top of page

Route R 10 City to Denman Prospect

Date: 21 March 2023

Route: R 10 City to Denman Prospect

Sights: Parliament House, Canberra Museum

Weather: 12 C - 20 C warm and sunny

Time taken: 4 hour round trip

In most places in the ACT the Telstra Tower can be seen. I can see it from our balcony, or driving to the Southside, or waiting for a bus in Watson, or at the Arboretum and the distinctive shape, sometimes in mist, sometimes in bright sunshine is visible. This communications installation sits atop Black Mountain.


The Telstra Tower

Proposed in 1971, by the Post Master General, opened in 1980 by Malcolm Fraser, as a communications tower and visitor attraction, the Telstra Tower is an icon of Canberra. It stands 195.2 m above the top of Black Mountain (812m) with two outdoor platforms and an indoor viewing platform offering 360 degree views of the ACT and surrounds. It was built to replace the microwave relay station on Red Hill and the TV broadcast masts already on Black Mountain. Up until 2013 the tower included a revolving restaurant which completed one rotation every 81 minutes. The viewing platform was closed in 2021 due to Covid.

There were some holdups in the planning: concerns and protests about the aesthetic and the ecological disturbance, and a High Court case that suggested the Federal Government did not have the constitutional power to build on the land. The court favoured the government and building commenced.

This week it was announced by the entity within Telstra that owns the tower, Telstra InfraCo, that they were working towards re-opening the tower. "Our vision is for Telstra Tower to be an iconic, world-class venue that celebrates and embraces both the Ngunnawal culture and the role the tower has played in the history of telecommunications in Australia."


The R10 leaves the City on time, with just me on board. It follows the now familiar route south across the lake, into the leafy suburb of Parkes, around Capital Hill with Parliament on top and then off to the West on the parkway along the edge of Yarralumla towards Weston. Here the bus takes a turn North towards Wright and Coombs. This is not the same ACT that I left 15 minutes ago. Cranes, building machinery and scaffolding, new roads, and new paths in these new suburbs, not a tree in sight.

Gungahlin, up in the north is a new suburb, but this area, to the west, has a completely different feel. Built on slopes in the Molonglo Valley these new suburbs are still being constructed, not just the odd house but whole streets and developments having new roads carved out from the pristine hills.

The R buses take the most direct route to their end destination, they do not deviate through the streets of the suburb. I can see the edges of Wright and Coombs, suburbs we travel between, but do not get a feel for them as all I can see is the large amount of construction through this corridor. I can see on the bus map there are shops at Denman Prospect, the last stop on this run, but I have not been here before so have no idea as to the size of the suburb, how many shops or what it looks like. I am going to take my lead from the other passengers, as to when to get off. All three of us pile out of the bus at the same time, some passengers staying on, to head back to the city. There is one woman at the bus stop with a double pram with two small boys.

My visit to Denman Prospect is short. A coffee and a quick trip around a very new looking IGA full of Easter goodies. I buy a packet of Peppa Pig shaped pasta. I did not need to investigate the other places all neatly in a row: childcare centre, betting shop, a big pub. The shops are built under a large development with many apartments. A steep stairway leads to the upper terrace. There is something about it that reminds me of European, apartment complexes, particularly Mediterranean, holiday flats, except there is no view of the sea and the food is not dominated by fish. I cross the road back to the bus stop. The woman with the boys is still there.

She tells me about waiting for the 47 (only one an hour and she had just missed the last one). She tells me she has lived in Australia for three years. She tells me she sews at home to make some money and shows me her Facebook page. She has to do this around the needs of her two boys: aged 3 and 1. The boys both show mild interest in me. They have been strapped into their pram for over an hour and are showing great patience waiting for the bus. She tells me she is going to Belconnen to do a little shopping. She tells me she had to learn to sew because she is one of 7 girls in her family and someone had to do it. She tells me about her back injury that means she can not participate in community activities as she would like. She tells me she made her clothes; modest Pakistani black with intricate gold embroidery the full length of the sleeve. She tells me they speak Urdu at home and a ‘kind of English’ when they are out. She tells me the people she sews for bring the fabric they want to her and she sews it into something they want. She also does curtains.

We part when my bus arrives. She thanks me for chatting to her. I think how lonely this must be for a young mum, with good but limited English skills, with two small children, living in a suburb that is not finished and does not have all the community connections it will have in time. The bus waiting and shopping at Belconnen fill her day. I hope that this is just an assumption I am making about her, but I remember the long days with a baby and toddler and I spoke English, had family and friends around me and it was still hard.

The R10, like many other buses, stops outside the Legislative Assembly. Next door to this building is the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG). I hop off the bus here, one stop short of its final destination, to look at the new exhibition about the history of Canberra, “Canberra/Kamberri: People and Place”. I also thought it might be the place to find out the answer to something I have been mulling for a while; how suburbs and streets are named in Canberra. Who makes this decision? What is the process? And why are some of the names so odd?

The exhibition is full of interesting artefacts: Aboriginal history, European settlement, land division, location of the capital, bushfires, and royal visits. It includes visual and audio-visual screenings of specific occasions. This is not the only exhibition on at CMAG currently. The other exhibitions investigate and show the idea of self, colour, settlement and the platypus. None of the galleries takes long to get around and it is all free.

None of the information I read or glance at gives me any hint as to how places are named. I am sure someone here will know, so I ask.

The first person I question does not know but invites another person, who has been at CMAG longer, to join our quest. He tells me that inside the ACT government in the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) there is a Place Naming Committee, that takes advice from the Place Naming Committee Advisory Group, and then he points me in the direction of the website.

I know that names are important. Names convey meaning, history, a time, even a feeling sometimes. It could be argued, as did Shakespeare, that names are not so important: “that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”, but I would argue names count. In ‘Given Names’, a short story by Sue Miller, the author explores the outcome of a life after the main character has the nick-name of ‘Babe’ well into adulthood and how it is only her mother who views her as a whole grown-up woman calling her by her given name of Edith.

When I get home I fall into a rabbit hole of the bureaucracy that surrounds how places and streets get their names. In 1989 the Public Place Names Act was passed that allowed the Minister to determine the names of new subdivisions. It also allowed for the Minister to set guidelines about the naming of suburbs and streets. In 2021 the Public Place Names (Naming of Public Places) Guidelines were introduced. But this does not cover the naming of streets within new suburbs: this has guidelines of its own; Districts (Allocations of Street Names) Guidelines 2020. One of the helpful pages invites members of the public to suggest new names for streets and suburbs and explains the process the suggestion will go through. If you want to name a place, or street, after a person, they have to be dead and have been dead for at least 12 months. New place names must not be the same as, or close to, names already in existence. There is a special tool on the site to look up names. Once the suggested name has jumped through the hoops and the advisory committee accepts it, it is passed to the Minister. Once that is done and approved at that level it has to be tabled at the ACT Legislative Assembly. And once passed there it can be used. Phew!

I imagine the tussle that goes on over names at the Advisory committee stage; who would have opposed Whitlam (former prime minister) the newest named suburb; or Bonython (newspaper owner from South Australia) who did lots of good deeds especially to do with education; or Richardson (Ethel who wrote under the name of Henry Handel) where the street names now have women writers as their moniker? I wonder if the Minister ever opposes any of the names put forward, if he/she dislikes them ever or is lobbied by people unknown to change the decision. I also wonder if the woman I spoke to at the bus stop knows that Pakistan was used when the country came into existence (1947), was coined in 1933 as an acronym made up from the initial letters of Punjab, Afgania, and Kashmir. The suffix ‘stan’ means land or place of. Pakistan is the same word in Persian and Urdu.

The creation of a country, or a suburb is a good opportunity to give a name that counts; means something. Maybe with the revamp of the Telstra Tower it will be given an improved name?

Note: on my trip down the rabbit hole I came across this great blog Australia for Everyone that has an explanation about all Canberra suburbs and their names.


How Canberra Got Its Name

On 12 March 1913 a ceremony was held to officially name Canberra. Lady Denman, wife of the Governor-General, named the city, like she was naming a ship; “I name the capital of Australia, Canberra - accent on the Can.”

At this stage the area was still more or less a collection of sheep paddocks but it had been identified as the city that was going to be the national capital. The name Canberra had been in use for about 25 years and was probably derived from the local Ngunnawal language meaning ‘meeting place’. Although there are a few different stories about this. The river that divides Canberra, the Molonglo, and was used so effectively by Walter Burley Griffin for the lake as the main feature of his plan, was used by local indigenous people as a meeting place, shelter, source of food.

Before Canberra had been chosen as the name the government issued an invitation for the public to name the capital. Suggestions such as “Wheatwoolgold”, “Kangaremu”, “Gonebroke”, “Caucus City” and “Swindleville” showed imagination and wit. Maybe nowadays the suggestions would be more along the lines of ‘City McCity Face”? It was a wise decision to have a naming committee, guidelines and an advisory group; these things should not be left to the public!



bottom of page