The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is a territory of the Commonwealth of Australia, and is the site of Canberra, Australia's capital city. The ACT is wholly surrounded by the state of New South Wales.
The ACT has internal self-government, but it does not have the legislative independence of the Australian states. It is governed by a Ministry headed by a Chief Minister (currently Jon Stanhope, Australian Labor Party). Laws are made in a 17-member Legislative Assembly that has all state and local government functions. However, its decisions can be overruled by the Australian Government. (see also Electoral systems of the Australian states and territories)
Unlike other self-governing Australian territories (eg Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands), the ACT does not have an Administrator. The role of the Crown in the government of the ACT is played by the Governor-General of Australia.
In Australia's Federal Parliament, the ACT is represented by four members (two Senators, and two members of the House of Representatives).
The floral emblem of the ACT is the Royal Bluebell and the faunal emblem is the Gang-gang cockatoo.
Sites, places, and activities
Tidbinbilla is a locality within the ACT, to the south-west of Canberra that features the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and the site of the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex, operated by NASA as part of its Deep Space Network. (Other stations are at Madrid (Spain) and Goldstone at Barstow, California.)
Apart from Canberra, there is some agricultural land (sheep, dairy cattle, some vineyards and a very small area of crops), and a large area of national park (Namadgi National Park), much of it mountainous and forested. Small townships and communities located within the ACT include Williamsdale, Naas, Tharwa and Hall .
There are a large range of mountains, rivers and creeks in the Namadgi National Park. These include the Naas and Murumbidgee Rivers.
Before European settlement the area now known as the ACT was inhabited by three Aboriginal tribes: the Ngunnawal, Walgalu, and Ngarigo.
White exploration and settlement did not occur until the 1820s. From 1824 onwards, settlements and homesteads, and ultimately some small townships such as Hall and Tharwa, were established in the area.
One homestead of special historical interest was Lambrigg, near Tharwa. This was the place in which William Farrer developed the rust-resistant Federation wheat strain that had a major beneficial effect on Australia's wheat industry. Farrer died at Lambrigg in 1906.
When the constitution for the Commonwealth of Australia was being negotiated between the colonies, Melbourne and Sydney each wanted to become the capital. As a compromise, it was agreed that the capital would initially be Melbourne, until a new capital city could be built. When finally agreed, the Constitution specified that the new capital city would be located in territory taken from New South Wales, but be at least 100 statute miles from Sydney.
The present site was chosen in 1908, with additional territory at Jervis Bay (now a naval base on the NSW coast) allocated so the national capital could have a sea port. In 1910 the Australian Capital Territory was ceded by act of Federal Parliament in Melbourne. The politician King O'Malley responsible for the legislation creating the ACT, also passed a law later that year making the ACT an alcohol-free area. In 1911 an international design competition was held, which was won by Walter Burley Griffin. The official naming of Canberra and its official construction began on March 12, 1913.
The Federal Government officially moved to the ACT from Melbourne on the formal opening of the Provisional Parliament House on 9 May 1927. Among the new parliament's first acts was the repealing of the prohibition laws. At first the public service continued to be based in Melbourne, but the various departments were gradually moved to Canberra over the years.
The territory was initially known as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In 1938, the territory was formally named the Australian Capital Territory. It gained self-government in 1988.