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Working paper

The accommodation of growth: Canberra's "growing pains" 1945-1955

URP Working Paper No. 53
Urban planning Housing Canberra

The accommodation of growth : Canberra's "Growing Pains" 1945-1955

This paper highlights the economic and demographic constraints which were placed on the Commonwealth Government in its role as the planner and developer of Canberra during the first decade after the Second World War. These constraints place the establishment of the National Capital Development Commission in perspective, by qualifying the role attributed to various individuals (such as Prime Minister Robert Menzies). In this more structural light, the 1955 Senate Inquiry into the Future Development of Canberra is an important event, not simply for the rejuvenation of the Canberra vision and the recognition of the need for a National Capital, but for the preparatory framework of the organisational form which Canberra’s planning and development body would assume in the future. However, the timing of the establishment of this body — the NCDC — was fortuitous, in the sense that the constraints which previously had held back Canberra’s development during the first post-war decade were beginning to disappear. In the paper, these claims are supported by examining the housing crisis which Canberra faced during this period. This crisis assumed a number of guises, from the housing shortage to discontent over rentals, and from the form housing took to participation in local decision-making. These issues are explored from the perspective of local builders, workers and residents. Indeed, a close examination of the evidence before the 1955 Senate Inquiry reveals the important contribution which Canberran residents made to the final recommendations. However, most commentators have tended to focus attention on the evidence presented by the planning profession.


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