Melbourne YWCA was a challenge to all delegates for future undertakings.

Members of the Canberra Board of Directors will have the opportunity of hearing at first hand of the deliberations of the Conference when Her Excellency, the Lady Gowrie will be present at a special meeting this afternoon at 3pm to welcome Mrs FC Kumm.


The Canberra Times 18 August 1944


Increased Work Due to War Conditions

The report submitted to the annual meeting of the YWCA last night disclosed that a building fund for the establishment of a girls’ hostel, adjacent to the present building, had been set up to be implemented by special efforts.

The report continued that the establishment of a hostel would bring Canberra into line with the State capital cities, and provide for girls who accepted Canberra positions away from their home environments.

The 15th year of YWCA activities in Canberra had been heavy owing to war conditions, the report disclosed.  Post war work would increase the work of the YWCA, a work which members were keen to participate in in the hope of a better world.

Leave House accommodated 7,550 servicewomen and 10,970 meals were served in for the year.  In spite of the additional accommodation provided the waiting list was lengthy. The weekly average attendance at the YY Hospitality Centres was 550 and approximately 60 helpers assisted each week.

The library had a monthly circulation of 250 books from a stock of 250 books in the general library and 147 in the Grant Library. The use of the buildings by organisations for meetings had been continued and a reputation as a community centre established.

In addition to a summary of activities presented by Miss Jones, members of clubs and sports teams under YWCA presented reports.

Speaking on the report which was adopted Mr A Percival said that the activities of the Canberra YWCA covered a spacious field and had experienced a satisfactory year.

Mr EW Parsons said that the balance sheet showed an increase in revenue and a decrease in expenditure.  The careful management of the Association augured well for the future and was a tribute to the zeal of the officers.

Mrs A Percival was re-elected president.  Mesdames I Baird, K Binns, D Israel, NT Jonson and JB Murray were re-elected to the Board of Directors and Mesdames W Battley and AR Townsend added.  Committees were re-elected with the addition of Mesdames Garratt (House Committee), Biar (Personnel), Raggatt (Leave House) and FR Wilkins (Library).

The National President (Mrs GL Pott) who was welcomed by Mrs Percival gave an illustrated talk on the world YWCA, Council in Canada which she attended in 1938 (blurred could be 6 or 9).  The manner in which the women discussed the world affairs at the time when Europe was seething with trouble indicated that if the women of the world were brought together more frequently there would be less trouble between nations.

Mrs Potts read messages from the National Council, and said that women who were being trained for the work in the South Asia area were almost ready to report for duty. Six Australians were included.  A vote of thanks was proposed by Mrs R Stevenson.


The Canberra Times 20 March 1944

YMCA Servicemen’s Hostel Opened at Acton

The Canberra YMCA Servicemen’s Hostel was declared officially open by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) on Saturday afternoon in the presence of representatives of service  units and the Canberra Community.

The Minister and those present afterwards inspected the hostel, which provides attractive sleeping accommodation for 40 servicemen and has already served all sections of the Australian and Allied services.

The president of the Canberra YMCA (Mr CS Daley) who invited the Minister to perform the opening ceremony, said that saturation point had been reached in accommodation facilities in Canberra due to the war having caused development plans to be suspended, but the YMCA had felt that it was its duty to provide for servicemen.  Through the goodwill of the Minister for the Interior, the building had been placed at the disposal of the YMCA who had received every assistance from officers of the department in making it ready for use. The equipment of the hostel had been made possible through the assistance of the Sydney YMCA in association with the Australian Comforts Fund. Everywhere they had found help and goodwill in their endeavours to provide facilities for the men of the services. They were specially indebted to the sub-committee of the Canberra YMCA which had been charged with the equipment and conduct of the hostel. They had received great help from Mr HC Colman, managing director of JB Young Ltd in securing furnishings and they were specially indebted to Mesdames Weatherstone and Bossence who had made up the curtains and other material for the comfort of the men.

Senator Collings said that there could be no question of the need for the facilities of the ...nd represented by the hostel for the men and women of the services. He feared sometimes that some people in Australia were a little inclined to need awakening to what they owed to the men and women of the services but this could never be said of the Canberra community. No body of citizens anywhere in Australia had done more or given more in money and voluntary effort, enthusiasm and goodwill than the men and women of Canberra.

He recalled that General MacArthur had referred to the bonds which were being forged between Australian and American soldiers in New Guinea and New Britain, and the rows of little white crosses which were creating bonds of unity between the peoples of the United Nations. The provision of facilities like this hostel in providing for men of the Allied services was also contributing to building the foundations for an enduring understanding between Allied countries.

Sergeant Bligh, on behalf of servicemen in Canberra expressed their appreciation of the service provided by the hostel. He also referred to the good work of the women of Canberra for servicemen particularly by the AIF Girls’ Service Club.

In moving a vote of thanks to Senator Collings, Assistant YMCA Commissioner Jones of Sydney explained that part played by the Australian Comforts Fund in financing the service of facilities. He recalled that after the outbreak of war, it had been decided that there should be only one appeal for funds for these services, namely, through the Australian Comforts Fund, which in turn would fund the activities of bodies like the YMCA and Salvation Army in the field. He said that he had been proud to be associated with this work, for the work had been carried on right into the firing line on every front where Australians had been.  They had been in the desert in 1941 an a YMCA man had been among those captured at Tobruk. He had seen a YMCA mobile unit within 500 yards of Rommel’s men. They had gone into Palestine, through Syria and into New Guinea and Australian battle stations. It had been a YMCA man who had hoisted the Australian flat at Satelberg.


Duke of Gloucester 1944 Governor-General

Below - Duke with his family at Government House. 

 The Canberra Times 16 November 1943



Expected to Reach Canberra Next April


The Prime Minister (Mr Curtin) announced to-night that His Majesty the King had approved the appointment of the Duke of Gloucester as Governor-General of the Commonwealth.

No date for the arrival in Australia of the Duke of Gloucester has been fixed, but it is possible that he will be unable to leave Great Britain before March of April 1944.

The term of office of Lord Gowrie as Governor-General which was to expire in January 1944, has been extended for a further six months.

Mr Curtin released the text of a communication which he received from the Private Secretary to His Majesty the King.

The message read. ‘It is officially announced from Buckingham Palace that the King, on the recommendation of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia has been graciously pleased to approve the appointment of HRH, the duke of Gloucester as Governor-General of the Commonwealth in succession to Lord Gowrie whose term of office is being further extended for six months as from January 22, 1944.

Mr Curtin said that Australians would be deeply appreciative of His Majesty’s action in appointing a member of the Royal family to be Governor-General of Australia.  All in this country would look forward with affectionate and loyal interest to the arrival again in Australia of His Royal Highness.


Lord Gowrie who will be succeeded by the Duke of Gloucester has been in Australia since 1928. His first appointment was as Governor of South Australia, an office which he held from 1928 to 1934. He was Governor of New South Wales in 1935-36 and became Governor-General in 1936. His term of office was extended for one year in 1940, for a further year in 1941 and for another year from 1943.

It is understood that Lord Gowrie will remain in Australia until the Duke of Gloucester arrives and he is then expected to return to England.


Exploratory negotiations for the appointment of the Duke of Gloucester as Governor-General of the Commonwealth were initiated by the Commonwealth Government nearly three months ago.

Since the appointment of the late Duke of Kent as Governor-General – an appointment first postponed by the outbreak of war and then terminated by the Duke’s untimely death in an air accident – there has been strong feeling that when the position of the war permitted, Australia should seek the appointment of another member of the Royal Family.

The view held in Federal circles that the appointment of the Duke of Gloucester will give further evidence if such evidence were needed, of the strong Empire ties which bind Australia to Great Britain, a bond which Mr Curtin as well as other Australian leaders have never failed to emphasise. The appointment of a member of the Royal Family as Governor-General of Australia is also regarded as important because of the firm link which it will provide between Australia and Britain in the difficult period of reorganisation and readjustment which the Empire must face in the post-war years.


It is taken for granted that the Duke will be accompanied by his family.  When he toured Australia in 1934 the Duke made many friends and he gained a very close insight into the Australian way of life which will be of great value to him as Governor-General.

The Duke and Duchess will occupy the official residence at Canberra which was redecorated and partly rebuilt after the appointment of the Duke of Kent. Among the additions was a nursery.

Some Federal members would like to see the Duke arrive in Canberra in time for the first Parliamentary session in 1944, which will commence late in February or early in March.



Curtin ill Chifley Acting PM

The Canberra Times 1 may 1945



Acting on medical advice, Mr Curtin, who is suffering from a congested lung, has entered a private hospital in Canberra for a period of rest. He may not resume duty for two months.

Mr Chifley, Treasurer, said last night: ‘The Prime minister has recommended to His Royal Highness the Governor General that I should carry out the duties of Prime Minister during his illness, and in the absence of Mr Forde, Deputy Prime Minister.’

Mr Forde, with Dr Evatt, Minister for External Affairs is representing Australia at the United nations Conference on International Organisation at San Francisco.

Mr Curtin is expected to remain in hospital for about a fortnight and then to have extended rest. It is doubtful whether he will resume official duties before the present Parliamentary session ends about the end of June.

Government and Opposition members were concerned at his state of health before this illness occurred. It has been apparent in the last few weeks that Mr Curtin’s responsibilities had been imposing a severe strain on him.

Mr Chifley, as Acting Prime Minister today spoke by radio-telephone from the Cabinet room in Parliament House to Mr Forde at San Francisco. Mr Forde was unaware of Mr Curtin’s illness until Mr Chifley informed him.

Mr Beasley, now Acting Attorney-General in the absence of Dr Evatt, will also take over Mr Curtin’s Defence portfolio.


Mr Chifley, Acting Prime Minister is well liked by members of all parties. Although no Minister works longer hours, he is irrepressibly good humoured and a past master at administering the gentle but firm rebuff. Aged 61, he was born near Bathurst (NSW). He was educated at the Lime Kiln State School and the Patrician Brothers’ School Bathurst and age 16 entered the employ of the NSW railways. Later he became an engine-driver, in which capacity he at one time drove the Sydney-Melbourne express.

Becoming interested in the industrial Labour movement as a young man he was appointed an Arbitration Court advocate for railwaymen after the last war, and was a foundation member of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen. In 1928 he became Defence Minister and Assistant Treasurer in the Scullin Ministry. At the 1932 election he was defeated and later became president of the Federal Labour Party. Mr Chifley at the invitation of the Lyon’s Government became a member of the Royal Commission on Banking which sat in 1935-6 and a few years later at the invitation of Mr Menzies, then prime Minister became Director of Labour in the newly established Munitions Ministry. This position he held until September 1940 when he was again elected MP for Macquarie.

When the Curtin Government took office in 1941 Mr Chifley became Treasurer, and in December 1942 was allotted the additional Postwar Reconstruction portfolio, which he held until Mr Dedman recently became the Minister. As Treasurer, Mr Chifley was responsible for the introduction of uniform taxation.


Death of Curtin 1944

The Canberra Times 7 July 1945



Winged into the sunset, the mortal remains of the late John Curtin were borne from the scenes of his monumental labours towards their last resting place after a day of national mourning.

For many hours they had rested in the King’s Hall at Parliament House while thousands of persons from the highest officers to the lowliest ranks passed by with tear-blurred years.

No ceremony in the history of Canberra had more dignity or was more touching than the memorial service which preceded the tense moments in which the late John Curtin was taken slowly through the bronze doors out into the gentle sunlight of a Canberra winter’s day.


The funeral procession slowly took its path through leafy ways amid scenes in which the late Prime Minister had delighted to walk in his quiet fashion, until at length they came to the airport where he was placed in a great plane.

Attended by flights of Australian fighters and machines of the NEI squadron, the great plane circled about Canberra passing over Parliament House, and turning again to fly over the Lodge where he had died , and then it headed into the silver clouds that heralded the coming sunset.

Soon it had passed beyond the straining eyed of those who watched into the light, which lingered over the face of his beloved Australia.

When at 11 o’clock the body of John Curtin was brought through the main entrance and placed in front of the main statue of King George V many had gathered to pay silent tribute.

Mr Forde, members of the Ministry and members of Parliament waited on the steps and followed the remains of their leader and friend into the House.

When the last member had passed, immediately the casket was placed in position, a half section of the domed top was raised and members led by Mr Forde and the Ministry filed slowly past. Mr Curtin’s face, peaceful in death, was visible through the glass pane covering the casket top.

Mr Forde passed long and the faces of the Ministers and members twitched with suppressed emotion as with halting steps they passed the casket.  The Australian flag for which Mr Curtin died was placed over the casket. A brilliant shaft of sunlight coming through an open window picked out the stars on the flat.

A military guard of honour then moved to each corner of the casket which bore the inscription, ‘Rt Hon John Curtin MP Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, 5th July 1945. Aged 60 years.’

Members of the public then began to move around the enclosed space in which stood the casket.


1945 two POWs return

The Canberra Times 26 July 1945


Most terrifying experience of Lieutenant Jim Kinnane of the Ninth Division while a prisoner of war in Europe was being bombed by Allied planes.

Lieutenant Kinnane who resides at 11 Suttor Street Ainslie, was taken prisoner during the allied break through El Alamein, and was liberated by the American third Army on April 29 this year. He is now enjoying extended leave at his home.

Italian and German guards always locked prisoners, who were being transported in railway carriages when the air raid alert sounded and ran for cover.

‘On one occasion the prisoner war trains were left near an ammunition train,’ said Kinnane night(?), ‘When the Allied bomb scored a direct hit and ammunition went up, there was frightful slaughter amongst the prisoners.

At Moosberg Camp in Bavaria where there were about 30,000 prisoners, the Russians were allowed to starve to death in thousands.

We would have starved to death too only for our Red Cross parcels,’ he added. ‘The Russians received no Red Cross parcesl.’

Kinnane said that the German guards vented their feelings on the Allied prisoners when they received news of their homes and families being bombed.

Private Peter Kerridge, a well known Canberra footballer, who also lives in Ainslie and is a member of the Ninth Division, saw service with Jim Kinnane in the AIF tank attack section at El Alamein.

Kinnane sustained a ruptured ear-drum and burned face when his lorry ran over a mine, but he received no attention until complications had set in.

After capture he was handed over to the Italians by the Germans and flown from Benghazie to Bari(?) in Italy. Six weeks later he was taken to(?) Sumona where he spend three months. Unable to get fresh clothes he lived  and slept in his boots, slacks(?) and shirt which were the only garments he possessed.

He was sent to Bologna when AIF members attempted an escape. One was killed and several injured by Germans who shot at the unarmed escapees with Tommy guns. Taken in refrigerator trucks to Bavaria, he remained for 10 days before being taken to Alsace Lorrain. At Strasbourg he was put into a dungeon at Fort Bismarck and subsequently taken to Winesberg where he remained till about five weeks before capitulation.

Lieutenant Kinnane said the prisoner of war reception de...(?) in Britain there were some b...(?) necks, but on the whole they rendered a much appreciated service .. the liberated Australian troops.


Shortage of materials and labour equals shortage of houses

The Canberra Times 30 December 1947



Although material progress was made in the Government housing programme in Canberra during 1947, a total of 232 houses was still less than that of 269 built during the year ending June 30, 1940, with smaller building labour supply.

The year will be notable for the framing of a seven year programme of Canberra development, and the 1947 programme is providing accommodation on which expanded activity will be based.

The first step towards large scale construction was the completion of two workmen’s camps, the extension ofa third and plans for the development of a fourth.

The second plank was the start on temporary buildings to house additional departmental staffs. This will also release retail shopping space at City.

The third achievement was the extension of hostel accommodation by the construction of Mulwala House, extensions to the Acton Guest House, and plans for two large brick hostels to accommodate approximately 400 guests. 

The completion of 232 houses by the Department of Works in 1947 has not, however, kept pace with the number of applicants for dwellings. Indeed whereas the waiting list for homes was 350 on July 1, 1941, to-day it is more than four times that figure.

Part of the lag will be taken up by the completion of four hostels, Mulwala House at Barton, Reid, and Turner. With their occupation one fifth of the total population of Canberra will be housed as ‘roomers’ – a position undesirable for the community but a necessary expedient for the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth.

The failure of the Department of Works to achieve an unofficial target of 300 houses may be attributable in part to the exodus of trained building tradesmen, shortage of household fittings, and reduced man unit output.

Of the original 102 Englishmen, 32 are still employed by the Department, although a number are with local contractors. Eighty-eight ex-service trainees are also working on housing projects.


To overcome the shortage of tiles, cement tiles and iron roofing of various styles has been used.

More concrete tiles are expected in the New Year when factory equipment from Melbourne is installed.

Concrete tiles have however proved difficult to handle and break easily. It is understood that the establishment of the cement tile factory at the Causeway may be the forerunner of concrete houses of the ‘monocrete’ type.

This consideration may have influenced officers when dealing with a recent proposal from a Sydney group to establish a terra-cotta tile factory in the ACT. The parties were unable to agree on quota guarantees.

Performance figures on the Beaufort home at Ainslie compare favourably with type houses in the vicinity and they may be used to conform with homes built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act.


Figures released by the Department of Works at the end of November indicated that 203 houses had been completed, comprising 110 brick, 28 timber, and 64 demountable units. Since then 29 homes have been completed, leaving 345 including approximately 150 timber homes, in the course of construction.

Contracts have been let for 47 houses on which work has not commenced, whilst tenders are being called for 617 homes.

As in previous years production increased in the last quarter, resulting in 112 homes completed since September 30.

Camps and hostels completed in 1947 included Riverside Hostel, Eastlake Hostel extensions, and additional accommodation at the Brickworks Hostel.

Buildings in the course of construction  are Mulwala House, which is expected to be completed next month, and Brisbane House, Narellan House and Northbourne House are to be commenced early in the New Year.

Extensions are being made to Capitol Hill workmen’s camp [built 1925 by Contractor John Howie].

The erection of the block of modern flats overlooking Kingston Oval is another phase which may receive further consideration by the authorities in their efforts to provide adequate housing as rapidly as possible.

During the year extensions to West Block were completed.

The Mothercraft and Child Welfare Centre at Civic will be opened shortly, while extensions to the nurses quarters at the Community Hospital and to the Telopea Park School are still under way. New buildings including an insecticide laboratory, garage and workshop at the CSIR are also being erected.

The most important office buildings in Canberra are three two-storeyed office blocks in Barton, the first of which is expected to be completed in February.

They represent the inaugural step to solve the second office accommodation problem.

They are temporary structures intended to absorb departments until the permanent administrative building is completed.

It is understood that a few shop premises will be vacated in February, the main exodus taking place from City offices.

The New Year, however, should see a start on shops in outlying suburbs, which will eventually form part of the planned community centres.

Applicants for Government homes have now to wait approximately 23 months. The waiting list has increased to 1555 many of whom are awaiting transfer to Canberra. Of this total 328 are non-public servants and 930 ex-servicemen. Homes allotted this year total 311, including 91 old homes re-allotted.

Further agitation for a higher allocation of homes to ex-service personnel, and for employees of private enterprise may be expected in 1948. On the present basis some ex-service applicants who are no public servants could wait 10 years fo a home.


Building costs in the ACT have risen to 180 (?) pounds a square for a small dwelling and to as much of 230 pounds a square for more elaborate homes.

Increased are attributed to the introduction of the 40 hour week. Many contractors prefer to operate on the ‘cost plus six per cent’ basis. Instances have recently occurred where contractors worked their men at the week-end to reap the benefits of the ‘safe margin’ and higher rates of pay.


High costs are generally the reason for the surrender of 27 leases in 1947, against 21 taken out in new areas released for private building. These sections are in the more remote areas of Griffith, Ainslie and O’Connor, and are adjacent to departmental homes in the course of construction, or projected schemes.

The governing factor in the release of blocks for private building is the availability of existing essential services for domestic use. There still remain, however large tracts of serviced but vacant land closer to  transport and shopping facilities.

During the year 36 building permits for residences were granted, 10 for additions to existing premises, including sheds and small workshops.

These form part of 134 applications, including 46 for residences, which were considered by the authorities. Most of the remainder are still under consideration or have been verbally approved.


The Canberra Times 6 January 1947


Although the greater part of 1946 witnessed chaos, lost opportunities and failure to reach more than 30 percent of the housing target, a happier outlook for 1947 has been provided by the completion of 78 homes in the last six months of 1946, the impending arrival of British tradesmen and the release of a number of trainees from the Canberra Technical College,

One of the gathering clouds, however, is the failure so far of the Commonwealth to make provision in the State allocation of building materials for the needs of ACT housing.

The most common excuse heard in the past months for failure to complete projects, Departmental or private, has been ‘insufficient material and labour’.

Despite these deficiencies, the Department of Works and Housing has accelerated its building programme so rapidly that 22 houses were completed in December alone, and some of the 226 under construction are almost complete.

Bricks and timber have been reserved for the minor flood of workmen expected in Canberra. Residents have been warned that there is no guarantee that the workmen will be solely reserved for ACT building but in official circles programmes have been quietly mapped out for the most part dependent on using the majority of tradesmen from Britain.

Improved Output

Figures released by the Department of Works and Housing revealed that 78 houses had been completed in the second half of the year.

Approximately 70 of this number had been completed in the second half of the year.

During the year ended June 30, 1946, only 59 houses were completed.

Houses at present under construction in Canberra total 226 and include 126 brick houses, 13 houses being constructed by day labour, 75 demountable houses at Narrabundah and 12 rebuilt houses from Tocumwal material.

Contracts have been let for all house construction for which tenders were called in 1946, the last batch for 48 houses in Turner being let a fortnight ago.

In addition tenders have been received for the new Barton Hostel.

Plans are being prepared for a block of 40 flats at Narrabundah in  the vicinity of the present housing programme in Jerrabomberra Av. They will be two and three bedroom units.

Additional subdivisions, including Griffith, are expected to be advertised for lease early this year.

Rush For Leases

The number of leases for which applications were made for the public in 1946 was 81, which is almost double those for the previous year.

Relinquishments, however, are smaller, although many new leases were compelled to secure extensions of time because high building costs and lack of materials prevented building being commenced.

A total of 137 blocks was available at the end of 1046, comprising: Ainslie5. Braddon 20, Deakin 38, Forrest 26, Red Hill 24, Reid 4, and Turner 20.

To date 1100 applicants are waiting for homes through the Department, of which 690 applicants were lodged in 1946.

Applicants are still signing papers and making requests at the rate of 60 to 70 a month, even though it will be 18 or 19 months before their opportunity of securing a home eventuates.

Despite a December allocation of homes to 13 fortunate occupiers in Turner and nine others in Braddon many applicants have been passed over because the rental of available houses is beyond what they could afford to pay.

Material Shortages

Many of the houses under construction are being held up because of the lack of essential commodities. Twelve electric stoves are shortly to be installed in homes which were originally designed for fuel ranges because fuel ranges were not available.

Applicants for electrical fittings as far back as 1942 have not yet received electrical fittings for their homes through the Department.

Tiles have always been short and at a premium. Bricks were rationed to private contractors so that quantities could be stored for the coming of the English labourers. The same process is being observed with soft and hard woods. Sufficient materials is seeping through for work on Government projects. A shortage of skilled men is slowing down the rate of building.

The greatest deterrent to attract skilled labour to the ACT is the lack of housing for the men and their families. Similarly a number of craftsmen have left the employ or contractors on private enterprise construction to work on Government jobs in the hope their change over might assist them in securing a home more rapidly.

There were minor rumbles of unrest during 1946 among the building trades including a demand for day labour to replace contracts. Accusations were made of ‘slowing down’ on Government projects.

Employers have complained that men have been working week-ends on other jobs and not working satisfactorily during the week.

...(part missing) statute negotiations for arbitration procedure the inability of the Courts to take adequate measures to protect its authority, reluctance of Governments to enforce disciplinary clauses of industrial law, high taxation, high costs of living, shortages in houses, and in the production of consumer goods.

Mr Osberg said in the face of a strong well organised attempt to destroy arbitration, it was obvious that the dignity and effectiveness of arbitration courts and judges must deteriorate rapidly if they were not endowed with the power by imposition of sanctions to enforce their decisions.

All plumbing trainees under the Rehabilitation Training Scheme were unable to start work on completion of their course because materials were lacking with the result that some trainees were lost to the ACT.

Departmental Plans

The keystone of departmental endeavour was the joint pronouncement on March 9 of the Ministers for Works and Housing and the Interior. It included plans for 200 demountable houses for workers, the erection of flats in the Reid district, the establishment of two additional hostels at Braddon and Barton, and the building of 1,000 homes for residents in Canberra.

Against this 75 steel framed fibro walled demountable homes are being erected for workers at Narrabundah. Tenders have been called for the Braddon establishment are reported to be in an advanced stage of preparation.

Bids received for the Reid flats were claimed to be unjustifiably high. A further plan made public in August is for the erection on 100 concrete homes in the Turner area, but tenders received from New South Wales contractors are still being considered.

The latest development is the transfer from Tocumwal of RAAF hutments for redesign and re-erection in Ainslie.

Apart from an unsatisfactory start with weathered and broken timbers and delays in laying the foundations of these homes may prove early relief for large families requiring three or more bedrooms.

Fears By Private Enterprise

There is grave concern at the discouragement during the year of private enterprise contracting.  Contractors who started 1946 hopeful of additional labour from returning servicemen and additional production of materials quickly discovered that they were being hamstrung by State and Commonwealth priority demands.

Some contractors complained their craftsmen were leaving the Territory because supplies were insufficient to keep their men fully employed. This adversely affected tender prices, and builders were paying higher rates to skilled men to retain their services even though their work was restricted by building shortages.

There have been two major clashes during the year involving building materials, effects of which are still being felt. Both resulted directly from a tightening up of departmental controls.

The first involved a drastic curtailment of brick supplies which affected not only buildings within the ACT bu in Queanbeyan.

The second was the stoppage of radiata pine supplies to private enterprise projects.

The immediate effect was to discourage private building and pr...(?) the choice of remaining contractors and workmen between Government projects in the ACT and going out into the State.

Builders found they were unable to obtain bricks between Canberra and Sydney. They also discovered timber supplies had been requisitioned for Commonwealth projects from all dealers miles from Canberra.

The air was cleared to some extent by a conference between officers of the Department of Works and Housing and the Interior and a deputation of builders.

A reason brought forward for the curtailment of supplies was the need for a reserve of materials in light of the approaching arrival of the English tradesmen.

Materials in Doubt

One of the most anxious concerns for 1947 will be continuity of building supplies for private housing.

During the war allocation of supplies was made under National Security Regulations. These Commonwealth made laws delegated the war time control of building materials to the States, but no stipulation was made to reserve supplies for ACT needs.  With the expiry of the National Security Act allocation of building supplies becomes a purely State matter and unless the Commonwealth authorities reach agreement with the State in reserving some allocation to the ACT the exact position of Canberra housing will be indefinite.


Positive Plan

Private enterprise has endeavoured to assist the Government during 1946 in making materials go as far as possible and is also endeavouring to provide a basis to assure to adequate requirements of materials in 1947.

One proposal is to establish a pool for materials designed not only to give private enterprise a representative bargaining body in Canberra, but also to assist in distribution of available materials.

On their availability and efficiency depends much of the immediate process of home building in Canberra.

Architects are endeavouring to induce clients to combine in erecting houses in zones so that one contractor may erect a group of homes, thereby securing as much economy in labour and materials as possible.

To achieve the best results amendments to the present building regulations are favoured. The Departments of Works and Housing and the Interior are now reviewing local regulations in the light of findings of the Commonwealth experimental housing station at Ryde NSW.

With uniformity of standards, it is believed that substantial economies can be achieved both in manpower and materials.


The Canberra Times 26 October 1949


The number of new Australians who are married and have their wives and families in Canberra and are seeking accommodation is causing concern.

The report that the old Capitol Hill mess would be converted shortly into quarters for married immigrants could not be confirmed yesterday.

The mess was for many years a home for old age pensioners.

The Medical Superintendent of the Canberra Hospital (Dr LW Nott) said yesterday that the position of married immigrants was becoming an increasing problem.  Many women work in hostels. When a son or daughter arrives they cannot retain their employment, and in accommodation-starved Canberra, they have nowhere to go.

Dr Nott suggested that space becoming available in the Government offices at Barton could be used for the transfer of departments at the old hospital at Acton. Part of the old hospital could then be used to accommodate married newcomers. 

Two other plans, however, are being considered for the old hospital buildings. One suggestion is, that part of them be converted into a convalescent home for aged people at present in hospital.

It is also understood that efforts may be made to take over the buildings for the National University.


List of Camps

Scrivener's Plan Room

No. 1 Labourers Camp - 1922-circa1929 -

Eastlake, Westlake and Red Hill

Tradesmen's Camps - 1921-c1929  -  

Page ONE  -  Page TWO

 Bus conductresses

The following article points out some of the differences between today’s world where there are women bus drivers as well as if still necessary – conductors.  The 1940s is still at time when a woman married she was expected to give up her paid job – including eg teaching. After the war because of the shortage of teachers married women could stay on.  However, when I began teaching in 1958 I was paid (from memory) around 75% of the male wage and it was the norm, once expecting a baby, to leave the teaching service.  This changed over the next decade.

The Canberra Times 4 May 1946


Of the 30 conductresses who were employed on Canberra buses during the war years only three remain and it is anticipated that even they too, soon will direct their activities to other spheres.

The employment of conductresses first developed in March 1942 when the transport section was faced with the problem of maintaining an adequate service with so many of its employees having enlisted or called up for war service. The first enrolment was of four, the wives of former employees or others who had enlisted.

The innovation proved so successful that within a short period 30 were engaged. They all became members of the Transport Union and accepted the positions on the understanding that they would resign on the return of their husbands or when enlisted depot personnel was available after being discharged.

To-day there are only three left. One, a widow and two single women. Of those who had retired not one was dismissed for disciplinary reason or discharged to make room for a returned soldier. They either resigned to be married or resumed housekeeping for t heir returned soldier husbands or had obtained better positions.

They augmented their uniforms which comprised only a cap, a great coat or dustcoat with a matching tailored Khaki dress, which gave them a smart appearance.

The conductresses displayed considerable tact in handling their new and at times, somewhat difficult and trying task, and their departure will be regretted by most bus travellers.


Canberra 1952 court cases

The Canberra Times 28 February 1952


A young married man, who built a weatherboard house in Canberra in record time was fined a maximum penalty of five pounds in the Canberra Court yesterday for having failed to secure a building permit from  the Proper Authority.

The rapid construction of the house which was commenced on December 27, 1951, and is now 95 per cent completed was revealed when the defendant, William Lawson Keage of Reid was convicted of having contravened Regulation II of the Canberra Building and Services Ordinance 1924-42/

The Crown said that Keage commenced building a cottage in Ainslie between December 27 1951 and January 10, 1952, without first obtaining permission from the proper authority.

Gerald Francis Osborne, clerk in the building section of the Department of Interior, said that prior to January 25, no application was made by Keage, or any other registered builder for a permit to build on Block 9, Section 5, Ainslie.

A permit, however, was granted to a licensed builder, LP Wren on January 30.

Christopher Dessaily Spotswood, Proper Authority of Canberra Building Regulations and Acting civic Architect, said that his duty was to see that Canberra building regulations were complied with.

On January 10, he visited Block 9, Section 5 Ainslie, and saw a house half completed. All the brickwork had been finished with the exception of the fireplace.

As the Proper Authority he had not given any permission for anyone to commence building on the block.

William Lawson Keage said that he acquired the block on December 8. An architect had drawn up the plans and specifications for a house. He thought the architect had submitted them to the Department but later found that a mistake had occurred and the architect had taken his annual holidays. When he returned at the end of December, the plans and specifications were submitted.

On December 27 his wife gave birth to a baby and he was most anxious that he should have a home. The baby was born at 5am and at 10am he had 15 men working on the job. On January 10 he received a letter from the Department telling him not to proceed with the work. He had followed this instruction until January 30 when a permit was granted. The house was now 95 per cent complete and he hoped to occupy it within a fortnight.

‘I had every intention of getting the permit, but I admit now that I was too hasty,’ he said.

Mr Neil Gamble for the Commonwealth said that the Department did not want recurrences of people building without permits. If  the magistrate treated the case leniently it might give rise to others doing the same thing. The Department was not only responsible for housing beauty in Canberra but ...(blurred) safety. People building without permits could set down ...(?) foundations with subsequent danger to inmates of such houses.

‘There has been an offence and it is not in accordance with the trivial class.’ He said.

Mr SR Phippard for Keage, admitted a technical offence. He asked for lenient penalty in view of the circumstances.

He said that the fact that the plans were later approved revealed that they must have been satisfactory.

The magistrate commented that the Department had to be protected or it would find itself with no control over houses being built.

He imposed the maximum fine of 5 pounds provided by the Regulations for buildings and commented but not completed without proper authority having been obtained.


A New Australian Johans Otto Osin, 39 carpenter of Eastlake hostel was sentenced to six months imprisonment when he pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing.

The offence occurred between February 1 and February 26 when it was alleged Osis took timber and building materials from Works and Housing Department job.

Osis was arrested on Tuesday night. The value of the stolen timber, which was owned by the Commonwealth was 15 pounds, 15 shillings.


Albert Arthur Driver, butcher of Kingston was fined 3 pounds with 1 pound 1 shilling professional costs and 10/6 court costs on each of four charges of selling meat at a price greater than the amount fixed by Prices Regulations.

The action was taken by Leo Clifford Wellspring, an inspector of the Price’s Department.

The offence occurred on January 11 at the defendant’s butcher shop at Kingston. He was fined for offering for sale a leg of mutton at 2/6 a lb (fixed price 2/4 a lb); a shoulder of mutton at 2/6 a lb (fixed price 2/4 a lb); and loin chops at 2/6 lb (fixed price 2/5 lb).

The hearing of a case in which James Herrald of Narrabundah is claiming 16 pounds 1/- from Arthur Thomas Kelly of Ainslie for works done on his motor lorry on October 27 and 28, 1951 was adjourned after Herrald had given evidence.

Mr B Gallen of Davies and bailey is appearing for Herrald, while Mr SR Phippard is representing Kelly.

Mr Gallen said that the claim concerned an agreement between his client and the defendant concerning a repair job to a motor lorry. He claimed the defendant had agree to pay his client for the work at he rate of 15/- per hour. His client was engaged upon this work for 22 hours. Mr Phippard said that the defence was that the work had not been done in a proper and workmanlike manner.

‘We admit that the plaintiff is entitled to 7 pounds 10/- for grinding valves, but we object to the manner in which he put the rings in the engine. It was badly done and we are refusing to pay for it,’ he said.

Mr Phippard said that 7 pounds 10/- had been paid into the court, but a denial of liability had been made. It was not denied however, that some work was done.

James Herrald said that he was a motor mechanic and diesel engineer with 40 years experience. The defendant had not paid him for work done on his motor lorry at a weekend. He had worked 22 hours on the job in two days because the defendant said that he wanted the vehicle on the road on a Monday morning as he was carting(?) 18 pounds a day and did not want to lose a day’s work.


1946 Playschools

The following article mentions the early Playschools. I recall going to Playschools in our Westlake Hall in the early 1950s. 

The Canberra Times 13 December 1946


The first school vacation play centre in Canberra will be established as from January 6 for three weeks.

It follows a meeting in September by members of the community urging that more attention be paid the needs of youths in Canberra from which a delegation was appointed to approach the Minister for the Interior (Mr Johnson) to implement proposals to occupy the children of Canberra in out-of-school periods.

The centre will be established with the assistance of the Department of Education, the YMCA and the YWCA, at Westridge, the Causeway and Ainslie, and will cater for children between the ages of 5 and 15.

Supervisors from the National Fitness Council of New South Wales will organise the play centres with the assistance of volunteers. The centres will be planned to accommodate 150(?) children and will commence at Westridge on January 6, Causeway on January 13 and Ainslie in the concluding week.

From experience in the Westridge and Causeway areas officers conducting the scheme will be able to estimated the children likely to attend at Ainslie where numbers are much greater than other districts.

The scheme operates under the same plan as at present in Sydney.  Organisers plan to arrange activities with the children rather than for the children.

Similar play centres have been operating in Sydney for some years and cater for the various requirements of the children with ball games, handicrafts, excursions, folk dancing singing, reading, story telling and other activities where equipment is available.

It is understood organisers have in mind single day camps at the recently established YMCA Camp on the Murrumbidgee.

The continuance of similar centres during vacations will depend on the success of this innovation.


Arrival of British Tradesmen - Riverside Hostel

The Canberra Times 14 December 1946


A warm welcome is assured in Canberra to the first batch of migrants from Britain – 200 building tradesmen who are coming to live at Riverside Hostel, Canberra.

They are on their way to Australia in the liner, Largs bay, having sailed from Tilbury Docks on Sunday December 1 and are scheduled to reach Freemantle on January 2, arriving in Canberra about January 10.

They are all ex-servicemen, and with the exception of one man, who is accompanied by his wife, they are all single.

Arrangements are being made by Government Departments, trade unionists and other organisations to welcome and entertain the migrants on their arrival so that they may feel as they settle down in their new homes that they are really becoming members of the Australian community.

All are skilled workers in the building trade and should prove extremely valuable in helping to overtake Canberra’s housing lag and prepare homes for the migrants who will follow them.


Young, virile and with war experience, they are all anxious to become acquainted with Canberra and to settle down here and that they are looking forward keenly to their new life is shown in this series of special interviews gathered as they assembled to go aboard the Largs Bay.

JAMES MASKELL who spent the war years with the Royal Engineers has visited Australia before. Now he is counting the days until he sees it again. He came out under the migration scheme in 1928 but returned to Britain because of the depression in 1930.  All his time in Australia was spent in Melbourne, and he looks forward to meeting old friends and settling down permanently. Maskell is a general labourer in the building trade. ‘A lot of people think,’ he said, ‘ that you can just go to Australia and pick up a fortune, but you can’t do that anywhere today, unless you are prepared to bend your back. I was living in lodgings in Peckham when this chance came, and as I have no ties in England, I’m glad to be going back.’

GEOFFREY STAGG, an electrical engineer from ‘down Lambeth Way’ in London was in the Services from 1939 until May of this year. In the Eighth Army Corps Signals, his service mostly civil telephone exchange work took him to Venice, Milan, Rome, Austria and Corinthia. Geoff is a cleancut quietly spoken young man who counts himself lucky because he was a tradesman in the army. ‘I left school at 14,’ he said, ‘and took up an electrical apprenticeship. At night I went to school to study electrical engineering. I went straight from my apprenticeship into the army where I served as a tradesman throughout. So it’s easier for me to go back to civvy street than for many of my mates.’ He hopes to start his own electrical business later on, for he has some capital – his gratuity, plus some savings.

RONALD PULFORD a London electrical engineer heard such glowing reports about Australia from his mates in the British Pacific Fleet that they clinched his idea to emigrate. In the early days of the war he worked as a craftsman in the Handley Page and Bristol aeroplane factories and later served with the Royal Navy. Before the war he did electrical maintenance work on the Surrey docks. He is one of a family of seven and one of his brothers, a married plumber, wants to join him in Australia.

ERNEST KENDRICK, a curly headed bricklayer from Tottenham, London was in the Parachute Regiment during the war and got to know the Aussies in Libya. ‘I was attached to the 2/3 Battalion from Sydney,’ said Ernest, ‘and I listened to those diggers talking about Bondi until I couldn’t resist it any longer. I sent my name in to emigrate long before the scheme was announced.’ Kendrick’s brother intends to join him Australia as soon as he gets out of the army.

PATRICK JOSEPH SHEEHAN left Galway Ireland in 1926, but no one needs to know his name to tell where he comes from. His soft Irish brogue will tell you that. Sheehan is a tiler and hopes to start his own business later on. He was in the Royal Navy during the war and did most of his service in the West Indies. His four brothers, two in the Navy and two in the Army are thinking of joining him in Australia. Blue-eyed Patrick Joseph says that his best girl friend is his mother, and his mother says that ‘he’s a bit of lad, and wants watching.’  He likes playing darts, dancing and going to the cinema.

EDWARD AINGER was very disappointed when in May 1944 he was ready to go with the Royal navy to Australia, but his posting was cancelled. ‘Ever since I was a kid, Australia has attracted me,’ he said, ‘and I had my name down to go out there a long time ago.’  He thinks that what attracts him most is the sunshine and the wide spaces. He has always been very fond of swimming and is looking forward to tackling the surf. Ainger’s elder sister has very strong ideas about coming to Australia too, and she and her husband and their three children hope to come to out within the next two years. Ainger is looking forward to settling down to his trade as a plumber and fitter after four and half years of Navy life.

THOMAS BEAL will make his first trip overseas in the Largs Bay. He did his war service with the Royal Air Force, as a carpenter and thinks himself lucky to have been able to do his own job, though working on Halifaxes and Albermaries and gliders ‘was not exactly house-building.’  Beal’s favourite sport is yachting and though he knows that he cannot do any in Canberra he hopes to be able to sample some sailing thrills in Sydney Harbour.

RON HALLIWELL is an electrician from Camberwell Grove in south-east London, and including his six and half years’ war service as an army craftsman, he has been 12 years in the electrical trade. He served in France in the early part of the war, and then transferred to anti-aircraft defence and helped to defend London during the blitz. ‘I’m sorry to say I never met any Australian during the war,’ he said, ‘but I’m very keen to go there because of the outdoor life and sunshine. I’m keen on swimming and will have a go at that Cotter River in Canberra.’

KENNETH WARREN another Londoner is looking forward to meeting his brother who lives in Melbourne, and is also in the building trade. Kenneth is a plumber, and was with the Royal Engineers during the war. “I want to go to Australia because I feel that there are better chances out there. Rowing is my sport, and I rowed with the Gaslight Rowing Club’s eights at the Head of the River and other regattas on the Thames. I realise that I won’t be able to do much rowing in Canberra, but I hope to get some chances in Melbourne or Sydney later on.’

ROBERT CAMPBELL who is six feet three inches tall, dark and good looking, has already been to Australia with the British Pacific Fleet and is keen to get back as soon as he can. He is a fitter and turner from Southall Middlesex, and was with the Fleet Air Arm for three years. ‘Last year I spent five weeks at Bankstown,’ he said, ‘and I had jolly good times, especially at the British Centre in Hyde Park, Sydney. I liked the people, the country and the beer.’

CLARENCE SEELEY, plumber of Couladon, Surrey is a quiet hardworking man. He served with the Royal Engineers from early in 1940 until May of this year. Asked what made him decide to come out to Australia he pointed out of the window to the fog and drizzle of a typical London winter afternoon. ’I’m looking forward to having plenty of outdoor life over there,’ he said, ‘and I have always been interested in Australia. I wanted to go there before the war, and I became all the keener after talking to Aussie airmen and hearing lectures while I was serving in Italy.’

COLIN FALCONER, a painter from Dirleton, East Lothian, Scotland wrote to Australia House as follows: ‘I cannot get back to Australia quick enough. I spent seven months ashore there while in the Royal Navy and I know a little of the country and quite a lot about the wonderful hospitality that Australians gave us fellows. It really is a land of happiness and I look forward to again meeting the many firm friends I made while there.


The Canberra Times 20 January 1947


The newly arrived English tradesmen were welcomed to Canberra at a smoke social arranged by the Canberra Trades and Labour Council at the Albert Hall on Saturday night.

Speeches of welcome were made by the president (Mr SR Rhodes), the Minister for the Interior (Mr Johnson), the Minister for the Army (Mr Chambers), the Civic Administrator (Mr CS Daley), the secretary of the Department of Immigration (Mr T Heyes), and messages of welcome from the Minister for Immigration (Mr Caldwell) and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr Lemmon).

All the speakers assured the men that they were welcome in Canberra and hoped that it would not be long before they settled down.

Mr J Williams, Mr H Walkley and Mr J Kerr replied on behalf of the guests.

Both the Minister for [the] Interior (Mr Johnson) and the Minister for Army (Mr Chambers) warned the men that the Press was trying to magnify their grievances in an effort to embarrass the Government.

Mr Chambers told the men that the Press of Australia was no difference from the Press of England in this respect.

Immediately after their speeches both Ministers left the function.

Picnic at Cotter

A party of 100 British builders was taken on a bus picnic to the Cotter River yesterday by the Department of Immigration.  Many who did not go spent the day at the Canberra Swimming pool while others were driven around Canberra by residents who turned up at the camp in cars.

The men’s main meal to-day consisted of chicken broth, fowl, baked potatoes, pumpkin and beans, jelly and custard.

To Enter Business

Another builder handed in his key yesterday. He is Jack Fielder, of London, who is going to Perth to enter partnership with a group of Australians in the timber haulage business. Fielder was a POW with Australians and renewed their acquaintance when he landed in Perth on his way from England early this month.

Wants Gymnasium

Chief immediate ambition of Mr George Scovell of Surrey, is to establish a gymnasium in Canberra for young and old.

He said to-day the British builders would appreciate it and he was sure hundreds of Canberra residents, especially young boys, would benefit from it.

However, the move would have to come from some local organisations, which would have to provide the equipment. Mr Scovell was presented with the YMCA award for his keenness in maintaining the physical training among personnel when he was a POW in Italy. He is anxious to sponsor a youth club as part of the scheme.


More builders & New Australian

The Canberra Times 25 February 1947


Australia Could Take 250,000 New Workers

The close relationship of the initial stages of the Australian immigration policy to the rapid development of Canberra as the national capital was related by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Caldwell) in an address to the Rotary Club of Canberra last night.

Mr Caldwell said that the line Orion which was the first Australian overseas liner to be reconverted as a passenger ship, would leave London probably today with a further 300 builder migrants for Canberra.

He said that the Government intended to build up Canberra as the national capital and had decided that a further 600 builders should come to Canberra from the early stage of British immigration. The Government wanted them to settle here and hoped that when they had built homes now required for the people already in Canberra, they would be able to secure some for themselves.  There were now 1,000 people awaiting homes in Canberra and he believed that it would be a fair thing when say 600 new homes had been built, for the new settlers to share in the allocation of further houses.

Referring to broader aspects of immigration, Mr Caldwell said that if there was to be a recession in the world, it would not be as serious in Australian as during the last depression. He did not believe that the leaders of finance and the banks would again follow a policy of deflation which could only result in mass unemployment.

The original estimates of the Australian immigration policy had been based on a 2 per cent increase of population per annum. In Argentina during the nineties the increase had averaged 5 per cent per annum. In recent years the average increase for all South American republics had been about 2 per cent. In Australia the excess of births over deaths was about 70,000 which represented one per cent, and an immigration programme of 70,000 would bring the total increase to two per cent. Actually, the natural increase in one war year had been 80,000 but during the depression it had fallen to 56,000.  By far the most preferable method of increase was by births, which avoided the immediate necessity of having to provide housing for new Australians.

The original immigration plans had been dislocated by the shipping shortage which was now more serious that British experts had expected because of the demands on Britain partly through garrison responsibilities in Palestine, the NEI and elsewhere.

After competition with Canberra and South Africa, the Australian Government had secured the Aquitania and expected that she would make eight trips in two years carrying about 3,000 on each trip.

Declaring that the industrial progress forced upon Australia during the war had probably been greater that would have been achieved in 50 years of peace, Mr Caldwell said that the economic expansion had created great demands for manpower. We needed at least 46,000 more workers this year than were available in Australia and if all the materials needed in Australia were to be produced we could absorb probably 250,000 extra workers. The demand for domestic workers alone would probably take 100,000 to 150,000 domestic helps, but he predicted that if these were available many of them would soon go into textile mills where their services were urgently needed.  Despite England’s manpower shortages dur to 500,000 forces being overseas and a million men being in the armed services, there was 400,000 unemployed in England and it was from these industrial blind spots that Australia could derive the right types of new Australians. He hoped that it might be possible for industries as well as population to transfer to Australia from Britain.


The Canberra Times 27 December 1949


In Canberra about 1,200 New Australians are employed on housing projects, in hostels and government offices.

Mr HF Ganter, Director of JB Young Ltd, said that he would like to see many more of them in the city. ‘Not only are they good customers,’ he says, ‘but they have rapidly settled down to become respected citizens.’

JB Young Ltd was the first firm in Australia to provide an interpreter when the early parties of New Australians reached Canberra, an innovation that proved most successful for people unfamiliar with the English language and with Australian shopping methods.

Keen Buyers

‘Not only do we find the New Australians civil, obliging, and patient,’ said Mr Ganter, ‘but they are most discriminating buyers. They refuse to take cheap lines. Although most of them do not have much money to spend, they pay good prices for the best materials. Both men and women have an eye for quality and buy the best and most stylish brands of footwear, and always ask for the highest grades in material for suits and dresses.

One thing that I am pleased to see is that many of our New Australian women are seeking materials for making and decorating their colourful national dresses. They take a keen pride in the fact t hat the Australian people enjoy their Old World folk songs and dances, and they are determined to keep this link with the happier portions of their past lives. They enter readily into the spirit of any entertainment that we hold here, and add to our entertainment a new leavening of their own.

Many of the women – the majority, in fact – are clever needlewomen and I recall one couple with a boy about 12 or 14 who was growing so rapidly that they found it hard to get suits for him.  The mother explained her position to us and we supplied her with the materials. Then she set to and made all her boy’s suits and a very good job they were.’

A Better Mess

One of the most interesting viewpoints on the influence the New Australians are having on our development is given by Mr Jack Franklin, partner in a food supply store at Kingston.

Mr Franklin deals with the New Australians every day, and he says:

‘Numbers of our New Australian friends miss the foods that they were used to in their former European countries and they do not hesitate to tell us that Australian cooking, in their eyes, is wrong. They come in and say that, by their standards, Australians eat too much and that we ruin our vegetables by cooking them in too much water.

They are very discriminating about food, and we have had to widen our range of foodstuffs. To-day we sell special makes of sausages, salted and cured fish and other delicacies that we would not have handled before.

This discrimination in the matter of food will have a definite effect on our own lives. Already food processing firms in Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere are making from Australian materials varieties of sausages, chesses and other goods that were a few years ago too costly because they had to be imported.  The production of new types of Australian foodstuffs is being stimulated to meet the growing demand.

The Australian housewife walking into my shop sees stocks of food that are strange to her and decides to try them. The result is that our ideas about food are becoming widened. The average Australian table will soon be much more varies and attractive than the table that we are used to to-day. Steak and eggs and shoulders of mutton will be just a part of a wider food horizon given us by our friends.

We like these new Australians because they have confidence in us. They are hones, courteous and intelligent and we like trading with people who want to hard to like us and to become part of our everyday community.’

American Styles

‘We have never had the slightest trouble with the newcomers from ‘Europe’, said Mr Ken Cook, men’s outfitter of Kingston. ‘They come into my stores, go through the stocks carefully and invariably select the best grades of clothing.

They prefer the finest materials for suits but nearly all of them adopt American fashions. What we know as the ‘American drape’, a suit loose-fitting and with square shoulders, is in demand. The average Australian clings to the more conservative English cut.

It is no good trying to fob the New Australian off with just anything for he and his wife are shrewd shoppers and always look for the best. They buy the highest quality shirts and the finest shoes. Another good point about them is that they pay promptly when they have chosen their needs. Most of them seem to be very happy to be living amongst us; and respond in the friendliest manner to courtesy and civility. They have certainly brightened up the trades her, both I and my staff enjoy doing business with them.’


Building Report May 1949

Document from documents returned to ACT from NAA







Housing and development programme

On 11th March, 1947, Cabinet approved the following recommendations submitted by the Minster for the Interior:-

·         that the Government should adopt the principle of five to seven years long-range constructional programme for Canberra to enable a more effective organization for the supply of materials, continuity in the use of labour and greater speed and economy in the execution of the works involved;

·         that the programme should envisage the construction of approximately 3,500 houses together with incidental engineering works, essential accommodation for housing public departments, and community provisions required to meet the needs of the increasing population.

·         that the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Works and Housing arrange for the preparation of a fully detailed programme of the works and services involved on the basis of an annual expenditure over the next seven years of 2,000,000 pounds, that is 61,000,000 for housing and 61,000,000 for collateral development works, including incidental engineering services.


2.             The Minister pointed out that as a result of discussions with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Works and Housing, close attention had been given to the problem of accelerating the rate of housing construction in Canberra to meet the present acute shortage and also to provide in due course for the staffs of Departments and Branches that are to be transferred to Canberra.

Procedure for review and approval of proposals for new works

3.             On 11th November 1947, Cabinet approved the following procedure for review and approval of proposals for new works:-

a. A Standing Sub-Committee of Cabinet to be appointed comprising the Treasurer, the Minister for Works and Housing, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, the Minister for Immigration, the Minister of the Department concerned in the proposals to be co-opted as necessary.

b. Programmes to be prepared covering three year’s requirements and submitted for approval of the Cabinet Sub-Committee.

c. Priorities to be allotted to works.

d. The annual budget provision to be reviewed in the light of the approved programmes.

e. Before any major individual work estimated to cost more than 550,000 pounds is authorized, the approval of Cabinet Sub-Committee be obtained. When the Cabinet Sub-Committee is of the opinion that any proposal is such as to require consideration of full Cabinet, it will refer such proposal accordingly.

In the case of works between 7,500 pounds and 550,000 pounds the project may be approved by the Minister and referred for endorsement of the Interdepartmental Sub-Committees, comprising representatives of Works and Housing, Co-ordinator General of Works, Post-war Reconstruction, Treasury, and Immigration. Should the Interdepartmental Committee withhold endorsement, the Minister of the Department concerned may refer the matter to the Cabinet Sub-Committee for decision.

Works estimated to cost not more than 7,500 pounds to be approved under the authority of the Minister of the Department concerned.

f. The procedure approved will not apply to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, excepting when works involve an estimated expenditure of more than 50,000 pounds. These works will be submitted to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Past Officer Rehabilitation. Further all approved works are to be referred to the Interdepartmental Committee which will determine the priorities in relation to projects authorized on behalf of other Commonwealth Departments.

Transfer of Departments

                3.             On 5th April 1948, Cabinet approved of a recommendation made by a Committee consisting of the Chairman of the Public Service Board end (and?) representatives of the Department of the Treasury, Interior, and Works and Housing that the transfer of additional Commonwealth Departments to Canberra proceed according to the following programme:-

                                                                                                No of officers

First stage (1-3 years)

Growth in Canberra Departments

Including transfer of Marketing

Division of Commerce and Agriculture                            882


Second stage (3-5 years)

Transfer of Civil Aviation, Labour and

National Service, Social Services, Works

And Housing and other Departments                              1,703


Third stage (5-7 years)

Transfer of Postmaster-General’s Department

And other Departments                                                     772


Fourth stage (7-10 years)

Transfer of Service Departments, Munitions

And other departments                                                      3,670


Total number of officers involved

In 10-year programme                                                       7,027


5.             The Committee estimated that if transfers are affected on the basis suggested, the estimated total population of Canberra would be as follows:-

                1947                       15,156

                1-3 years later      18,352

                3-5 years later      24,455

                5-7 years later      28,695

                7-10 years later    44,747


6.             To provide adequate office accommodation for the large number of officers to be transferred, Cabinet approved of the Committee’s recommendation that the construction of a second permanent Administrative building similar to the one already approved be authorized. The Committee pointed out that as additional Departments are transferred to Canberra it would be necessary to increase many of the public buildings, services, etc., such as schools, recreation facilities, public halls, ‘bus services, water, sewerage, and electrical undertakings. It was suggested that these could be budgeted for as necessity arose but that some forward planning would be necessary.




7. Information submitted to the Committee by the Chairman of the Public Service Board showed the growth of Commonwealth employment in Canberra during the period from 30th June 1947, to 31st May 1949 to be as follows.


Date                        Staff                        Labour                   Total

30th May 1947      3,150                      2,467                      5,617

30th June 1948     3,309                      2,606                      5,915

31st May 1949      3,530                      2,916                      6,446


This shows a total increase of Commonwealth employment of 829 during the period of twenty three months as against the estimate of 882 officers plus an unknown number of wages staff, in the programme approved by Cabinet to be spread over the initial period of three years. Estimates obtained from Canberra Departments showed that 747 officers are required to fill positions not occupied at 31st May 1949, and the additional staff and employees required in the twelve months thereafter, to meet existing functions only, numbered 939, a total of 1,686 persons which added to the 829 increase in Commonwealth employment up to 31st May 1940, gives a total of 2,515 as the projected increase during the first stage of 1-3 years against the 882 officers, plus a number of wages staff, projected.


                8. The number of officers estimated on the programme for transfer of Departments approved by Cabinet for the first five years was 2,585, of which 1,703 were represented by staffs of Departments whose central offices are at present located outside of Canberra.  Thus if the stated staffing aims of Departments for the next twelve months are achieved, it is probably true that Commonwealth employment in Canberra will have increased in three years by about the same amount as estimated for five years without transferring any Departments to Canberra and to meet only the present expanding needs of Departments already located in Canberra.


To achieve the staffing aims of Canberra Departments during the next twelve months it will be necessary to speed up the rate of absorption to about four times the rate achieved during the past two years. It should be apparent that there is no prospect of bringing this about.


                9. No information is available about the actual or projected increase in private employment. The rate of growth of Commonwealth and private employment in Canberra during the two years to 31st May, 1949, has been accompanied by an intensification of difficulties already evident in 1947 in housing and hostel accommodation, school accommodation, child welfare facilities, pre-school centres, hospitalization, and community services generally. With a limited resources in men and materials, it would be difficult for private enterprise to make any substantial contribution to meet its own requirements without adversely affecting the Government’s programmes.




10.          Housing  The housing situation is critical. The present population is housed in private homes, including flats, hotels and boarding establishments of various kinds which cater for permanent and itinerant population. The numbers of applications for houses from Government employees and other persons registered with the Department of the Interior have increased during the twenty-three months ended 31st May, 1949, as follows:-


Date                       Pulic Servants       C’wealth employees           Private employ    Total

30th June 1947     710                         425                                         310                         1,445

30th June 1948     945                         440                                         379                         1,764

31st May 1949      1,170                      728                                         486                         2,384


11.          A detailed investigation of the registration shows that about 300 of the applicants are public servants who are awaiting transfer from other States or will be returning from overseas. A number (possibly a third) of the applicants is accommodated in boarding houses of one kind or another and their transfer to houses will probably release some accommodation in boarding houses.  About 70 per cent of them are married and a further 20 per cent, stated they will marry when  accommodation is available. It is not possible to say how many of the applicants will bring their families to Canberra when they are able to obtain better accommodation, but at 31st May, 1949, the Department held from public servants 229 applications for double room accommodation and 351 applications for permanent single room accommodation.


12.          The increase in Parliamentary membership will severely  strain the sessional accommodation.


13.          Since 30th June, 1947, the additional accommodation of various types provided in Canberra was as follows:-



New construction by Government                   475

Few constructed by individuals

Under assistance from Department or

Independently                                                      65

Old houses which became available

For re-letting                                                        178

                                Total                                       718


Boarding houses and hotels:-                            Persons


                Government boarding houses

                                Mulwala House                                     202

                                Lawley House                                       164

                                Narellan House                                     45

                                                                                Total       414

                                Workmen’s hostels

                                                Riverside                               342

                                                Eastlake                                  555

                                                Capital Hill                             320

                                                Ainslie                                    160

                                                Fairbairn                                400

                                                Cotter River                            92

                                                                                Total    1,869


14. The construction proceeding at 31st May 1949 likely to be available before 31st May 1950 are:-



                                Private and governmental                  250


                                Government boarding houses          Persons

                                Havelock House                                   164

                                Additions Hotel Acton                           40

                                                                                Total       204


                                Workmen’s hostels

                                Additions Ainslie Hostel                      160

                                Turner                                                    320

                                Reid                                                        320

                                Yarralumla                                             320

                                                                                Total    1,120


                15.          The provision of guest accommodation in the boarding houses and workmen’s hostels involves provision of accommodation for about 1,000 domestic staff.


                16. it seems clear that the extra accommodation expected to become available before the 31st may, 1950 will not make any impression on the present arrears of accommodation if the anticipated increase in Canberra’s population eventuates.


                17. Due to labour shortages during the war and in subsequent years of concentrating all available labour  on new construction, the normal maintenance of the existing 2,500 Government owned houses has fallen considerably in arrears. At the present time over 600 applications for interior renovations are outstanding. The external painting of houses, vitally necessary for the maintenance of the Government’s asset, is approximately three years in arrear.


                13. Educational – School population.  At 31st May 1947, the total enrolment at all schools, exclusive of the Canberra Nursery School and pre-school Centres, was 2,922 (private 988), public 1,934).  AT 31st May 1949  the comparable figures were 3,292 (private 1,051, public 2,231). A total increase of 370 or 12.6%.

 [The document then jumps to 19 etc – may be an error in numbering.]


19.          The additional accommodation provided for schools, pre-school centres, and Mothercraft centres since 30th June 1947 has been:-


                Public Schools:-

                Telopea Park Central... additional wing provided for four full size classrooms, one small classroom, one small library, one technical drawing room, one metalwork room.

                Tharwa ...small extension to single classroom.


                Private schools.-

                St Christopher’s Convent ...additional classrooms (Army hut).

                St Patrick’s Convent.. additional classrooms (20’ x 60’ and 15’ x 20’)


                Pre-school Centres

                Monaro Crescent Griffith

                Duntroon (erected entirely by voluntary labour)

                Turner (under construction)


                Mothercraft Centres.-

                City (includes a flat for nurses and Occasional Care  Centres for Pre-School children)


                20.          This extra accommodation was not sufficient to cover arrears in accommodation existing at 30th June 1947, and thus no reserve  exists to meet future needs of the school population which is increasing fairly rapidly.


                21.          New accommodation required immediately is:-


                                Extensions and alterations to Ainslie Infants’ school.

                                Primary School to serve Turner and O’Connor

                                Primary School to serve Griffith, Narrabundah, etc

                                New wing to the Telopea Park Central School

                                Provision of side wings etc to Canberra High School,

                                Pre-school Centres at Bannister Gardens, Griffith; Baker Gardens, Ainslie; Narrabundah demountable area: Narrabundah brick area; and Braddon.


                22.          The need for additional accommodation for children between the ages of 5 and 15 years is particularly urgent at present and work is in progress which will relieve this position. (Attendance at school is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15 years, inclusive.)


                23.          The following building proposals were put forward by the Department of the Interior to teh Interdepartmental Committee on Works for the year 1948-49 but were not approved:-

                                                Telopea Park School – additions

                                                New Infants’ and Primary School, Griffith

                                                Nursery School, Ainslie


                24.          The scheme of additions to the Ainslie Infants’ School was approved  by the Works Committee for the inclusion on the 1948-49 works programme but was not authorized prior to 30th June 1943.  Tenders for this work will be called upon soon but it will probably take eighteen months to complete.


                25.          The school position is so critical that it may be necessary to restrict enrolments in the various types of schools at the opening of the 1950 year.


[I went to Telopea Park Infants & Primary Schools and my classrooms for my years ,4, 5 & 6 – ie 1946,1947 and 1948 were in demountable buildings erected in the position of the current  tuckshop area.  There seems to be no mention in this document of those rooms.  I remember the air-raid drill in the war years.    The air raid trenches were to the left of the demountable area when facing the Swimming Pool.]


                26.          Community activities.  The provision of halls and suitable accommodation for community activities is seriously in arrears.  Cultural societies and other public bodies have difficulty in finding places to meet and to hold gatherings to implement their programmes, many of which are subsidized by the Government which, as recently indicated by the Prime Minister, is anxious to stimulate interest and activity in this filed and maintain in Canberra features that are readily available in other cities for the education, healthy interest  and benefit of the people.  Proposals that have been awaiting development and design of the necessary buildings cover recreation halls and hobby rooms in suburban community centres, accommodation for the teaching of music and other arts and improvement of facilities for concerts, repertory presentations, and meetings of thee numerous societies.


                27.          Shopping.              The only shop built 1945 is the corner shop at Narrabundah, erected by the Commonwealth and leased for a period of seven years from 1st April 1949.  Corner shops are in course of erection at Ainslie, O’Connor, and Griffith, and Yarralumla but these are not likely to be available for leasing within the next six months because of the slow rate of building.  In the period from 30th June 1947, to 31st May 1949, premises previously leased by Government Departments of authorities for office accommodation have been made available for office accommodation have been made available to private enterprise.  This consists of two ground floor blocks at City and two at Griffith, and first floor business premised at City aggregating 7,800 sq ft have been returned to private enterprise. No major projects to provide shopping facilities are under construction or are likely to commence within the next twelve months. Five shops are to be released to private enterprise in August.


                28.          Parks and Gardens               This programme in relation to ultimate City area development is in arrears.


                29.          Recreation facilities.           The development of these for an expanding community is in arrears because of the concentration upon  housing and other construction programmes. Outstanding needs range from grounds preparation, water supply, to construction of various types.


                30.          Miscellaneous utilities        The growth of the city has created a need for expanded garbage disposal services, transport depot extensions, omnibus shelter sheds on new routes etc, which have been postponed as a result of the priority given to housing and other works.




                31.          The 1948-49 programme of works for the Australian Capital Territory approved by the Independent Works Committee was as follows:-
                                Re-vote at             New works                           Total for

                                30/6/48                                approved for                        1948/49


                                                Pounds                   pounds                   pounds

Housing & accommodation

Houses, flats hostels            2,169,077              1,433,000              3,602,077


Community services

(schools, ‘bus shelter

Sheds, incinerator, etc        39,560                   97,300                   136,a(?)60


Commonwealth Offices      1,721,610              423,125                 2,144,735


Engineering works

Water supply and

Sewerage                              123,837                 285,500                 409,337

Roads and bridges                 66,396                 202,600                 268,996

Electrical, services               196,197                 140.400                 336,597

                                             4,316,677               2,581,925              6,898,602


The provision for community services and facilities represents only 2 per cent of the total works programme approved for the year.


                32.          Expenditure by the Department of Works and Housing on works in the Australian Capital Territory under relevant heads was:-


Year ended           TOTAL    Housing, Engineering Other              Proportion of expenditure

30th June                                                services. Works                                    on housing to total

[all pounds]

1948       1,988,345              515,216   183,397   1,289,732          26%

1949       2,180,058              758,021    279,147   1,42,890           35%


                33.          Although there has been an increase in the ratio of expenditure on housing the total expenditure on the works programme, this ratio is still considerably below the 50 per cent approved by Cabinet in March 1947.



                34.          The position disclosed in this report points to the need for acceptance of the fact that the situation in relation to essential living conditions in Canberra is critical and that revision of the present basis of planning and administrative arrangements for authorization of works in Canberra is necessary.


                35.          Cabinet’s decision of 11th March 1947. (paragraph 1) on housing and development programme provided for the preparation of the Ministers for the Interior and Works and Housing of a 5-7 year long-range programme for Canberra based on annual expenditure of 2,000,000 pounds of which half would be devoted to housing and half to developmental works, including incidental engineering services. It seems that no machinery was ever set up to give full effect to this decision and consequently no Canberra programme balanced in the sense contemplated by Cabinet was ever prepared.


                36.          Factors which can operate to destroy the effectiveness of any balanced long-range programme of works for Canberra prepared under Cabinet decision of 11th March 1947, are:-

                a. the procedure for review and approval of proposals for new works set up under Cabinet decision of 11th November 1947 (paragraph 3):


                b. Rigid adherence to the plan approved by Cabinet on 5th April 1948 for the transfer of additional Commonwealth Departments involving over 7,000 officers to Canberra over a period of ten years from 30th June 1947: (paragraph 4)


                c. the authorization of major works not included in and without regard to the long-range programme.



                37.          The Committee recommends that the Cabinet Sub-Committee endorse the following:-

                1. That the preparation of the long-range works’ programme for Canberra (all departments) in accordance with the general principles laid down by Cabinet on 11th March 1947. Be completed by the Ministers for the Interior and Works and Housing.


                2. That the administrative arrangements necessary to give effect to the decision be made jointly by the two Ministers!...


                3. The programme prepared by the Ministers shall not be prejudiced by any review of the over-all Commonwealth works programme made by the Interdepartmental Works Committee.


                4. That no work of construction in Canberra is to be authorized for the planning or execution unless the Ministers agree to its inclusion in the programme after considering its urgency and the resources available for works included in the preparation.


                5. That it be recognized that the scheme approved by Cabinet on 5th April 1948 for the transfer of Commonwealth Departments to Canberra can only proceed at a rate compatible with the carrying out of the programme of works construction drawn up by the Minister for the Interior and Works and Housing.












Wetlake Repairs At Last

The Canberra Times 25 March 1950


Senator Tangney (WA) in the Senate asked the Government to inaugurate a school bus service to serve about 60 children at Westlake. He said the children had to walk about a mile at present to catch the regular bus services.

Senator Tangney also urged the establishment of a shoppers’ bus service at least once weekly to enable people to do their shopping in comfort. The Minister for Transport (Senator McLeay) promised to refer the requests to the Minister for the Interior (Mr McBride).


The Canberra Times 30 May 1950


‘It is entirely wrong that those who make the laws for Canberra and those who administer them remain smugly complacent while people within the city area continue to be deprived of the facilities and comforts they should have,’ said Mr JR Fraser at a meeting of the ACT Advisory Council yesterday.

Members of the Council inspected the Westlake area after Mr Fraser had made a plea for a betterment of the conditions of persons living there.

Mr Fraser said that he was indignant about the neglect of Westlake. Representations had been made on previous occasions but nothing had been done.

He continued that Westlake was one of the oldest settlements in Canberra. The people living there were amongst the people who helped to build the National Capital.

‘There are no better people in Canberra. They deserve better of the administration than they are getting. Consideration must be given to their needs,’ he added.

Mr Fraser said that Westlake did not have a decent road. Many of the houses were unlined and draughty, cramped and far from weatherproof.

He contended that there was a better and stronger community spirit in Westlake than in many of the more favoured suburbs of Canberra.

He suggested that if Westlake were not tucked out of sight from the main roads – where it could not be seen by tourists and visitors – it would receive better treatment.

Mr Fraser continued, ‘The people of Westlake from their poor quarters can look up the hill to the wealth and comfort of the imposing United States Embassy. They can look across the river flats to where more comfortably situated citizens of Canberra can enjoy their games of gold in beautiful surroundings. They can look across State Circle and admire the well formed roads and well-lighted paths provided for the new residents at Capital Hill. They can look in these directions with envy, and back at their own conditions only  with hopelessness and disgust. They cannot even if they wish, move from Westlake. They cannot get on the housing list, because they are told they ‘are already houses.’

Mr Frazer said he that he knew of a man and wife who had lived in Canberra all their lives and who were told when they accepted a cottage at Westlake they would have to remain there for one year.  They had now been there eleven years and now were told they had no chance of getting a transfer to a more suitable dwelling.

Mr Fraser outlined a seven point plan for Westlake:

1.       The road of access from State Circle and the roads within the settlement put into proper order:

2.       A bus to pick up children for school at the settlement itself and not half a mile distant as at present.

3.       The track to Commonwealth Avenue to be formed, the footbridge at the rear of Hotel Canberra to be restored and lights to be installed at intervals.

4.       Repairs to cottages and lining where needed to bring them to a proper state of comfort.

5.       Exterior and interior painting of cottages to make them more pleasing to live in and more attractive.

6.       Construction of footpaths: and

7.       An assurance that residents have the right, should they wish, to transfer to better dwellings in other suburbs.

Opposing an immediate inspection of the Westlake sites by the Council Mr UR Ellis said that no good purpose could be served by a hurried inspection. The whole matter should be carefully planned so that all sections of the community at Westridge (sic Westlake) could put forward their views.

He contended that an immediate examination would necessarily be a superficial one.

On the motion of Mr Fraser, the Council by three votes to two decided on an immediate inspection.

Their observations will be made known at the next meeting of the Council on Monday week.

[I have read the documents in the NAA on this subject and the findings were far worse than I realised – in some cases eg the cold water tap that should have been over the bath wasn’t.  I recall that sometime in the early 1950s we got a chip heater installed near the bath and that made life a lot easier when taking a bath. Prior to this time the bath water was heated in the wood fired copper which was in the combined laundry, bathroom, and carried across to the bath with a bucket.  Around the same time the tin bath was replaced with an enamel one.  The rooms were lined with canite and painted, but I don’t  recall the exterior of the buildings ever being painted during the years I lived at 27 Westlake (1941-1959).

That there was and still is a community spirit amongst those living at Westlake is that friendship and trust that has remained and that to date I am award of the ashes of three people being spread near the sites of their old homes or special places in Westlake (now Stirling Park, Yarralumla) – and of others who have made their wishes known that on their deaths that their ashes be spread at Westlake.


The Canberra Times 24 May 1953


Improvement works in Westlake area to be put in hand shortly.  The Minister for the Interior, Mr Kent Hughes, has made available to Mr J Fraser MP a copy of a plan detailing works of road and footpath construction.

The road of access from Adelaide Avenue and State Circle and the loop road south-easterly of the post office are to be widened to 20 feet, scarited(?), reshaped and strengthened and then sealed with bitumen. Main internal roads are to be reshaped to a width of 18ft and sealed.

Footpaths 4 feet wide are to be constructed paralleling the road of access and fronting all residential blocks. These paths also to be sealed.

Concrete kerb and gutter will be provided on the westerly side of the access road and on the western and southern sides of the loop.

In addition, the plan provides for improved drainage in the settlement and for attention to the track leading from Westlake to the rear of the Hotel Canberra.

The Minister has advised Mr Fraser that attention in footpaths, maintenance, gravelling and drainage will be carried out within the next two months. Sealing with bitumen, however, will now have to be deferred until the warmer weather of late spring and early summer.

Mr Fraser is still awaiting word from the Minister regarding the lighting along the track to the Hotel Canberra.  He said yesterday that he was delighted to know that continuous representations to successive Ministers for the Interior on most recent  representations.

‘I know the old hands who have battled to get something done for Westlake will be pleased with the result.’

He recalled that shortly after his election to the Advisory Council in 1948 he had brought the needs of this suburb prominently before that body. In May 1950 the Council had adjourned to carry out an inspection at the area.

Subsequently the Council had recommended the then Minister, Mr McBride, a long list of improvement works. Later the Acting Minister for the Interior Mr Anthony, had agreed to inspect the area, but the double dissolution and election of 1951 had interceded.

Mr Kent Hughes as Minister and Secretary of the department, Mr McLaren, who had inspected the area with Mr Fraser, had been sympathetic towards the needs of the suburb and the present decision to put the work in hand was most pleasing.

Some of the older residents of Westlake would be sceptical until they saw the work actually in hand. They had received many promises before, but without any tangible result. He could now convey to them the Minister’s definite assurances.

Mr Fraser mentioned the persistent advocacy of Mr Jack O’Brien and Mr L Austin.

[My father was Leonard Austin – on reading this article I comment -  this is the first time that I knew his involvement in the project to get work done at Westlake.]


Narrabundah Pre-fabs 1978

The following file is one that I read and photocopied at the Royal Canberra Hospital (just closed) in a government department just moved there where files from NAA had been transferred. There is no reference number for this file and it is stored somewhere in ACT archives.  Austin Lynch is currently researching the Narrabundah pre-fab cottages and when his web page is ready I will add the link.




At folio 155 is a report from Mr Love on proposals to upgrade the Narrabundah prefabricated dwelling area.

This is the first knowledge I personally had that positive redevelopment plans are under-way so I would like to take the opportunity to raise a few issues and made some suggestions on the proposal. I believe that there are a number of very basic matters that warrant further consideration.

The Narrabundah pre-fab area has an infamous reputation and it would seem to me that drastic measures have to be taken if the area is to achieve some dignity. In recent years much lip service has been given by Housing Authorities to the need to ensure that a social mix is achieved when placing tenants in Housing Authority dwellings.  In the Narrabundah pre-fab area no positive attempt at such has ever been made – only low income families are sent to the area. From papers on file it seems that at this stage upgrading plans see the area as remaining one for low cost accommodation and this unfortunately usually results in tenancies by low income earners.

It is generally agreed that, the state of repair of the pre-fabs is such that a reasonable life remains. However, many of the dwellings are empty as more and more people vacate, and there is a great reluctance even on the part of even emergency housing applicants to take a pre-fab dwelling. The area has a stigma and I think it particularly unfair on children that they have to live in an area that is looked down upon by the rest of the community.

It appears to me that the challenge is to make people want to live there. If this cannot be done it will remain a ghetto and any upgrading of present dwellings will be wasted.  We need to upgrade the image as well as the dwellings.

I understand, that in all, of over 300 dwellings form this development and the upgrading would have to be progressive based on, I suggest, a master plan that ought to be prepared before any upgrading commences.

I suggest that the overall redevelopment plan for the area really warrants the expertise of a consultant who could advice on available options not only on physical improvement of the dwellings but improvement to the environment and the mix of people that would be desirable.

Some years ago I recall that the Department received a letter from a lady suggesting that the pre-fab cottages could be used in part to provide small homes for aged persons. I appreciate that there is no shortage of accommodation for aged persons, but the suggestion appeals to me as a basic idea on which the Department could build if it did wish to change the image of the area.  It could be that some aged couples, presently living in larger homes, could be happy to move to smaller 2 bedroom cottages without large grounds to maintain if they were attractively presented and in a pleasant environment.  To achieve a pleasant environment would involve more than upgrading of homes – it could mean some redesign of street layout, removal of some cottages, redevelopment of some sites etc.

Other groups that could be interested would be young couples who presently qualify for flats only but who may be interested in a small house, possibly with a view to purchasing and extending; single persons who would prefer a small house to a flat; transient (say building workers) in Canberra for a particular short term purpose; Indo-china  refugees have been suggested. With such a mix and realistic rents (not low rents) the area must lose its low income ghetto image. Of course some low rent  housing should also be made available.


For a long time I have considered the Narrabundah pre-fab area possibly the greatest challenge we have in housing in the ACT. [doesn’t mention Oaks Estate].  It would be quite an achievement to make what is presently an undesirable neighbourhood into one that has social acceptance, a reasonable social mix, and without massive cost involvement. However, to do this it seems to me that we need first to consider the mid-to-long term role of the housing in the area and to prepare a master plan for the development that will ensure that not only the dwellings upgraded, but, that the area will achieve social acceptance as a desirable place in which to live.

There are many options open, and imagination is called for. For this reason I am inclined to think that we ought to be seeking the expertise of a consultant to investigate the matter and present a series of options for consideration before any partial upgrading commences.

(Signed) JT Maher

A/g Director

Housing Administration