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Route R 3 City to Canberra Airport

Date: 10 April 2023

Route: R 3 City to Airport

Sights: Parliament House, Canberra Museum

Weather: 1 C - 17 C cool air wam sun

Time taken: 3 hour round trip

Easter Monday is not the best day to get on a bus. The timetable in use over the Easter weekend is that used for a Sunday (think one bus every one or two hours!). Added to that Transport Canberra has put out a press release and is active on their social media dampening expectations about delays due to staff shortages. I decide today is the day, delays and disruptions aside, to take a trip. I get the R3, City to the Airport for pragmatic reasons; there may be more of them.

The change of season is more noticeable this week. The days are shorter after daylight saving finished last weekend. It is light at about 7am but completely dark by 6pm. Twilight in Australia is short. We change from getting dark to needing the lights on in about 15 to 20 minutes. It is one thing I have not really got used to in the 30 plus years I have lived in the country; it still surprises me.

The city is also changing. The cooler evenings and early darkness mean there are fewer people around at night, but during the day it is a completely different matter. It may be Easter Monday but the city is alive. The plane trees in Garema Place have leaves edged with brown. The ground is littered with them. I see kids running after a couple of leaves picked up by the wind and chasing them along the pathway. So many people about. There is much to do over the Easter weekend. Big events like the National Folk Festival, and many smaller events like the Haig Park Easter Egg Hunt. This is as well as all the usual cultural spaces that remain open over the weekend: National Gallery and Portrait Gallery, the Mint, Library, Museum and Questacon. So much choice. And I am going to the Airport!

En route to the bus stop I take the tram and bump into one of the crochet and knitters I know. She is off to the city to get more cold-weather cycling gear. A few months ago she bought an electric bike and is now a cycling convert. From cycling once a week to now many times a week including to work. It takes less time than the bus and is door to door. This is of benefit to her; more time at home, in the morning and the evening.

We arrive in the city and find the correct bus stop. The city bus interchange is less of a terminal and more of a collection of stops located in a similar area. Finding the right stop can be a challenging thing. Platform 4 is located near the tram stop so it was easy to find.

The airport lies to the east of the city centre. The route takes us through Reid, Campbell, Russell and the edge of Pialligo. Constitution Ave runs alongside Lake Burley Griffin giving views of The War Memorial one way and Parliament House the other. This is the edge of the Parliamentary Triangle. From the bus I can see Central Basin bounded by Kings Ave and Commonwealth Ave bridges; the way to the South.

Many of the trees are now leafless: ornamental cherries, silver birches and willow. Limes (Linden), ornamental pears and beech trees still have a way to go and are showing their colours to full affect.

There are some lovely art works at the airport. I enjoy the kinetic sculpture on the drive into the terminal. Silver bobbles move in the wind. Each one turning individually with the branch structure moving independently.

Airports are strange places; most people transient, no one lives there; everyone is moving through. Canberra Airport is well designed, light and airy, well organised, well sign posted and easy to navigate, but just as any space where no one lives, it lacks something.

Photos: ABC

The bus I arrived on had a handful of passengers and the bus I returned on had three. The two other people who waited looked like they worked there as they had no luggage and knew the bus, when it arrived, would not take passengers as the driver has to have a 15 minute break before the return journey. They did not even try to enter.


Canberra Airport

Canberra Airport will be 96 this year. It has grown from a landing strip in a paddock to the slick looking international airport it is now.

First laid down in the 1920s. In 1926 Canberra had its first air tragedy with a reconnaissance bi-plane failing to land well and crashing, killing the pilot instantly. The passenger, a photographer, died later of his wounds. A plaque by the returns shute of the Dickson Library is the only thing that commemorates this. (I am told there is a plaque but I am yet to find it, and no one at the library knows anything about it; maybe it has been moved?)

The land used today was identified by Captain Henri Petri who declared the land, owned by the Campbells, as ‘ideal’. The Duntroon Aerodrome was used at the opening of the new Parliament House, flying in guests and dignitaries, as well as being the base for the flying display. Duntroon Aerodrome was handed over to the Commonwealth Government in 1930 and civil operations began.

1940 saw another air disaster: a Lockheed Hudson flying from Melbourne crashed into a hill to the east of Canberra killing all 10 passengers and crew. One of the passengers was James Fairbairn, the Minister for Air and Civil Aviation. Later the part of the airport reserved for Defence was named after him.

1956 saw a visit from Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip. 1998 saw the airport sold off into private hands under the push by John Howard PM to sell off most publicly owned assets. Each airline has a terminal where it is responsible for capital works. Under one owner more work could be done to streamline operations.

In 2000 billboards were allowed. They had been banned under the National Capital Authority in the 1930s but rules were changed to allow huge hoardings. They have been replaced with more modern electronic boards.

2009 saw a complete revamp of the airport making way for more of everything: check-in counters, baggage retrieval points, places for planes to connect to terminal, new retail and food places and car parks.

2016 saw the first international flights. (I know this may seem a little strange to those of you who do not reside in Australia. Canberra may be the national capital but it is really little more than a large country town…with culture, and all the benefits that brings.) International flights stopped during Covid and were due to resume last October but have been deferred indefinitely.

Canberra Airport is now four distinct areas: civil domestic flights terminal; RAAF base Fairbairn, that also caters for politicians’ comings and goings; Brindabella Business Park with the likes of Deloitte; and Majura Shopping Centre with Costco, IKEA and the biggest Woolworths in the country.

In August 2022 a man shot five rounds into the windows of the airport. He was apprehended and the place was evacuated. He was later found to be on bail from another incident involving violence.

In 2003 there were investigations made for a second airport, but this idea was quashed by the current Chief Minister Andrew Barr as his government deemed it ‘unnecessary’.

Images: Canberra Airport


I have not talked to anyone on my journey today; no one seemed interested. Young people attached to their phones, older people holding phones but not open to conversation. We all lived in closed worlds. Maybe this is contributing to the loneliness epidemic the western world is having. More single person dwellings, fewer people engaged in community activities and fewer places for casual interactions. Places like libraries, post offices, cafes, parks and dare I say bus stops, offer the kind of casual interaction that offers a feeling of belonging. Maybe we should give fewer cars and more buses a go to see if levels of loneliness decrease?

The casual interaction I had with my acquaintance at the tram stop this morning might not be anything to write home about. We did not discuss world events, or have a deep and meaningful conversation about emotions, but we did make a connection and have a chat about bike gear. This emphasised my connection to the community of knitters and crocheters I now belong to in the Inner North. Each time I have a casual encounter that connection gets stronger; a bit like synapses, the more you do it the stronger it gets.



Australia, like many Western nations, is in the grip of an epidemic of loneliness. This epidemic is not something that can be treated with a pill or vaccine but is contributing to higher rates of depression, dementia, self-harm and suicide. 1 in 4 Australians identifies as lonely. This number reached 1 in 2 during lockdowns.

Loneliness is both an individual and a structural problem and our built environment is to blame. We build cities that are dominated by cars. We drive, even short distances, to our destinations, not encountering other people. We cut down trees to make way for more houses and cars and make the streets car- not people-friendly. Green space can assist with reducing loneliness by:

  • Building capacity for connection with community

  • Restoring our sense of connection and belonging with nature

  • Reducing harms that might otherwise lead to loneliness.

The quality of the green space matters. The small pocket park might go some way to combatting loneliness but the higher the quality (more trees, feeling of safety, large enough to feel immersed, no litter, pathways that intersect) the more opportunities for interaction.

Loneliness is not just a matter of how many friends or connections a person has but a matter of how connected they feel in the world. Age is a major contributing factor to loneliness. A study in the UK, the Loneliness Project, interviewed 80 older people listening to how their aging contributed to this feeling. Their ‘Existential Loneliness’ was often brought on by loss (loved one), a lack of meaningful communication (how do you talk about such big emotions) and a sense of regret (all those things you could have done but didn’t).

It is not just the old who feel lonely. Over half (54%) of people aged 12-25 also feel lonely with no significant connection. Research from Headspace reported that young people also feel left out and isolated. An increase in online connections, including all forms of social media and gaming, do not assist with these feelings. Electronic connection is not the same as in person connection.

Loneliness is seen as an individual’s problem. People who identify as lonely are often advised to seek more connection, to find something they want to do with others, or to volunteer, but this can be difficult for anyone. Just walking into a room, or having a meaningful conversation, has to be worked up to, especially if the isolation is entrenched. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but better environments where people live would be a good start.



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