top of page

Routes 43 Belconnen to Spence & 44 Belconnen to Kippax

Date: 12 September 2023

Route(s): 43 Belconnen to Spence Terminus and 44 Belconnen to Kippax

Sights: Lake Ginninderra

Weather: 4 to 18 C

Time taken: 5.5 hours round trip

The days are getting longer: more hours of light and sun. The days are also getting warmer. The mornings can still be a little frosty (-5 on Sunday) but we are moving from False Spring to Real Spring. The wattle has turned from a bright yellow to a dull mustard, the blossoms are finished and making way for leaves, the stunning magnolias have all suffered from a couple of cold days we had over the weekend. Their petals turning brown and dropping. The insect life has increased: bees, flies and butterflies have emerged. We do not get many flies on our floor of our building; we are too high but we do get the odd bee and later in the year wasps coming to check out the plants on our balcony. I love this time of year from the promise it brings.

I stand at the windswept bus interchange at Westfield. An older woman approaches me. She asks which bus goes to the city. The bus that just pulls up is going to Tuggeranong but passes by the city on its way. I tell her this. As she pulls out her Seniors Card she tells me she never takes the bus, this is her first time in over 40 years. She tells me her car is being serviced and she had an appointment in the city so thought she would try the bus. She hurries off to catch the R4. I hope her experience is a good one and she will take the bus more often. Every car that is off the road makes life better for everyone.

I have some shopping to do today: picture frame, large envelopes, and baby clothes. Westfield will be the place to go but it will break my two journeys. The 43 is about to arrive.

The driver is listening to talk radio, or as I like to name it, ‘Babble Radio’ for that is what it sounds like. The bus has five posters about not being aggressive or violent to the ACT workforce, including bus drivers.

The houses in McKellar look like those in many of the other suburbs built around the same time. It is hilly here so some houses have a large number of steps to the entry with two storeys built into the hill. The shapes of the houses give away when they were built; there are a lot of arches. The gardens are functional; trees and shrubs all low maintenance, many of the front gardens given over to space to house cars.

The sun is trying to come out. By the time I get to Spence Terminus the sun has forced a change to sunglasses but has done nothing to warm my feet.

The Spence Terminus is located behind a Bottlemart, the only shop at the Spence shops. The front and back have the signatures of taggers but some more bold graffiti on the rear of the building where the bus shelter is located. I have 20 minutes or so to wait so I wander. The high ridge this road sits on affords me a view to Black Mountain and the Telstra Tower. I get back to the bus shelter to see the back of an R3. There is another due before the 43 will pick me up.

A young man sits down next to me and asks how my day is going. He tells me he is off to work; making pizzas. I ask if he is doing a gap year; he tells me he finished Year 12 at the end of last term and is now waiting to go to Uni in 2024. He tells me he wants to work a lot to save money for a car so he can drive. He tells me he does not have his licence yet as he has no one to practise his driving with as his mother is in China for two years catching up with family. I ask him if he lives on his own. He tells me he has an older sister and they look after each other. He asks where I am going. I tell him Belconnen on the 43. He tells me, in the most gentle way, that the R3 goes there too and it will be here sooner, so I could get that one. I tell him about my project. He is genuinely amazed and asks how many buses I have to go. I tell him after today just 8! As the R3 pulls up he tells me what a wonderful thing I am doing and when he drives a car he will not be able to have such nice chats and maybe he will have to carry on getting the bus? He yells out his name and tells me to come to the pizza shop and get a pizza. The doors close and the bus is away.

The 43 pulls up about 5 minutes after.

As the bus makes its way through Spence, Evatt and McKellar it picks up many people. Two older women get on together. One is very infirm, with a walker. The bus driver waits for them both to get a seat. They are separated by the aisle and talk across it; commenting on how nice it is when the bus driver waits for passengers to sit. They go on to talk about the plan of action they have to get around the shopping centre; post office first, KMart and finally the food as they don’t want to be carrying that around all day.

We arrive at Westfield with every seat taken. This is the first totally full bus I have been on all year.

I enter the shopping centre. I too have a plan: KMart (baby clothes, picture frame and maybe envelopes) located at the arm furthest away from the bus interchange, then Post Office, something to eat and then back out and onto the 44. I have about 45 minutes. KMart is infuriating. Baby clothes at the back of the store, picture frames off to another side and the only envelopes I could find were those used for highly decorated invitations. Nothing like a standard DL or bigger.

I leave remembering all the reasons I hate going to KMart most of which is that I have to do the check out myself. Usually I refuse and will happily wait in a queue for someone else to do the work of folding the goods, and charging me. Here I have to show my backpack to the attendant, place my items in the ‘bagging area’ and use the credit card machine myself. I hate doing this. At the very least I think we should be given a 10% discount as we are doing the work (and probably, in the long run, taking the jobs) of the people who work for KMart. As the checkouts are located in the middle of the store I have to show the receipt and undo my backpack, again, to show the staff member at the front.

The Post office will have to wait as I have run out of time.


Image: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Milan Getty Images

Shopping Malls

I think Belconnen is a failure of planning. The main street, Benjamin Way, is faced by the outside of the Westfield Shopping Centre on one side and high tower blocks on the other; a mixture of residential and business. There is no incentive to walk anywhere along that street. Lake Ginninderra is at one end. Nothing looks out onto it apart from a number of fast food places on Emu Bank. There is no feature made of it. The shopping centre has no windows that face the lake. (The only window I have seen is between two levels of escalators; a large picture window with comfy seats arranged for a space to sit overlooks the indoor car park!)

Of course the shopping centre was laid out this way by design. The aim of the shopping centre is to make you disorientated so you lose track of time and forget what you entered it for in the first place. You are then the perfect customer who impulse buys the tempting things on offer.

In 1952 the Dayton Company commissioned Victor Gruen to design an indoor, climate controlled shopping centre in Edina, Minnesota. The grand opening in 1956 was followed by an explosion of shopping centres in America and around the world due to their commercial success. Much thought and planning went into how, once the customer had parked up and entered, they would spend as much time as possible there. Supermarkets placed in the most far off corner, cafes and fast food places near the entry, fun shops like book and toy stores

Image: Victor Gruen Wikipedia

somewhere in the middle. Even playgrounds for children made an appearance. All laid out with plenty of space, in a cool, or warm, depending on where they were located, environment. In the early days the shopping centre was often the only place in town with air-conditioning.

Victor Gruen gave a speech in 1978 where he denounced the development of the psychology of shopping centres and how it was being used to drive consumerism. The process by which the consumer is confused and drawn into such places now bears his name. (It is also the name of an ABC program that investigates advertising in a humorous way).

Image: Clover Leaf Mall Indiana CBS News

Known as ‘dead malls’, ‘zombie malls’ or ‘ghost malls’ in the US, many of the shopping centres designed to keep people trapped in them are now closed permanently. Retail shopping has been in decline since the early 2000s and this change was hastened along by Covid. Over 8,000 malls in the US closed between 2000 - 2019. Once the major store moves out of the precinct the concept struggles. This is not just happening in the US but in Europe. This too might happen in Australia. As we, as consumers, become wise to the tricks to encourage us to buy and we change our shopping habits (slow fashion, buy nothing groups, shop local) we might be less inclined to spend hours inside a mall.


As I wait at the platform two Chinese couples are standing in the sun. They talk in a loud and animated way. One of the men is emphatic in his gestures. Their conversation attracts the attention of the woman sitting next to me. She tells me she thinks they are either having an argument or just excited, but it is hard to tell. As one of the buses pulls out of the bus station it nearly hits a car driving without stopping at the Stop sign. Very near miss. This prompts the Chinese speakers into another round of animated discussion; all talking over each other. Not sure I could keep up, even if I did understand what they were saying.

The 43 drives up Cohen Street passing an Officeworks. I will get off there on my return trip to get envelopes.

As the bus heads around Higgins and Holt, the suburbs merge. The houses and gardens are the same as the last trip on the 43. When we get to MacGregor the houses change; more modern. The layout of the roads is different; planted nature strips down the centre of the streets. I can tell this is a more recently built suburb from the names of the roads. MacGregor is named after Sir William MacGregor, Governor of Queensland (1909 - 1914) and Chancellor of University of Queensland (1911) but the streets are named after people in the medical professions. Hollows Circuit (Fred Hollows 1929 - 1993) and Victor Chang (1935 - 1991) Street are both named after medical men who were alive in the 1990s and given that people have to be dead before streets are named after them, the streets must have been recently built, or more recently than most of the Belconnen area.

The bus does a loop at the end of Macfarlane Burnet (1899 - 1985) Drive and heads onto Kippax. It is hard to imagine we are in a city out here. The fields have animals; horses, cows and sheep. The trees are native and old and the view goes on for miles. There is not a highrise, shopping centre or a National thing to be seen. We are less than 15 km from Civic but we could be anywhere in regional Australia.

As we turn a corner I notice a sign for the golf club we have been travelling along beside. The sign tells me it is also the home of the Burns and Canberra Highland Society.


In 1924 the population of Canberra was about 3000. About half of those were here to help build the new capital. Many of them came from Scotland. Within 10 years of Canberra becoming the capital the Scottish residents had formed a club to bring people together to celebrate their heritage and support each other in their new home. Formed in 1924 the Burns Club is one of the first clubs of Canberra. To begin with their focus was on events that drew people together; a Halloween Night concert 1924, Burns Night 1925, a Highland Gathering 1925 (proceeds to the new Telopea Park School, established 1923) and a series of concerts to raise funds for the Queanbeyan Hospital from March 1924.

In 1927 the Burns Club initiated a project to get a statue of Robert Burns in Canberra. It took 8 years of fundraising together with other Scottish Societies in other states to raise the equivalent of $300,000 for the design and construction of the Burns statue that resides in Forrest. Joseph Lyons (PM) unveiled the statue in front of a large crowd in 1935. This was the first public statue in Canberra. Each

Image: Robert Burns Statue, Forrest. Canberra Historical Society

year on Burns Night (25 January) the Burns Club holds an evening to remember the poet.

The bus terminates at Kippax. The family of magpies, which I have seen before, are still paying great attention to anyone with food. I find a Post Office inside the centre and buy the large envelopes I require. No need to stop at Officeworks on my return to Belconnen. I sit in the sun to wait for the bus back to Belconnen and watch the magpies play, having had my consumer hit for the day.

The return trip is uneventful. The sun has appeared and I think the temperature may reach the predicted 18 C.


bottom of page