As you may have read I was recently invited to visit Canberra as part of the #HumanBrochure campaign. Organised by Australian Capital Tourism this world-first project uses 500 real, everyday people to create a human brochure. Stepping away from the traditional this means that no trees are being cut down for printing flyers and no unread brochures end up in land fill. Instead the Human Brochure creates a wave of online stories, photos, tweets and word-of-mouth sharing of experiences about Canberra and all it has to offer.
Over 31,400 people applied to be part of the Human Brochure and after a careful selection process 500 lucky people from all over Australia, of all ages and with different social and economic backgrounds received the big ‘Yes’ in their mailbox.
On October 26, 2012 the first 250 people were welcomed into Canberra, some arrived by car and some were flown in by plane including my lovely neighbour Kate and I. Our first impression of Canberra was that it was very green (much more green than South Australia!) and the air was very clean. The second thing we noticed was that it was surprisingly calm and relaxed for a country capital, it was actually rather relaxing! Although we arrived at peak hour we hopped in a cab without waiting and made our way to the city in just 10-15 minutes. There was no traffic at all, we even spotted a horse crossing the road (we were told that was rare, but we did spot two horses in just one weekend. Not something you see in central Sydney or Melbourne).
All guests were divided over 4 groups depending on their interests and social activity: Foodies, Adventure, Arts & Culture and Family Fun (this last one is obviously where I feel most at home!). Each group stayed in a different hotel or apartment and had a very busy travel itinerary for the weekend. I didn’t actually bring my kids but I might as well have because the apartments at Clifton Suites on Northbourne were extremely spacious and were very well suited to families.
The Clifton Suites on Northbourne offer a ‘home away from home’ to Canberra tourists and business visitors, just a 15 minute drive from the airport. The modern 1 and 2 bedroom apartments were originally built for private use so they are designed just like proper ordinary domestic apartments. The bedrooms, living room and bath room were very large and as the units are self contained (kitchen complete with dishwasher, washing machine and even dryer) you could easily stay there for a longer period of time. Ideal for families with buffet breakfast options, a pool and close to many of the tourist attractions.
I have been living in Australia for 6 years but never actually made it to the nation’s capital before and I was surprised to hear even many Australians have never even been there. Like most people I didn’t know much about Canberra except that it is where the big policital decisions are made (not an appealing tourist destination I am afraid) and that it is the home of the Australian War Memorial, which happened to be the location of our opening event on Friday night.
When you arrive at the Australian War Memorial you can’t help but be overwhelmed, by the impressive building at the end of the long Anzac Parade but even more so by the meaning of this place. As we heard in our opening speech: The War Memorial does not exist to celebrate war, as some critics say, but rather to commemorate our fallen heroes, we must never forget them. When you look at the thousands of names on the wall and think of all those lives lost for freedom you can’t help but choke up a little.
While the commemorative part of the Australian War Memorial might be a bit too difficult for young children to understand the War Memorial Museum is sure to grab everyone’s attention. There is so much to see and learn from old planes to boats and more, children will also love seeing the employees wearing the traditional uniforms of soldiers and war nurses. If you have the time make sure you join a free tour as it really brings the war stories to life, you will walk away a lot richer in knowledge.
By the time we finished our opening night it was well and truly night time, Canberra gets dark and chilly quickly! Stay tuned for day two of our #HumanBrochure experience.