Territory for the Seat of Government

Section 125 of the Commonwealth of Australian Constitution Act 1900 (UK) allowed for the Federal Capital of Australia to be allocated a territory.  It was to be located within within the state of New South Wales, not less than 100 miles (161 km) from Sydney and of a size of not less than 100 square miles (161 sq km).

Seat of Government Act – No. 7 of 1904

The Commonwealth of Australian Constitution Act 1900 (UK) was amended to determine a new locality parameter, the valuation of land, as well as increase the size of the territory to 900 square miles (2,331 km²):

Today, the Australian Capital Territory covers an area of 2,358 km².

Selecting a Site for the New Federal Territory

As the Australian Constitution Act became enacted, pressure mounted to choose a site for the Federal Capital.  Forty five proposed sites were analysed by a Royal Commissioner.  Some of the sites included were:  Albury, Bathurst, Bombala, Braidwood, Carcoar, Forest Reefs, Goulburn, Lake George, LyndhurstOrange, Queanbeyan, Tumut, Wagga Wagga, Wellington, Yass, etc.

Proposed Federal Site - Queanbeyan - Small - CroppedThe year 1900 saw Bombala as the favourite.  By 1903 Tumut was named in favour over Bombala.  Progress stalled as the election of the 16th December 1903 took precedence.  The debate continued, another election came and went, and, in the meantime the Yass-Queanbeyan area entered the race.  Finally, on the 18th October 1909, an agreement was reached approving the Yass-Queanbeyan site together with an additional eight areas in the Jervis Bay vicinity (allocated as the port for the inland city).  Water rights were also included to ensure an adequate water supply.

Nine hundred and twelve square miles (2,362 km²) were designated for the ‘Territory of the Seat of Government‘, commonly referred to as the ‘Federal Capital Territory’.  The land was released by the New South Wales government via the Seat of Government Surrender Act 1909 (NSW) on the 8th December 1909 – assented to on the 14th December 1909.

The Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 (Cth) dated the 1st December 1909 was assented to on the 13th December 1909, and hence, the ‘Territory of the Seat of Government’ was established.

1st January 1911

On the 1st January 1911, the ‘Territory of the Seat of Government’ of Australia was enacted.  Interestingly, though the name was officially the ‘Territory of the Seat of Government’, the new territory was generally referred to as the ‘Federal Capital Territory’.

Land Lease Federal Capital Territory c 1927As soon as the territory had been established, an international competition was held to find the perfect design for what was to become the new capital city of Australia – Canberra.  The competition was won by an American architect Walter Burley Griffin – the drawings having being drafted by Marion Mahony Griffin.

The name, ‘Canberra’, is believed to have evolved from the Aboriginal Ngunnawal people’s word, ‘kamberra’ – which means ‘meeting place’ . . .

The name official name of the ‘Territory of the Seat of Government‘ was later amended to the “Australian Capital Territory” in 1938, even though it proved quite unpopular at the time.


Federal Capital Territory c 1933

Federal Capital Territory c 1933


A number of variations to the perimeter of the territory had occurred during the 20th Century, however, the borders reverted back to the structure of 1911, and, it is anticipated that they will remain as such in the foreseeable future . . .


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

View other important events in New South Wales’ History . . .

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

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.