Following the arrival of Commonwealth surveyors in 1909, Acton Settlement was to become Canberra's first ‘suburb', and remained the administrative and social centre of the city for the next forty years. The area included farmland, two golf clubs, a racecourse, fifteen workers' cottages, a riding school, a swimming hole, a riverside tourist park, sports fields and playgrounds, a plant nursery, and most importantly, a close-knit and vibrant community. With the creation of Lake Burley Griffin after the Molonglo River was dammed in 1963-4, much of this early history was lost from view.
With the assistance of an ACT Heritage grant and support from NewActon, 'Sunken Stories of Old Acton' takes a journey back into the sunken landscapes of Acton's past, sharing stories collected between 2011 and 2014 from Canberra residents who either lived in Acton, or have memories of the area. This website contains our final edited selection of video and audio interviews, along with accompanying images and maps. The site also features the creative reflections of students from the ANU School of Art who engaged with the project in 2013 and exhibited their works at the Nishi Gallery in NewActon.
Over the course of this project we collected almost fifty hours of interview footage, which we have edited down into just over three hours of themed content. There are seventeen videos to explore in the menus above, ranging from three to thirty minutes in length. These are organised into the mapped locations now under the water (Places), the history of Acton (History), and community views on how the area has changed since the construction of Lake Burley Griffin (Changes). You can also browse the content for people who appear in the videos or have contributed images (People).
There are of course many more stories of Acton's past than could be possibly be told in one sitting (or website). While we have focused on aspects of Acton that could officially be considered 'submerged', there have been many other significant changes in the area over the last hundred years, and many dedicated historians who have written about Acton's past and people. We hope this site encourages people to seek out more knowledge from the many published resources available in the Canberra community.
We hope you enjoy exploring this selection of voices and stories from Acton's sunken past.
Dr Kirsty Guster