A Capital Reputation in the Making

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A Capital Reputation in the Making

Let's start with the facts.

  • Population rose by 21% in the ACT from March 2007 to 2017 (338,200 to 409,100) more than all other states and territories except for WA and on par with Victoria.
  • Canberra is the top performing hotel market in 2017 so far in terms of revenue per available room and domestic tourists overnighting in hotels has risen 25% in 2017.
  • Canberra is forecast to have the strongest growing housing market of all cities.
  • The capital has received a range of international gongs in the last five years to do with quality of life, well-being, cleanliness, student rankings, education and most recently third in the Lonely Planet's top cities to visit in 2018.

You get the picture. Whether you love the nation's capital or not (and full disclosure, I do), an increasing number of people are choosing to move there, stay there and visit. This trend indicates that Canberra's reputation is changing among certain circles, most notably among its own residents, which I have witnessed first hand.

What had happened in that time to change the reputation of Canberra among its people and had this rubbed off on the rest of the country?

  • 2013 Centenary: Similarly to changing the reputation of an organisation, it starts from within. The turning point was the 2013 Centenary. It was a year of celebrating the city’s beauty, people, highlights and achievements. Canberrans have become the city's biggest advocates.
  • Progressive politics: From bike paths to renewable energy to late-night venues to smart city initiatives to pill testing at festivals (almost), the Government is willing to push the boundaries and this is gaining international attention. With a young, educated and increasingly diverse population, they have the luxury to do so.


  • Investment in local business: The ACT's focus on supporting local businesses has meant more creative people are staying and more students are being enticed away from campus to engage in the community. The most visible impact has been on the food and drink scene, which has lit up the city for the benefit of locals and visitors.
  • Small town, big ideas: There are advantages to being the capital. The ACT has less than half a million people yet it aims high and is attracting more major sporting and music events and world-class exhibitions every year, aided by new international flights.
  • A brand: Brand Canberra or CBR was developed in 2013 to leverage the positive sentiment from the Centenary celebrations and steer Canberra's reputation. It has brought together business, government and community to create a unified message; it has given Canberrans something tangible to talk about and share; and it has made the city visible and identifiable to the outside world.

There's a long way to go before many Australians put their traumatic school trips to Parliament House behind them and really believe it’s worth celebrating their one-of-a-kind bush capital. However, I can safely say more and more people are discovering this creative, welcoming and peaceful enclave every day, and I might get one or two fewer sniggers for this article than I would have 10 years ago.


Published: 13/11/2017 Author: Tags: , , , Back to News