The official name of the ‘Territory for the Seat of Government’ was adopted in 1909 when this portion of land was set aside for the government of the Commonwealth of Australia.  The name, however, proved somewhat cumbersome and was rarely used.  The ‘Federal Capital Territory’ was mostly adopted and continued as the ‘unofficial’ title for some 27 years until:

” . . . An amending bill, which was introduced late last year by the former Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), proposed to change the title from the unwieldly phrase “Territory for the Seat of Government” to “Federal Capital Territory.” . . . “

Source:  Excerpt – Canberra Times – published 3rd December 1937

The Seat of Government Acceptance – No. 12 of 1938 was assented to on the 1st July 1938.  The newly approved name: ‘Australian Capital Territory‘ became official on the 29th July 1938 and remains as such until this very day – however, frequently abbreviated to the ‘ACT’ . . .

The following excerpts from an article published in the ‘Canberra Times’ on the 3rd December 1937 demonstrate the unpopularity of the name change at the time:

” . . . A proposed change of name of the Federal Capital Territory to Australian Capital Territory, is proposed in an amending Seat of Government Acceptance Bill which is being introduced in the House of Representatives.

Although the official title of the Territory is now the Territory for the Seat of Government, usage and convenience have led to the term Federal Capital Territory being used generally.

The only departure in the past from the usage or the legal title originally conferred, has been by the Attorney-General’s Department, which created the title Australian Capital Territory in connection with the Supreme Court.  This title, which has proved cumbersome and is generally regarded as unsuitable, is not sought to be imposed by amending Bill.

An amending bill, which was introduced late last year by the former Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), proposed to change the title from the unwieldly phrase “Territory for the Seat of Government” to “Federal Capital Territory.” . . . “

” . . . The alteration of the single word will involve considerable expense.  For instance it will necessitate new number plates being issued to the 2500 private cars and hundreds of commercial vehicles in the Territory.  Road signs and a large amount of printed matter and equipment would also have to be changed at unnecessary expense.  Government stationery will also have to be changed, but this will be done only when the stocks on had are exhausted.  The time would come therefore, when some departments will be sending letters from the F.C.T., while, others are mailing them from the A.C.T. . . . “

” . . . The proposed change is not welcomed in business circles, it being pointed out that the most convenient and apt title has already been decided by the usage of the last 12 years.  The new title, it is pointed out, will create confusion, not only in Australia but abroad, where either the reduntant address Australian Capital Territory, Australia, will be employed or one or the other lines of the address may be dropped.  This would lead to delays through the similarity in names of some Canberra districts to towns elsewhere in Australia . . . “

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View other important events in Australia’s History . . .

View other important events in Australian Capital Territory’s History . . .