Canberra Guided Tours Logo

25 Aug 2023

The Commencement Stone Column

The Significance Of The Commencement Stone Column in Canberra

If you find yourself in the heart of Canberra, you can visit a unique piece of history – the Commencement Stone Column. This seemingly unassuming stone holds the key to the momentous day when Canberra, the capital city of Australia, was officially named. The stone stands as a silent witness to a pivotal event in the city’s history – the day that marked the beginning of Canberra’s journey from a concept to a thriving capital. Delve into the rich history and intriguing characters intertwined with this remarkable landmark.

The Birth of a Capital City

Canberra’s story as Australia’s capital city began with a visionary plan to create a new seat of government, a symbol of unity and progress. The foundation for this ambitious endeavour was laid out in the late 19th century, as discussions emerged about the need for purpose-built capital. The challenge was to find a place that would accurately represent the interests and aspirations of the entire nation. 

In 1913, after careful deliberation and extensive design competition, the site chosen was in New South Wales, now known as Canberra. This historic decision was more than a geographical shift; it was a symbolic transition that moved the centre of Australian governance from Melbourne to a new federal capital.

On the 12th of March of the same year, Canberra’s significance reached a pivotal moment. The unveiling of the Commencement Stone marked the formal initiation of the construction of the new capital. Located in the heart of Canberra, the stone has six sections, each representing one of Australia’s six states. This symbolism was a testament to a nation united as it embarked on the journey to establish a capital that would eventually encompass the values and ambitions of the entire country.

An Emblem of Commencement

The Commencement Stone is a significant symbol of the city’s origin, found in the city centre. It was built in 1913 and embodies the city’s determination, aspiration, and vision during its establishment as a new capital. Although it was initially situated where the New Parliament House stands today, the stone’s presence went beyond its physical form, revealing a sense of purpose.

However, the story of the Commencement Stone took a turn in 1988, reflecting the ever-evolving landscape of Canberra. With the rise of the modern Parliament House, the stone had to find a new home. It relocated to its current position in the bustling mall across from Parliament House. This move wasn’t just a physical transition; it was a continuation of the stone’s legacy, now situated in an area that symbolizes civic engagement, democratic ideals, and the ever-evolving nature of the nation’s capital.

The Commencement Stone’s journey from its original placement to its present location mirrors Canberra’s evolution. It embodies not only the inception of a city but also the adaptability, growth, and progress that have defined Canberra’s character over the decades.

A Name Unveiled

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Commencement Stone is its profound connection to Canberra – a name that carries a rich tapestry of history. On the day of its unveiling, an event graced by the presence of Lady Denman, the wife of the then Governor General, a pivotal announcement echoed across the land – the new capital city was to be known as “Canberra.” This momentous declaration was more than just a naming ceremony; it was a tribute to the city’s indigenous heritage, a homage to the land’s traditional custodians.

The name “Canberra” draws its roots from the Aboriginal word “Kamberra” or “Nganbra,” which means “meeting place” or “gathering place.” This deep resonance with the land’s original inhabitants serves as a reminder of the unity and harmony that transcends time. As the name unveiled, it wasn’t merely a label; it was a declaration of intent, a promise that this city would be a place where people from diverse backgrounds would come together to create a shared future.

Lady Denman’s announcement from the Commencement Stone wasn’t just a formal christening; it was the laying of a cultural cornerstone. It solidified the name “Canberra” as not just a word on a map but a representation of a city’s essence, past, and aspirations. As you stand before this stone, you’re not only connecting with a tangible relic of the past, but also connecting with the spirit of unity, heritage, and promise that continues to shape Canberra’s identity.

Amidst the unveiling of the Commencement Stone stood a colourful character named King O’Malley. His role in the creation of Canberra was noteworthy, making him a figure worth exploring in detail. The Commencement Stone’s journey also took an unexpected turn. Originally designed to be accompanied by a towering obelisk, the stone stood alone for decades. It wasn’t until a century later, during the ACT government’s celebration of the stone’s 100th anniversary, that a copy of the stone was created, with the obelisk finally gracing its presence.

Whether you’re an avid history buff or simply curious about Canberra’s story, exploring the Commencement Stone Column is a journey into the heart of the nation’s capital.

When you choose Canberra Guided Tours, the longest-running tour company in the ACT, you open the door to a world of captivating stories and intriguing destinations. Join our top-rated tours across the Canberra District, where we weave tales of fascinating people, places, and remarkable buildings. Come and discover Canberra, and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime. We also conduct custom private tours and services, like a step-on tour guide for those who already have an itinerary in mind. 

We also have the most awaited Canberra Floriade Tour, happening this September to October, where attendees will get the chance to witness the vibrant hues and laid-back culture of Australia’s capital city in the springtime.