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Route 56 City to DFO Fyshwick

Date: 2 May 2023

Route: 56 City DFO Fyshwick

Sights: Parliamentary Triangle, Lake Burley Griffin

Weather: 8 - 15C grey, damp and miserable

Time taken: 6.5 hour round trip

Since Easter there has been a run of good weather; clear, sunny days, warm air and cool breeze. Perfect. This all came to an abrupt end on Sunday last week. I awoke to grey skies, rain, cold wind, rain, fog and did I say rain. It rained all day Sunday, Monday and some of the early part of Tuesday morning. The overnight temperature fell from double digits to single and the day time temperature brought out all the black clothes. I ventured out on Sunday. By the time I had walked the 500m to the tram stop I was soaked. (Partly due to a huge wave of water that got me when a car travelled, at speed, through a puddle on the road) The tram, when it came, (delayed by leaves on the track) smelt wet. Passengers looked at their feet; we were all a little dejected.

The leaves on the deciduous trees have been whipped away by the high wind and many now stand naked. The leaves making a soggy multicoloured carpet on the streets (and tram tracks). Walking through Civic is an exercise in wading through plane tree leaves, which are huge. Piles of them adorn every road intersection in the Lentil Belt. They look beautiful but can be a hazard not just for trams but people; slippery, soggy and after a while they smell. Not to mention how they block drains on roads and end up in the storm water. This is a problem to be managed not one that should mean the trees go.

One of the ways of managing this has been adopted by the ACT government: pay a local not for profit, See Change, to get volunteers to rake up the leaves, stack them in wire baskets and let them rot down to be added to compost and gardens. Win-win. Keeps the leaves from the storm water and drain holes and gives See Change an income stream.

While it was not raining when I set out on Tuesday, it was grey, overcast and gloomy. The temperature had forced me to dig out my big black puffer jacket and a scarf. I decided against gloves as the sleeves of my coat are long and I can pull my hands up into them if they feel cold.

As I reached the bus stop an electric bus sidled up to the stop. I was tempted, for a nano second, to abandon my plans and jump on this bus going to Woden just so I could ride the new bus. I had seen another one on my tram ride in, Route 53, but was too late to catch it from Dickson. Maybe another day the stars will line up.

I bumped into someone from the crochet group I attend on Wednesdays at the stop. She was heading to Deakin on the 58. I glanced at Next There to find out how long both our buses would be. We had time for a quick 5 minute chat about our travels over the week, (she is also a keen bus traveller), what events we had attended, and how well we both were. She also warned me the bus I was taking took a windy route to Fyshwick and it would take longer than I thought. She was not wrong!

This bus travels along the Lake from the City along Constitution Ave. Across the Lake on Kings Ave, through Barton towards the Railway Station. Turns off through Kingston, Manuka (pronounced Marn-ic-a locally) into Narrabundah, stopping at the shopping centre in each suburb. Next the edge of Griffith and back onto Canberra Ave about 1.5 kms from where we left it and onto Fyshwick to go entirely around the industrial suburb before stopping at the Direct Factory Outlet (DFO). This takes about one hour.

I sat in my favourite spot on the bus, near the back, and took in the grey skies, soggy streets and people with umbrellas as we travelled towards our destination. Kingston and Narrabundah are some of the oldest suburbs in Canberra. Established in 1913 to house the original bus depots, government printing works, and Powerhouse; a facility that produced coal generated electricity from 1915-1957, Kingston is now split into two by Canberra Ave. The side near the Lake has apartment blocks, shops, restaurants and recreational facilities. The Powerhouse is Now Canberra Glass Works, the bus depot holds weekly markets. First planned in 1997 as an urban renewal project, building started in 2007, it is a recent addition to the established Kingston suburb; a fine place to walk on a sunny day. The older Kingston also has these things (and the best supermarket in Canberra, Supabarn) but they are not trendy, modern looking apartments with dark windows and views of the Lake, but smaller blocks with established trees, gardens and easy walking distance to amenities in Giles Street. Many looking Art Deco and moving towards 1960-70s in style. Further back from the shops detached houses with a standard three bedrooms.

It is delightful to be driven around the streets I would not drive along myself.

Adjacent to Kingston is Manuka, named for the flowering native tree of New Zealand and South-eastern Australia, and famous for the oval where all sorts of ball games are played. Manuka Circuit was on the original Burley Griffin plan and named when it was still thought New Zealand was to join the Australian Federation in 1912. So optimistic were the Australian government that NZ was going to join the Federation there was a road and hotel named Wellington too. The road is now Canberra Ave and the hotel, on the corner of National Circuit and Canberra Ave was knocked down in 2005 to re-emerge as the Rydges Capital Hill.

The government printing works in Kingston attracted printing workers from the UK. The constant building in Canberra attracted many European workers (1950’s). Both groups establishing themselves in Narrabundah; the first working class or Blue-collar suburb. Many of the houses built at low cost; pre-fab, modest but have been added to or knocked down. I am sure the suburb would have looked like Whitlam does now, a little bare, but over time the trees, gardens and additions to houses have made this an established and now sought after place to live.


Calthorpes’ House

Calthorpes’ House is located on Mugga Lane close to where the bus travels La Perouse Street. The house, built in 1927 for the Calthorpe family, designed by the same architects who designed The Lodge, the Prime Minister’s Residence, remained unchanged over the years. When the original owner, Dell Calthorpe, died in 1979 her family recognised how important it was as an insight into Canberra’s history. The house was heritage listed, bought by the government in 1984 and opened as a museum in 1986.

Calthorpes’ House gives a snapshot of domestic life in the 1920’s onwards. It is not entirely representative. It is a three bedroom house, but is larger and sits on a bigger block of land than many of the surrounding houses, and has a maid’s room at the back. It does give an insight into how people lived, how they decorated houses, and how they spent their time. The garden has an air raid shelter left over from the war when being hit by bombs felt like a real threat.

Image: ACT Government Website


The bus barrels back along Goyder Street towards Fyshwick on the other side of Canberra Ave. The ABS tells me there are just 56 people who live in Fyshwick amongst the furniture showrooms, kitchen appliance, camping, sports, auto shops and brothels.


Brothels in Canberra

Prostitution was legalised in the ACT in 1992, as part of a harm minimisation strategy. Brothels have to apply for a license to operate and have been contained in the industrial suburbs of Fyshwick, Mitchell and Hume. Club Euphoria, Harlot’s Secret Garden, and Pretty Girls next to Tent World, Wild Flower Bakers, and ACT Foam and Rubber, although I am not sure the last one is a brothel.

The ACT website for an application for registration tells me, helpfully, I feel, that ‘Prostitution is a provision of commercial sexual service.’ This page goes on to explain terms for escort and brothel, and how the applicant will have to provide, as well as a fee, a police report that must include both finger and palm prints. Complaints about brothels should be made to the police!

In 2015 the Canberra Museum and Galley (CMAG) held an

investigating and celebrating the legalised sex trade in Canberra showing posters encouraging safe sex, explaining the standards that brothels were, and are still, held to, and how the sex film industry was the third largest money maker in the capital, with an annual turnover of more than $30 million.

images: Google and CMAG


We arrive at DFO. The huge shopping complex lures me in with promise of new sheets, clothes, furniture, shoes, rugs, electronic games and new glasses. All this could be mine, and more, but I settle for a coffee and toastie before I think about my return trip. The lure of the shops does finally win. I am totally sucked in. Ignoring my goal of ‘No new things this year’ I end up with two, heavily discounted, linen dresses which I justify to myself by the cost; I could not possibly make them myself for this price.

As I sit at the bus stop for my return trip I am approached by a woman who asks about buses to Woden. I look on Next There. There is a bus listed but as it pulls up it only drops passengers and is not going to Woden. We chat as we wait for the R2 that will take her back to the City. This woman tells me she loves to travel by bus. She tells me she started doing it when she got her ACT Seniors My Way card (free travel not in peak times) She tells me her grandson likes to go on the tram so they do that most Thursdays when she has care of him. She tells me it is a great adventure. She tells me she loves to chat to people on the buses. She tells me it gets her out of the house. While we are talking another woman joins us. Dressed head to toe in black with gold accents: on her hairband, down the side of her pants, across the tops of her shoes, down the arms of her jacket, and the longest (false) eyelashes I have seen. She tells us she works in TK Maxx and has bought a t-shirt today. She gets it out to show us; white with a print stating ‘I love Maraschino’ on the front. She tells us it was expensive; $140, but she works 3 jobs, lives on her own and likes to indulge. My first companion tells her it is a lot of money to spend on an advert. Dressed in black lady shrugs. The 56 arrives, followed by R2. As we have been talking the bus stop has filled with at least 20 people. All get on the R2, including my companions, except me. The 56 sets off on its windy route towards the city, picking up a couple of people on the way.


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