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R G Menzies Walk Print E-mail

The R G Menzies Walk was named in acknowledgement of Sir Robert Menzies' crucial contribution to the development of Australia's national capital, Canberra.

The R G Menzies Walk stretches from Commonwealth Avenue Bridge to Kings Avenue along the northern shore of Lake Burley Griffin. Four plaques outlining Menzies' career and role in the development of Canberra are located along the path.

During his second term as Prime Minister (1949-66), Menzies committed his government to the task of creating a capital worthy of the nation. This was at a time when Canberra's fortunes were arguably at their lowest ebb. It was a decision both courageous and visionary. As Allan Martin has noted in his biography: 'Menzies' interest, and effectiveness, in the development of Canberra was ... for him a source of special pride'. Menzies identified - despite his past prejudices about Canberra and at times bitter experiences there - a 'renewed opportunity of doing something'.

Menzies declared his intention to 'build up Canberra as a capital in the eyes and minds of the Australian people'. In mid-century Australia this was no easy task. Menzies' earlier view of Canberra as a place of exile and isolation mirrored that of many Australians. Canberra was mischievously dismissed as 'a cemetery with lights', 'the ruin of a good sheep station' and 'six suburbs in search of a city'.

Through a series of bold and ambitious decisions, Menzies committed his government to the original vision of a unique city - an 'ideal city', as Walter Burley Griffin called it - and set about enacting legislation to achieve it. In 1954-5, a Senate Select Committee of Enquiry report led to the crucial establishment of the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC), under (Sir) John Overall, which had the legislated status and budget to make a difference.

In his memoirs, Overall recalled the inspirational social, political and economic convergences: '[Canberra] had the support of a powerful leader looking to make his mark on history. The country was in the midst of the most stable period of government in its short history, the economy was booming and the development of the city had been placed under the control of a single authority'.

Menzies' contribution to the renewed city went well beyond the establishment of the NCDC. He and Dame Pattie Menzies made the Lodge their home, Deakin and Forrest their neighbourhood, and Canberra their city. Motivated by his irrepressible enthusiasm for cricket, in October 1951 Menzies inaugurated the annual Prime Minister's XI cricket match at Manuka Oval - against the visiting international touring team that year, the West Indies.

Sir Robert Menzies and Canberra

Sir Robert Menzies - Senate Select Committee Report,
'Development of Canberra', September 1955

'I cannot honestly say that I liked Canberra very much; it was to me a place of exile; but I soon began to realize that the decision had been taken, that Canberra was and would continue to be the capital of the nation, and that it was therefore imperative to make it a worthy capital; something that the Australian people would come to admire and respect; something that would be a focal point for national pride and sentiment. Once I had converted myself to this faith, I became an apostle ...'

Sir Robert Menzies,
The Measure of the Years, 1970

'When I remember how every penny spent on Canberra used to be grudged and how many arguments I had to engage in when travelling from State to State, I am delighted in my old age to think that Australia's capital has now become an object of pride and pleasure. This was always a national conclusion devoutly to be wished.'

Sir Robert Menzies,
The Measure of the Years, 1970

'I went away to England once more very happy, because the [financial estimates for the creation of Lake Burley Griffin] had been accepted; my dream had been given shape; but when I returned I found that the Treasury (which in any country moves in a mysterious way its wonders to perform) had induced ministers to strike the item out. At the very first meeting after my return, and when I had completed a survey of the matters which had been discussed abroad, I turned to the Treasurer, who was my good friend and ultimate successor, the late Harold Holt, and said, with what I hoped was a disarming smile, 'Am I rightly informed that when I was away the Treasury struck out this item of one million for the initial work on the lake?' The reply was yes, and that Cabinet had agreed. I then said, 'Well, can I take it that by unanimous consent of ministers the item is now struck in?'

Ms Heather Henderson (daughter of Sir Robert Menzies),
The Measure of the Years, 1970

'One lunchtime, when the doorbell rang ... my mother went and there was a neighbour, Bill Fisher [later a senior Foreign Affairs officer], who was then about ten. He said: 'Mrs Menzies, I want to ask Mr Menzies some questions for a project at school'. She said: 'We're just having lunch but come in'. Very composed, he sat at the table, got out his book, licked his pencil, and said: 'Mr Menzies, where were you born?' Jeparit. 'How do you spell it?' Was there any other country in the world where a small boy could walk in and talk to the Prime Minister? We were very lucky.'

Official Openings

The first section of the R G Menzies Walk, Citizenship Place, was opened on 26 January 2009. The opening was performed by the Govenor General Her Excellency Quentin Bryce AC and, the then Prime Minister, the Hon. Kevin Rudd MP.

On 16 September 2009 the Hon. Brendan O’Connor MP, the Minister for Home Affairs, officially opened the Commonwealth Park section of the R G Menzies Walk. The opening was attended by Mrs Heather Henderson, the daughter of Sir Robert Menzies.

The Overall Walk

By November 2009 the eastern end section of the R G Menzies Walk, from the western edge of Kings Park to the Carillon, was being used by the public.

Since its opening, the R G Menzies Walk has become a well used 4.5m wide walkway along the northern foreshore of Lake Burley Griffin. At over 2 kilometres in length along the lake edge, the R G Menzies Walk has proved to be popular with both visitors and Canberrans alike.

The new promenade path has enhanced the experience and amenity of Commonwealth Park and Kings Park, as well as the views around the central basin of  Lake Burley Griffen and across to the Parliamentary Zone.

Listen to speeches from the official opening of R.G Menzies Walk. (1.42Mb MP3)

R. G. Menzies Walk Map

R G Menzies Walk was developed and managed by the National Capital Authority on behalf of the Australian Government.

Design Landscape Architect: Oxigen Landscape Architects
Contract Project Manager: Manteena Pty Ltd

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 May 2011 08:19