When CDHS was formed in 1953, it was pretty much on its own as a
history organisation except for a close relationship with the Canberra University
College. Subsequently, CDHS has been joined in the ACT by a significant array
of history and heritage organisations - Commonwealth and Territory government
and non-government. These developments, together with changes to government
funding arrangements, have had a significant impact on many aspects of the
As far back as 1935, the Queanbeyan Age suggested that an
historical society in the district should be formed. However, it took nearly
two decades for this to come to fruition in Canberra and over three decades for
The society was formed on 10 December 1953 at a public meeting
held at the Canberra University College. L.F. Fitzhardinge was elected as the
first President. Other Council members included W.P. Bluett, Professors Manning
Clark and Oskar Spate, Arthur Shakespeare, Dr Cumpston,
and Loma Rudduck. Many locals became foundation members.
Jigsaw Players re-enactment in 1977 of the naming of Canberra at the Commencement Stone. CDHS photo 396
Getting on with it
Over the years the society has pursued its objectives through a wide
range of activities. These have varied according to many factors including the availability of funding, volunteers and other forms of support. As well as the activities listed in What we do some of the society's past activities have included:
· holding Pioneers' Gatherings
· recognition of special events such as Canberra's Diamond Jubilee (1973) and the naming of Lake George by Europeans (1970)
· partnering with the Yass Historical Society to hold Shamrock in the Bush conferences at St. Clement's
Retreat Centre at Galong
· Organising the Nan Phillips memorial lectures – from 1985 to 2003.
Of special interest to the society is the annual Canberra Day celebration
of the naming of Canberra on 12 March 1913. Celebrated by the society since 1957
this has included events such as re-enactments of the laying of the foundation
stone on Capital Hill and more recently the prestigious Canberra Day Oration. The
Centenary Canberra Day Oration was held in 2013.
The society's activities were not confined to Canberra. We have helped
a number of communities in the surrounding district set up their own historical
societies, including at Queanbeyan and Braidwood.
The society has been a foundation member of the Federation of Australian
Historical Societies [ www.history.org.au ] since its inception in 1977 and represents the ACT on its Council.
Funding and the future
For many years the society received funding from the Commonwealth
and Territory governments towards its operational costs, allowing it to employ
a Director and some other staff. Unfortunately, this funding has ceased, and
only ad hoc project funding is available through competitive ACT Heritage
Grants and Commonwealth Community Heritage Grants. Grants take a considerable amount of effort to apply for, addminister and acquitt. The society is now run entirely by volunteers.
The future is challenging owing to significant cuts in government support,
declining membership, and the need to harness technology to make the
society's collections more widely and easily accessible.