01 June 2012

Self Government for Canberra - 1927 style

The ACT Heritage Library's ephemera collection has thousands of stories to tell.  Each piece of "junk mail" - ticket stub, flyer, poster, shop catalogue and program - tells at least one story.

One of our oldest pieces of ephemera is a flyer for a public meeting of the newly formed Canberra Branch of the Australian Natives' Association, calling for Parliamentary representation and self-government for the people of the Federal Capital Territory.

The Australian Natives' Association was founded in Victoria in April 1871 as a Friendly Society with a difference.

Its membership was restricted to those born in Australia - hence the name 'natives'. By 1871, there was an increasing number of native-born Australians who did not have the same nostalgic ties to Britain as previous generations. There was also a perception amongst the native born that they were second class citizens in their own land. Positions of influence were always held by men born in Great Britain.

The Society was a strong supporter of Australian Federation so it is unsurprising a branch would be formed in the ACT.

In January 1927, Charles Francis, the Federal Capital Commission’s manager of stores, formed the local Branch of the Australian Natives’ Association and was its first President.

One of its aims was self-government for the Federal Capital Territory and was instrumental in the formation of the Federal Capital Territory Citizen Representation League.

One of the interests of the Australian Natives’ Association was the promotion of land conservation and re-afforestation. In Canberra, the Branch planted an avenue of trees down Limestone Avenue, Braddon. This event is recorded on a white seat in the middle of Limestone Avenue, at the intersection with Ghirrawheen Street proclaiming, "This avenue of trees was planted by The Australian Natives Association 25 August 1928." All the trees are natives - various Eucalypt species and Kurrajongs. The Australian Natives' Association was an early and strong supporter of reafforestation.

Read The Canberra Times report of the meeting here.

Australian Natives' Association, Canberra Branch members ca. 1927.
Images ACT 006482