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The Department of Home Affairs announced the competition to design Australia’s federal capital on 30 April 1911. It released the conditions of entry at the same time.

Competitors were required to submit a general plan drawn onto a copy of a large contour map of the site prepared by Charles Scrivener and his team. They were allowed to submit additional drawings, ‘mounted on linen and on stretchers’. All plans, drawings and descriptions were to contain no identification. A sealed envelope, delivered with their entry, had their name and address.


The competition rules required each plan to allocate sites for a wide range of public buildings and facilities. Competitors could change Scrivener’s tentative railway route, and consider using tramways. They were encouraged to consider damming the Molonglo River to create ‘ornamental waters’. They were to provide for a water supply system to supply sites below an elevation of 2150 feet. A very specific requirement was to accommodate a sewage plant to be constructed six miles west of Camp Hill at an elevation of 1800 feet.

A unique opportunity

The instructions concluded with a statement that the opportunity to design a new federal capital was ‘unique in recent times’. Excellence and modernity were expected – entrants must ‘embody in their Designs all recent developments in the science of town planning’.