Documents on University site plan digitised by ANU Archives

15 January 2018

The ANU Archives has digitised an early National Capital Planning and Development Committee file about the University’s site in Acton. The file begins in July 1938 when Sir Robert Garran, as President of the University Association of Canberra, wrote to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior urging the government to take ‘immediate steps to reserve and dedicate an adequate and suitable area and to place it under a trust for University purposes.’ Garran had recently retired as Solicitor-General and head of the Attorney-General’s Department. His letter was closely followed by a request from the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, HF Whitlam, as Honorary Secretary of the same association, for a plan of the area set aside for the University. This activity appears to have been prompted by the government’s plans to build a larger brick building for the Canberra Hospital on the Acton Peninsula, to replace the temporary Canberra Community Hospital buildings. The file contains a number of plans of the proposed University site as well as sketches of other university sites such as Sydney, Oxford, Cambridge, Berkley and Columbia, in order to calculate what would be an adequate area for the University.

After being sent proposed plans in April 1940, Garran sends a strongly worded reply to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior:

The feeling of this council is that it would be a grave mistake to regard the investigation that has been made as a complete investigation, and consequently it would be premature to define finally as the site for University purposes the area that has been suggested. The association has collected much material information, and enquiries that are of distinct relevance to the definition of a site for those purposes are still being pursued by this Council, and I am desired to ask, therefore, that, representative of this Association be afforded an interview with the Minister or the Minister and yourself.


The digital copy is available in the Open Research repository, the original file is held by the ACT Territory Records Office