Resources for Our Stories: Canberra: Federal Capital

Walker Books Classroom Ideas


The story of our nation’s capital.

In 1901, when the six British colonies of early Australia came together to form one country, a new capital city was proposed. But why was Canberra selected? And how did it become an important treasure trove of historical, artistic, sporting and scientific achievement? Discover Canberra – the federal capital of our great nation.

Author/Illustrator Information: 

Tracey Hawkins is the author of several children’s books and novels. Her children’s publications include Nancy Bentley, The First Australian Female Sailor and Max Meets a Monster. Tracey also writes adult nonfiction, is a columnist, crime writing advisor, crime consultant, and freelance writer, and has written and created works for an international literacy website.

How to use these notes: 

This story works on many levels. The suggested activities are therefore for a wide age and ability range. Please select accordingly.

These notes are for:

• Primary year 6
• Ages 8+

Key Learning Areas:

• English
• History

Example of: 

• Non-fiction


• Government
• Democracy
• Australian history • Indigenous Australia • Prime ministers
• System of government
• Australian art
• Money

National Curriculum Focus:* 

English Year 6 ACELT1613 ACELY1708 ACELY1709 ACELY1816 ACELY1816 ACELY1711 ACELY1712 ACELY1713 ACELY1714 ACELY1717

English content descriptions:

History Year 6 ACHHK113 ACHHK114 ACHHK116 ACHHS117 ACHHS118 ACHHS120 ACHHS121 ACHHS123 ACHHS124 ACHHS125

*Key content descriptions have been identified from the Australian National Curriculum. However, this is not an exhaustive list of National Curriculum content able to be addressed through studying this text. 1

*Notes may be downloaded and printed for regular classroom use only.
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Classroom Ideas Discussion Questions and Activities 

View the cover and title. Identify the following:

  • The title of the book
  • The author
  • The publisher

Discuss the following:

What is the role of the author? What is the role of the publisher?From the front and back cover what information can you learn about the book? What do you think this book is about? What information do you think will be covered in this book? What type of book is this and where would you expect to find it in your library?How does the layout of this book affect the readability of the text? Consider the large illustrations and photos, small blocks of text, and bold and coloured sections of text.

Find the following sections in Canberra: Federal Capital and explain their purpose. In what kind of books might you find these sections?

  • Contents
  • Glossary
  • Index

In what order is a glossary set out? How does this help when using it?What is the purpose of an index? In what sort of books would you find one?Who is the audience for this book? What makes you think that? Who do you think might enjoy this book other than the intended audience?

Create a timeline of the development of Canberra as Australia’s Federal Capital. Start with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1787, then the drafting of the Australian Constitution in 1891 and then include the dates of key dates in the development of Canberra. Include extra information and pictures found in your school library or online. Use an online interactive timeline creator such as Time Toast ( or Tiki-Toki (

As a class, have a discussion on the reliability of information found online. Are all websites reliable? Discuss how addresses ending in .gov or .edu are generally reliable, but other addresses ending in .com need to be used with caution. Why can some websites feature unreliable information?
Imagine that you have just been elected Prime Minister of Australia. Where would you live now? Where would you go to work? Make a list of the three most important issues that you would address first to make Australia a better place.

Draw a map of Australia. Mark in the states, territories and capital cities. Mark your school location on the map.

Research the designer of Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin. Write a short biography on him, discussing any other notable achievements he had in his life.

Imagine you were entering the competition to design Canberra. What would your ideal city look like? Make sure to include everything a city would need to run well.

Why is country acknowledged before many events in Australia? How is country acknowledged in your local area? Research the traditional owners of your local area and acknowledge them before your next school assembly.

Divide students into pairs and have them research one of the museums/institutions listed on pages 22-25. Each group should give a persuasive presentation to the class to convince listeners to visit this museum/institution when they visit Canberra. Groups can use a PowerPoint presentation (or similar) to illustrate their presentation.

What is your favourite photograph or drawing in this book? Why did you pick this picture? What did you learn from it?

Write a guide to your local area in a similar style tothis book. Divide the class up into groups to research information such as when the area was established, key local buildings and entertainment venues, the electorate your area falls into, your local member of parliament, famous Australians that have lived in the area and the geographical layout of the area. You could interview community members or look for records in your public library to get this information. Combine this information with photos and drawings and compile it into a book to keep in your school library.