A Comprehensive Guide about Living in Canberra

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  • Nathan Reed

    Through InterNations, I found a new job here in Canberra! Since then, my wife and I have been really happy with our life here.

Life in Canberra

Canberra is the capital city of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and the capital of Australia itself. The city is a safe, well planned place to live and work in, with outstanding natural features such as the National Arboretum and the Brindabella mountains, as well as the iconic man-made Lake Burley Griffin at its center. Canberra is the seat of the Australian government and the location for Parliament House and the High Court.

Education in Canberra

Canberra has one of the most highly educated population in Australia, and expatriates moving to Canberra with children will find a good selection of schools. About two thirds of schools in the city are government run, with the other third being private. Canberra has the highest percentage of non-government school pupils in Australia. There are seven schools in ACT offering the International Baccalaureate.

There are also two main universities in the capital: the well-established Australian National University (ANU) in Acton, which has a good reputation for research; and the University of Canberra (UC) in Bruce. Canberra is also home to two military education campuses. The Australian Defense Force Academy (ADFA) teaches military undergraduates and postgraduates, and the Royal Military College, Duntroon is used for Army Officer training.

Transportation in Canberra

With Canberra being a comparably young city, and fully planned to fit with modern life, it has the advantage of having a well-thought out transportation system. The roads in and around Canberra link the suburbs to the city and are laid out in such a way to deter non-local traffic and allow for future development, if needed. These ‘parkways’ are essentially dual carriageways with typical speed limits of 100km/h.

Most Canberrans use their cars to get about, but a large number of people use public transport or walk or cycle to work. The government operates a bus service that runs throughout the city, and Qcity Transit runs services between Canberra and areas within New South Wales.

Canberra has a train station in the suburb of Kingston, which runs services connecting Canberra with Sydney. Passengers wishing to travel to Melbourne can pick up the train running between Sydney and Melbourne by taking the NSW TrainLink bus to Yass, about an hour’s drive from Canberra.

The Canberra International Airport is a little misleading in that there are no scheduled international flights, only domestic services to the state capital cities and the Gold Coast. Expatriates moving to Canberra will likely fly in to Sydney or Melbourne and continue their journey from there.

Culture and Leisure in Canberra

As expected for the capital city of Australia, Canberra boasts many national monuments and museums. The National Museum, National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, Australian War Memorial, National Library and National Archives can all be found in Canberra. With the Australian government also being based in the city, some of the commonwealth buildings are open to the public to explore, including Parliament House and the Royal Australian Mint. Expats with an interest in nature can spend an afternoon strolling around the Australian National Botanical Gardens, the National Zoo and Aquarium or the National Dinosaur Museum.

Expats with an interest in music and the arts can visit the Canberra Theatre and Playhouse, Llewellyn Hall, The Albert Hall or The Street Theatre for major concerts and other productions. There are also a number of festivals including the National Folk Festival and the Royal Canberra Show that both take place during the summer.

A great way for expats to get involved with life in a new city is to get involved with sport. The Canberra Stadium is home to both Canberran rugby teams; the rugby league playing Canberra Raiders and the rugby union playing Brumbies. To be fully immersed in Australian culture, however, means going to watch ‘Aussie Rules’ football, and these matches are played at the Manuka Oval. Those who prefer their spectator sports to be indoors can buy tickets to see the Canberra Capitals, the successful women’s basketball team.

There is plenty for the sporty expat to do in Canberra. Runners can join the Canberra Marathon in April, and there are plenty of golf courses, swimming pools, tennis courts and skate parks to while away the weekends. Cycling is very popular and there are cycle paths and mountain bike trails to make use of. Those who enjoy watersports can sail, row, water-ski and even take part in dragon boat races on Canberra’s lakes.

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