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Yarralumla, Australian Capital Territory

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Canberra Australian Capital Territory
Yarralumla IBMap-MJC.png
Population: 3026 (2001 census)
Established: 1928
Postcode: 2600
District: South Canberra
Assembly Electorate: Molonglo
Federal Division(s): Canberra
Suburbs around Yarralumla:
Black Mountain Acton Civic
Stromlo Forest Yarralumla Parkes
Curtin Deakin Capital Hill

Yarralumla is a large inner south suburb of Canberra, the capital city of Australia. Located approximately 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) south-west of the city centre, Yarralumla extends along the south-west bank of Lake Burley Griffin. (The lake was created after the Second World War through the blocking, with a dam, of the Molonglo River.)

Europeans first settled the area in 1828, and it was named Yarralumla in 1834 from the indigenous Ngunnawal people's name for the area. (It is also spelt "Yarrowlumla" on some 19th century documents.) Frederick Campbell, grandson of Robert Campbell who built nearby " Duntroon", completed the construction of a large, gabled, brick house on his property in 1891 that now serves as the site of Government House, the official residence of the Governor-General of Australia. Campbell's house replaced an elegant, Georgian-style, stone homestead. Among the old Yarralumla homestead's most notable occupants were Sir Terence Aubrey Murray, who owned Yarralumla sheep station from 1837 to 1859, and Augustus Onslow Manby Gibbes, who owned the property from 1859 to 1881. (Gibbes was Murray's brother-in-law; he also advanced money to Frederick Campbell to assist with the construction, in 1890-91, of Campbell's grand new family house at Yarralumla.)

The modern suburb of Yarralumla was officially gazetted in 1928 and today is home to approximately 3000 people and many diplomatic missions. In recent years, it has become one of Canberra's most desirable and expensive suburbs because of its wide leafy streets, attractive lakeside setting and central location.


Yarralumla is located in the central Canberra district of South Canberra. It is bordered by Lake Burley Griffin to the north, Commonwealth Avenue and Capital Hill to the east, Adelaide Avenue and the Cotter Road to the south, and Scrivener Dam and part of the Molonglo River to the west.

Although Yarralumla is one of the largest suburbs in Canberra by area, its population remains quite small because more than half of its area consists of open space or non-residential developments. Yarralumla's open areas, Weston and Stirling Parks, the Royal Canberra Golf Club, the grounds of Government House and its proximity to the City and Lake Burley Griffin, are the main reasons for its growing popularity.

Map of Yarralumla, located south of Lake Burley Griffin

The embassy area of Yarralumla is located towards the eastern end of the suburb next to Stirling Park. It is the hilliest area of Yarralumla and was one of the most recent parts to be developed; Parliament House and the Parliamentary Triangle are located nearby.

The streets in Yarralumla are named after Australian governors and botanists. Most of the older streets in the suburb are laid out on a rectangular grid, while the more hilly eastern end of the suburb, including the embassy district, is set out with organic contour-guided roads. Major roads in Yarralumla include Banks Street, Novar Street and Hopetoun Circuit in a north-south direction and Schlich Street, Loftus Street and Weston Street running east-west. Being a dormitory suburb, there are no major through roads. Access to the rest of the city can be made from Adelaide Avenue, Commonwealth Avenue, Lady Denman Drive and the Cotter Road, all of which run along the borders of the suburb.

Yarralumla is located on the Yarralumla Formation which is a mudstone/ siltstone formation that was formed around 425 million years ago during the Silurian Period. The formation extends from Red Hill and Woden in the South to Lake Burley Griffin in to the north, passing under the suburb of Yarralumla. The formation is evidence of the last major marine sedimentary period when eastern Australia was still covered by shallow seas. It shows fossil evidence of trilobites, coral and primitive crinoids. The Yarralumla brickworks quarry and the Deakin anticline are places where the formation is exposed and easily studied.



Yarralumla woolshed in 1925
Workers at Yarralumla Brickworks in 1924

The area now called Yarralumla is part of two original land grants, which were granted to free settlers for the establishment of farms. In 1828 Henry Donnison, a Sydney merchant who had arrived with his wife and family on the brig Ellen on 29/30 July, 1828, was granted an allotment on the western side of Stirling Ridge. A second grant was made to William Klensendorlffe (a German who had served in the British Navy and arrived free in the Colony in 1818), who had bought the land from John Stephen, on 7 March 1839. Donnison's land was officially named Yarralumla in a survey of the area conducted in 1834. Yarralumla was a name for the area used by the local Ngunnawal people, apparently meaning "echo". The area nearby to the west of what is now the suburb was the Yarrolumla parish.

The prominent New South Wales parliamentarian, Sir Terence Aubrey Murray (1810-1873) purchased Yarralumla in 1837. He lived there with his wife Mary Murray (nee Gibbes, 1817-1858), the second daughter of the Collector of Customs for NSW, Colonel John George Nathaniel Gibbes, MLC (1787-1873). In 1859, Murray sold Yarralumla to his brother-in-law, Augustus Onslow Manby Gibbes (1828-1897). Later that same year, Augustus' parents came to live with him at Yarralumla homestead. In 1881, Augustus sold Yarralumla for 40,000 pounds to Frederick Campbell, a descendant of Robert Campbell. Frederick Campbell erected a new, three-storey, brick house on the site of the former Yarralumla homestead at the beginning of the 1890s. Campbell's house would later form the basis of what is now the Governor-General of Australia's official Canberra residence, known colloquially as "Yarralumla" or "Government House". Campbell also built a large wooden woolshed nearby in 1904. It remains standing to this day.

In 1908, the Limestone Plains area, including Yarralumla, was selected as the site for the capital city of the newly-established Commonwealth of Australia. Soon afterwards in 1913, the Commonwealth Government purchased the property. Tenant farmers were allowed to stay on the land on annual leases, some remaining until 1963 when the Molonglo River was dammed to form Lake Burley Griffin.


With the construction of Australia's capital city underway, the Yarralumla brickworks were established in 1913 to supply building material. The bricks were used for many of Canberra's buildings, including the provisional Parliament House. In 1917, Walter Burley Griffin named the area surrounding the brickworks "Westridge". A narrow gauge goods railway was constructed for the transportation of bricks to some of the major building sites in central Canberra. This linked the brickworks to places such as Parliament House, and the Kingston Power House.

The Yarraluma Brickworks today

Construction on the Commonwealth nursery and Westbourne Woods arboretum was started in 1914, and a temporary camp was built near the brickworks to accommodate the workers. Thomas Charles Weston was Officer-in-Charge (Afforestation Branch) in the years 1913 to 1926, and later became Director of City Planting and the Superintendent of Parks and Gardens. Weston was responsible for testing and selecting plant species at the arboretum for their suitability to Canberra's environment; from 1913 through to 1924 Weston oversaw the propagation of more than two million trees which were then planted in the Canberra area. Most of the original Westbourne Woods arboretum is now leased to the Royal Canberra Golf Club, with the remainder forming part of Weston Park. The Yarralumla nursery is still active, albeit on a smaller scale and functioning as a retail nursery selling both wholesale and direct to the public.

In 1922, a workers' tent camp was erected in the area on the eastern side of Stirling Ridge to house the men working on the main intercepting sewer. The following year saw the start of the construction of 62 small, four-room, unlined timber cottages, to be used as housing for the married tradesmen involved in the construction of the provisional Parliament House. Other camps were established at the eastern end of Stirling Park on the hills opposite modern Lotus Bay. The first of these was contractor John Howie's settlement (1922–30), consisting of 25 timber cottages for his married men and timber barracks (Hostel Camp) for his single men. Two other single men's tent camps were established nearby – Old Tradesmen's Camp (1923–27) and No 1 Labourers Camp (1924–27). The men from Howie's worked on the Hotel Canberra and the others on the construction of the provisional Parliament House and nearby administrative buildings.

Yarralumla nursery from the air with the Molonglo River in the background, taken in 1923

The Stirling Park camps were known as "Westlake" to their new inhabitants, and previously "Gura Bung Dhaura" (stony ground) to the local Aboriginal people. In 1925, the population of this temporary suburb was 700. This represented roughly one-fifth of the total population of the Federal Capital Territory at the time; in the region, only Molonglo Settlement had a larger population, at 750. The site was chosen so that it was near to Parliament House but hidden from direct line of sight from anywhere "important". The small cottages at Westlake were removed starting in the mid-1950s, with the last one removed in 1965. Many of the Westlake workers' cottages were moved to Queanbeyan and are still used as housing today. The Stirling Park near the embassy area of Yarralumla now covers the historic Westlake settlement area. Some evidence of these former dwellings still remains today, and signage has been erected to commemorate these pioneering people of early Canberra.

The Commonwealth Forestry School was established in Westridge near the brickworks and Westbourne Woods in 1926. It opened with its first intake of students in the following year. Today the heritage-listed Forestry School and the associated principal's residence Westridge House are located on Banks Street, Yarralumla. CSIRO Forestry and Forestry Products subsumed the school in 1975. Westridge House, an impressive Tudor-style structure, recently underwent a AU$500,000 refurbishment and is presently in use as a residence for the chief officer of the CSIRO.

The forestry students were housed in small timber cubicles in the vicinity of modern Solander Crescent. Three nearby houses were shells of buildings and used by the students for a mess, recreation and ablution purposes. The first mess caterer was Mrs Dora Riddle (nee Horan).

By 1928, there were over 130 people on the electoral roll for Westridge. The majority of the population consisted of men working at the brickworks and nursery. Westridge was officially gazetted as a Canberra suburb in 1928. Its residential area was situated adjacent to the proposed site for Lake Burley Griffin, close to Westbourne Woods and the 53- hectare (131  acre) grounds of the Governor-General's residence.


Scrivener Dam

Westridge was officially renamed to Yarralumla in the 1950s. In 1963, Lake Burley Griffin was filled and Yarralumla was expanded to include Westlake, which had up until then been officially part of Acton.

After World War II, the suburb began to expand rapidly with the construction of many private homes. Yarralumla's image as a "lower-class" suburb would persist into the 1960s and 1970s. This general perception began to alter once Lake Burley Griffin had been created and its surrounds landscaped into parklands; the area soon gained a reputation for its attractive lakeside location. During the 1980s, house prices began to rise coincident with a rejuvenation of the suburb. Large numbers of the original government-built monocrete, brick and weatherboard houses have now been demolished and replaced by larger dwellings of a variety of more modern styles and materials. The suburb is generally regarded as one of the more desirable in Canberra.


Weekly income statistics

The population of the Westridge area on the 1928 electoral roll numbered over 130. On Census night 2001, Yarralumla had a population of 3026 people.

The 2001 Census shows that Yarralumla residents have a median age of 43, compared to a Canberra average of 32. Yarralumla is a comparatively wealthy suburb with 50% of the population earning over AU$1000 a week; this compares to a Canberra-wide figure of 29% and an Australia-wide figure of 18.6%. The 2001 Census figures put Yarralumla's unemployment rate at two percentage points below the Canberra average. In line with the Canberra average, the public service or defence force employed around 25% of the workforce. The median monthly housing loan repayments in Yarralumla were $1400–$1599, compared to the Canberra-wide figure of $800–$999. In 2005 Yarralumla's median house price was $692,000 versus $352,500 for the whole of Canberra.

The population of Yarralumla is predominantly Australian-born, with some 70.5% of its residents being born in Australia. The second most prevalent birthplace is the United Kingdom at 7.5%. The most popular religious affiliations in descending order are Roman Catholic, no religion, Anglican, Uniting, Presbyterian and Buddhist. Accommodation is mostly separate houses, although the number of residences in the suburb has been increasing through conversion of blocks to dual occupancy and other medium-density-type developments.

Suburb amenities

Weston Park

The Yarralumla local shopping centre is located on the corner of Bentham and Novar Streets. The centre contains a supermarket, bakery, dry-cleaners, video store/post office, chemist and newsagent as well as several restaurants and speciality shops. The shopping area has undergone redevelopment in recent years, including the addition of a two-storey office development facing the shopping centre.

Yarralumla's first school, the Catholic St Peter Chanel's Primary School, opened in 1956; it later closed in the 1990s. Yarralumla Primary School, a public school, opened a year after St Peter Chanel's in 1957. Half of the original primary school is now used as a behavioural centre catering to problem students. There are two preschools in Yarralumla: Hill Corner Preschool, which is now the St Nicholas Greek-Australian Preschool; and the Montessori preschool, which is located in the former St Peter Chanel's Primary school buildings.

Weston Park is situated on a peninsula near the western end of Lake Burley Griffin. The park includes swimming areas, children's play equipment and wading pools, and is a popular barbecue spot on weekends. Weston Park forms part of a string of parks that line southern shore of Lake Burley Griffin; other parks include Yarralumla Bay, Lennox Gardens and Stirling Park.

Like most of Canberra, Yarralumla's only scheduled public transport is provided by ACTION buses. Three bus routes run through Yarralumla. Bus numbers 31, 32 and 84 all run an identical route through the suburb via Novar Street, Schlich Street and Hopetoun Circuit. Buses 31 and 32 run from Woden Town Centre to Civic, while bus 84 runs from Woden to Manuka and Kingston. Generally, ACTION bus routes run every 30 to 60 minutes from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.


2004 ACT Election
  Labor 45%
  Liberal 33%
  Greens 12%
  Independents 6%
2004 Federal Election
  Labor 47%
  Liberal 35%
  Greens 15%
  Democrats 2%

Yarralumla is located within the federal electorate of Canberra. Annette Ellis currently (2005) represents the electorate of Canberra in the House of Representatives. Historically both federal electorates in the ACT are safe Labor seats. Polling place statistics are shown to the right for the Yarralumla polling place in the 2004 federal and ACT elections.

In the ACT Legislative Assembly, Yarralumla is part of the electorate of Molonglo, which elects seven members on the basis of proportional representation. The 2004 ACT election saw a swing of 7.3% towards the Labor Party and 4.1% away from the Liberal Party.

The Yarralumla Residents Association (YRA) is a registered organisation formed to represent the views of Yarralumla residents and business. The group stands against government plans for "urban consolidation", supporting open space and the conservation of low-density housing. The organisation has been very vocal in opposing government plans for further development of Yarralumla and is also vocal about any plans for the Yarralumla Brickworks site.

Notable places

Government House

Yarralumla is notable among Canberra suburbs for its large number of landmarks and places of historical interest. The Governor-General's residence Government House, which shares the name Yarralumla, is located at the western end of the suburb in 53 hectares (131 acres) of parkland. It sits alongside Lake Burley Griffin, next to the Royal Canberra Golf Club and Scrivener Dam. The house was built in 1891 as the headquarters for the Yarralumla property. Also located alongside Scrivener Dam is the National Zoo & Aquarium. The nearby Yarralumla Woolshed is available for event hire, often playing host to parties and bush dances. The land surrounding the woolshed has been developed as an equestrian park, including areas for showjumping, eventing and endurance riding.

The Yarralumla brickworks are notable as the first industrial manufacturing facility in the ACT. The brickworks were closed temporarily several times due to the Great Depression and both World Wars. They closed permanently in 1976 after plans for major modernisation upgrades were not proceeded with. Presently the site is closed to the public and is in a state of disrepair. The unfenced parkland around the brickworks is a popular recreation area for Yarralumla residents. Future plans for the site have not yet been decided.

Chinese Embassy buildings

The eastern end of Yarralumla is home to many of the diplomatic missions in Canberra, many of which are built in a traditional style reflecting that of their respective home countries. Examples of regionally-styled chanceries include the embassies of Saudi Arabia, Thailand and China, and the High Commissions of India and Papua New Guinea. The United States embassy was the first embassy built in Canberra, with the foundation stone laid on the Fourth of July, 1942. The embassy is an impressive compound of buildings built in a Georgian style, inspired by several buildings designed by Christopher Wren for Virginia at the beginning of the 18th century. Canberra tourist drive six takes tourists on a car-based tour past many of Canberra's embassies including those located in Yarralumla.

Also located in the eastern end of the suburb are Lennox Gardens, the Yarralumla Yacht Club, the Albert Hall and the Hotel Canberra. The Hotel Canberra opened in 1924 to accommodate politicians when Parliament was in session. The hotel was closed in 1974 and the buildings served as an annexe for Parliament House between 1976 and 1984. The Hyatt Hotel Group re-opened the hotel in 1987.

Embassies and High Commissions in Yarralumla
 Belgium  Brazil  Canada  China  Egypt  Finland
 France  Germany  Greece  India  Indonesia  Ireland
 Israel  Japan  South Korea  Malaysia  Mexico  Myanmar
 Netherlands  New Zealand  Nigeria  Norway  Papua New Guinea  Philippines
 Poland  Saudi Arabia  Singapore  South Africa  Spain  Sweden
 Thailand  United Kingdom  United States      
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