On 23 June 1966 – 50 years ago – urban Belconnen began. Belconnen was the newest area of Canberra. Today I was able to attend the 50th birthday celebrations at Aranda Playing Fields, and while there – with 100 other community members braving the cold – I reflected on what makes Belconnen so special.
Over the past few months I’ve been privileged to speak to many people who were among the first to move to Belconnen and still live in the same home today. I’ve also been lucky enough to speak to people who grew up here and have chosen to raise their families here, or have moved back after a time away. And there are others, like me, who moved here relatively recently and have decided to make Belconnen their home.
There’s no denying that Belconnen has changed a lot in the last 50 years and continues to change. At the last ACT election in 2012 – in the Town Centre alone – Altitude, Sentinel and Linq hadn’t yet been completed. And before the 2020 election, we’ll have growth at Wayfarer and the “New Acton’-like development Labor Club car park site, as well as in front of Belconnen Westfield. The Loop development at Belconnen Markets should be completed and we may still see development on Lathlalin Street. Out in West Belconnen, Riverview will be full steam ahead. Lawson will house even more than now, and the Ginninderra Field Station site between Kuringa and Owen Dixon Drives might look a lot different. In just four years.
But despite all the change, there is one thing that doesn’t change at all: our sense of–and our pride in our–community. I was recently speaking to a constituent in her 80s who moved to Canberra from Sydney three years ago, and as soon as she set foot in Belconnen, she knew she wanted to live here. I had the same experience. When I first moved to Canberra I lived in the inner south, but I found myself drawn to Belconnen and I was soon living here. I’ve never left. It’s hard to describe the feeling accurately but it’s a feeling that’s connected to the people who live here.
And to me, that’s what our 50th birthday is about celebrating: our community. Yes – we have fantastic restaurants, a rejuvenating bar scene, the most amazing views from a host of easy-to-reach hills and a gem in Lake Ginninderra – but it’s the people that make Belconnen. There’s a sense of pride, a sense of attachment, a sense of care and ownership attached to this amazing community.
And that makes it a great place to live.
Happy birthday, Belconnen.