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Route 57 City to Woden

Bus #57 at Woden Temporary Interchange. Works for new interchange and CIT behind.

Date: 8 August 2023

Route: 57 City to Woden via Yarralumla

Sights: Parliamentary Triangle

Weather: 0 to 16 C

Time taken: 5.5 hours round trip including lunch

It is not every day when travelling by public transport that things work smoothly. The number of things that can go wrong (buses late or not turning up at all) is long and they often happen. But this day, glorious with sunshine, was not like that. The buses all turned up, punctually and with no other hassles, the drivers all drove well, and the passengers were all convivial. The best conversation coming at the end of the trip with someone intrigued with a cargo bike.

I set off in the sunshine to stand in the shade of the tram stop. I moved up the platform to defrost my toes. The tram arrived within two minutes; it was warm. I worked out which bus platform I would need to get the 57; platform 10 outside the City IGA. As I arrived at the stop the bus arrived too. All 10 people standing waiting, got on. More people got on at the next stop, the Legislative Assembly. The bus now had at least one person on each set of two seats.

Every time I travel this way the bollards and neon cones have moved around. The work raising London Circuit is progressing but still more than one year away from being finished. This work was going to be done anyway, to smooth the way from the City to the Lake, but it will also enable the new section of Light Rail, or tram, to be completed. This will take passengers from the City to the Lake and make the Acton precinct more accessible to people on foot or bike. This week large concrete pipes, behind temporary fencing, have been laid out in rows ready to be put into the new work. The bus travels through the disruption without any incident. The roadworks are inconvenient but work smoothly.

The Lake looks flat; no wind. The Captain Cook Memorial Fountain is not in operation but will be when I do the return trip. The bus turns into King Edward Terrace and then right past the Treasury Building. A number of people get off the bus. More people get off when we travel along the road between the two parliament houses. The sun makes Old Parliament House glow. The white walls shine.

More people alight at Parliament House. The large median strip running from the forecourt down the hill to Old Parliament often has demonstrators with Federal Police keeping an eye on them. There are a number of people with banners today. We pass too quickly for me to read the banners but all the group are in wheelchairs. Two police are keeping a watchful eye. Parliament is sitting so this group wants to catch someone’s attention. I have seen large groups of asylum seekers who are on temporary visas, and at the weekend we saw 40 concrete mixers on their way to join many more heavy duty vehicles protesting about lack of regulation for the drivers. Parliament is full of action!

The bus rounds the building passing the MPs’ entrance and finally the Prime Minister’s Entry before it heads off to Empire Circuit.



Yarralumla is south of Lake Burley Griffin, just. Henry Donnison who arrived from the UK in 1826 with a wife and children was granted some of the land to establish a farm. The whole area was carved up for free settlers to establish farms to support the growing numbers of European Settlers. Donnison took the name Yarralumla from the local Aboriginal people’s name for the area. This name was used by surveyor Robert Dixon in

Image: Western Edge of Lake Burley Griffin

1829 on the first official map of the area. The land passed through a few hands before Frederick Campbell, son of Robert Campbell, owner of Duntroon, built a large gabled brick house, replacing a Georgian property. This house, officially Government House, but known as Yarralumla, is now the home of the Governor-General. Sitting on the western edge of Lake Burley Griffin it occupies the area between Scrivener Dam and the Royal Canberra Golf Club. Situated on 130 acres it is not only the place of residence for the Governor-General (the British monarch’s representative - Australia is not a republic we still have the British monarch as head of state) it also hosts official events; welcoming of foreign

Image: Government House as seen from the National Arboretum

dignitaries. It is the place where new governments are sworn in and over 250,000 school children visit to learn about what the Governor-General does. It is open to the public twice a year.

As well as the grand, Yarralumla also hosts the more mundane. In 1913 the Canberra Brickworks was established. With so much building happening in the area many bricks were needed. A brick tramway was built to carry the new bricks to major projects like the provisional parliament house and Kingston Power Station. A temporary village was built to accommodate the workers of the brickworks. A nursery was established to test trees and plants that might survive in the Canberra climate. The Yarralumla Nursery still stands but on a smaller scale, no longer government owned.

Other temporary camps accommodated working men and their families. Known as No 1 Labourer’s Camp, Hostel Camp and Old Tradesmen’s Camp they were all deconstructed by the 1950’s but in the 1920’s had over 700 people living in them, about one fifth of the total population of Canberra. The camps were cleared to make way for the foreign missions, described in 1960 by MP for the ACT, Jim Fraser, as "hidden valleys of disgrace, which are never shown to tourists and are seen by visitors only by chance".

In 1920 a Forestry School was established to train tree workers. Located near the Brickworks the school still stands and is heritage listed. The Forestry School was moved to the ANU in the 1960s with the CSIRO taking over the site in the 1970s.


Image: Embassy of Republic of Ireland. WikiCommons


Most of the diplomatic missions in Canberra are located in a very small area in and around Yarralumla. There is a self-drive tour that takes in all the missions, is just over 20 kms and takes about 40 minutes. The missions vary: large and small, looking like an ordinary house (Ecuador) or like a mansion made to look like something you would find in their country (Papua New Guinea). Some are just spaces waiting to be built on, with signs that tell you what is destined to be built there and who for. Some have huge security: tall metal fencing, one entrance and security guards around the compound (USA) and some have nothing by way of obvious security and welcome visitors. The Irish Embassy has no fences, a welcome sign and Little Book Library full of books by Irish authors with an invitation to take a book, or two. The security level may be a reflection of the national psyche too?

Embassy of the Russian Federation

In June 2023 there was a flurry of political activity about the Embassy of the Russian Federation. The Russians have an established Embassy building in Griffith, a neighbouring suburb to Yarralumla. They, some years ago, had optioned a space much closer to Parliament in Yarralumla and had been told by the National Capital Authority, who looks after all sites in the centre of Canberra including the

Image: Embassy of Russian Federation Yarralumla site. Canberra Times.

Parliamentary Triangle, that they had better get a move on and build something or they would lose the site. Nothing happened. The NCA, as the next act in the drama, withdrew permission for the build. The Russians responded by taking the NCA to court to demand they keep the site. The High Court agreed with the Russians that the lease should not have been terminated. The Russians could stay put.

As this was playing out the federal government stepped in. Citing “ …clear security advice as to the risk presented by a new Russian presence so close to Parliament House”, laws were hastily passed to stop the Russians leasing land for a new embassy in Yarralumla. The opposition and cross benchers were briefed. The ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, was informed. Clare O’Neil, Minister for Home Affairs, introduced the Bill and it was passed in just over one hour!

The site is adjacent to Parliament House and is no longer going to be used for an Embassy site. The federal government has not said what it might be used for. The Ukrainian Ambassador has suggested they take over the site. When asked if the Russians might not like this decision and may legally challenge it, the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese explained that the Russians had an embassy in Canberra as there is an Australian one in Moscow and that would not change. The new legislation was about the specific site. He went on to say, “We don’t expect that Russia’s in a position to talk about international law given their rejection of it so consistently and so brazenly with their invasion of Ukraine and the atrocities that have occurred and that are occurring on an ongoing basis.”


Just past the Deakin Shops we pass a house with a yew hedge over three meters tall. A hole has been cut to allow the gate to operate. The top of the hedge is unkempt, out of reach of the trimming tool. It looks inviting, like a Hobbit hole. The roads are narrow here; the bus has to pull up behind some parked cars to allow the bus on the other side of the road to pass. This is unusual in Australia and Canberra in particular; roads are wide enough for parked cars and traffic flow. A large man with a many tattoos is walking his newly clipped poodle. The dog prances along on tip toes.

Many of the passengers have alighted now; more still get off at the Yarralumla shops. One woman gets on. She knows the driver and they chat as she boards. She is off to Woden to shop in a different place.

As we approach the blue bridge over Adelaide Ave I notice the work being done on the pavements; they have been widened to allow a freer flow of foot traffic. New holding points for bike riders have been added. A woman with a pram passes a cyclist, no one has to move aside. I wish more pavements were this wide. I often have to move aside for cyclists, prams or people on Beam scooters, often into the bushes along the main road near our home. The road is three lanes wide but pedestrians and everyone else who uses the pavements has to manage with one just over 1 m pathway.

A driver of a red sports car in front of the bus is making the most of the warm day by having the roof down. The driver has Rod Stewart hair; blonde and bobbing around in the wind. At the lights the car races away as the bus is stationary at a stop. We were not close enough to see if the driver was really Rod Stewart.

A man with a wheely walker boards the bus. The seat of the walking frame is taken with a compost bucket. He tells the driver, loudly, he is doing his bit by taking the rotting veggy scraps to the community garden to communal composting. Good on him!

We are nearly at Woden now; the expansion for the Canberra Hospital is in view. We edge around the rear of the hospital. A helicopter is on the pad with its rotors slowly turning. I am not sure if it has just landed or is about to take off. There are six men hovering around the vehicle, two of them with a trolley.

The parkland entering Woden is showing signs of spring. Wattle and daffodils are in full flower. The willows are giving a promise of what is to come with a green hue around the trailing tendrils. The open storm drain has water in it but the rain has not been enough to stop the grass (all around Canberra) from looking stressed. Sometimes bright green and springy looking, the grass here has dulled off to a green-grey. The Silver birches are still to leaf but the buds are there waiting. It is only the middle of August; I can’t expect too much until September even though the weather has been uncommonly warm. We still need coats to venture out but sitting in the sun we can warm up. More rain is needed though.

Before I get off the bus at Woden I make the decision to do the return journey straight away and take a break at Parliament House. The next 57 comes as I get to the correct platform.

Parliament House is busy. The Queens Terrace Cafe is playing host to lobbyists, journalists and lobby groups. One of which is attending to chat to staffers and politicians alike. The big group are dressed in bright colours, a stark contrast to the sombre tones of the people in suits. The capes worn by some have a cartoon penguin with the words, “I know a fighter when I see one” around the bird. One parliamentary staffer is handing out name tags for adults and kids alike. MP Warren Entsch makes a visit and listens intently to the story being told to him by a young girl. Maybe this was the group outside I saw earlier in the day?

I reenter the outside world and wait for another 57 to take me back to the city. It arrives within two minutes. The Captain Cook Memorial Fountain is in action; the Lake is still. As I leave the bus stop in the city and head for the tram I am asked by a woman having a smoke at an outside table if I knew what that bike was. I glance at the bike: it has a large wooden box on the front with an awning to cover the box. The front wheel is in front of the box on a long chassis. I tell her it is a cargo bike, more common in Europe. She goes on to tell me about her electric bike which she has not yet managed to conquer as it races away too quickly. She also tells me she is downsizing and may not need it anymore. She tells me how much she loves living in Watson and has done so for many years; been involved with the community and active in local politics. She tells me Canberra is a great place to live. I don’t disagree, especially when everything has gone as smoothly as today.


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