Canberra is situated approximately 150km inland from Australia’s east coast, near the Brindabella Range. High hills in the city itself are Mount Majura, which stands at 888m, while Mount Taylor, Mount Mugga Mugga, Mount Ainslie, and Black Mountain all come in at over 800m as well. The Molonglo River has been dammed to create the well-known and much loved Lake Burley Griffin in the center, dividing North and South Canberra. The urban part of Canberra is divided into seven residential districts, each of which has its own suburbs and town center, as well as other defining features.
Canberra is a comparably young city. The site was chosen to be the capital city of Australia in 1908, to avoid conflict between Australia’s two largest cities: Melbourne and Sydney. Following the principles of the garden city movement, the capital was planned and designed by Chicago architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, who won an international pitch for the project. The design features geometrical shapes, such as circles and hexagons, and incorporates large areas of natural vegetation leading to Canberra’s nickname of ‘bush capital’.
Construction was started on the city in 1913, but progress was thwarted by both world wars. Urban districts were being built throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s and development is ongoing today.
The city is Australia’s largest inland city and sits within the Australian Capital Territory, which is independent of any one state. The Australian government is based here, so a large proportion of workers in Canberra are public servants.
The 2011 census showed the population of Canberra to be 355,596, with 28.6% having been born abroad. Many expats in Canberra are from the UK or China, with others coming from Europe and Southeast Asia also. Canberrans are relatively young, with the mean age being 34 and only about one in ten aged 66 or older.
Whether just visiting, or intending to work or live in Australia, expats will need a visa. There is a range of visas available, including temporary work (skilled), skilled independent, business innovation and investment, working holiday, business talent, temporary graduate, skilled nominated, and partner visas.
The Australian government has a program called SkillSelect, which enables them to manage the influx of expatriates based on the country’s economic needs. Aside from aiding regional skill shortages, this system also makes visa application easier and quicker.
The best place to obtain information, download forms and apply for a visa is through the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Canberrra is a ‘planned city’, so there are plenty of options for accommodation. Expats working in Canberra will likely be based in the center, where there are numerous apartment blocks. For those willing to commute, Canberra is divided into eight districts.
North Canberra consists of 14 suburbs, including the peaceful suburb of Ainslie, which has some older buildings and backs on to a nature reserve, and Acton, which backs on to the Botanical Gardens. South Canberra, which sits on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, is home to many of the city’s galleries and monuments, and contains the most populous suburb; Kingston. If café culture is appealing, Manuka and Kingston offer coffee shops, restaurants and local shops.
Woden Valley was established in the 1960’s as the first ‘satellite city’ outside of the center and has a number of federal departments, leading to a large diplomatic community residing in its 12 suburbs. The district of Belconnen is home to Canberra University, Calvary Hospital, Canberra Stadium and the Australian Institute for Sport, where many famous Australian sports stars have trained. Belconnen has a pleasant town center with another man-made lake, a mall and a farmers’ market.
Weston Creek is the smallest of the eight districts and has a slightly older demographic with a number of retirement homes, as well as apartments. Tuggeranong is a great option for expats moving to Canberra, with a vibrant town center, shopping complex, cinema, dining precinct and many government departments. Sometimes called ‘Nappy Valley’, Tuggeranong has a range of housing, including new builds that are ideal for young families.
For expats looking to live close to nature, Gungahlin district has an array of nature reserves as well as outdoor trails, playgrounds and two large ponds, whereas Molonglo Valley, Canberra’s newest district, has fantastic views of the mountains, as well as the National Arboretum, Zoo and Aquarium.
Once decided on which area to move to, expats moving to Canberra can make use of a number of resources to find accommodation. There are many property websites offering both rental and owning options. If deciding to buy, it is essential to have finance approved beforehand, and there are government schemes available to make getting on the property ladder easier.