Canberra was first settled by Europeans in 1824. Being almost equal distance between rivals Sydney and Melbourne, in 1908 the site was diplomatically selected as the national capital, together with the surrounding area, as the Australian Capital Territory. The name Canberra was selected in 1913 from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘meeting place’.
Following an international competition American architect, Walter Burley Griffin, was chosen to design the city. His plan envisaged a garden city for about 25,000 people.
Construction began in 1913, but because of political squabbling and the effects of World War I, it was only in 1927 that the provisional parliament building was officially opened.
In 1963 the Molonglo River was dammed to form Lake Burley Griffin, an artificial lake 11km wide, named after the architect. It is now the centrepiece of modern Canberra. It also provides facilities for sailing, rowing, fishing and swimming.