Viewed from above, Canberra, with its roads, blocks and major buildings arranged in geometric harmony, resembles some ancient city carved out of the limestone plains in the early 20th century to act as the capital of a young country with big ambitions.
Source: Flickr | Norman Z
They couldn’t have picked a better spot. The nation’s only major inland city is surrounded by mountain ranges and forests that have become weekend homes for hikers, bikers and picnic-ers. Canberra itself straddles the enormous, man-made Lake Burley Griffin, formed by the damming of the Molonglo River, giving the city kilometres of waterfront and many iconic vistas.
With a population of less than half a million Canberra is far from crowded and still feels like a young, energetic city. The cultural life of the city is enriched by many impressive museums, galleries and performance venues.
Canberra boasts Australia’s most educated work force, so it is little surprise that the unemployment rate here is one of the lowest in the country at 4.5%. Over half of Canberra’s workforce is employed by either the ACT or Federal governments; the rest collect their pay cheque from one of the 25,000 private businesses based in the city.
The daily politicking of the capital’s government centres, with its attendant media buzz, reminds residents that they’re living at the heart of Australian life and provides the mainstay of economic activity.
This growing city has countless job opportunities, particularly for those skilled in industries such as the public service, construction, IT, health, education, tourism and sports.
While it is certainly an advantage to be a fluent English speaker, having more than one language will open up a vast number of additional opportunities.
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The cost of living in Canberra is one of lowest in Australia, making it an extremely attractive destination. In Canberra, you need only 6,459 AUD to maintain the same standard of living that would cost you 7,000 AUD in Sydney.
While people here spend an average of 1,536 AUD each week on goods and services – more than any other major Australian city – this is more than offset by the median annual household income being the highest in the country at 101,244 AUD.
Source: Flickr | Sacha Fernandez
The cost of everyday expenses, such as parking, public transportation, fast food and beer, are among the lowest in Australia.
Canberra’s property market has slowed of late, with house prices falling by just over 3% in the last financial quarter of 2014. However, with the current median house price sitting at 540,000 AUD there are plenty of bargains to be had, especially in new developments located 5-10 km from the city centre.
Canberra also has some of the lowest rental prices in the country, with people here spending on average only 19.3% of their household income on rent.
Most people in Canberra live in detached single-dwelling houses of which there is a healthy mix of renters and owners. You can also find both low and high rise blocks of units (apartments) in many parts of the city, particularly closer to the CBD.
You won’t find a city anywhere in the world that is better planned than Canberra – regardless of where you live, getting around is easy and there are trees, parks and water almost everywhere.
Whether you are young or old, here to work or study, there are plenty of great neighbourhoods, the following are a few of the best:
Family friendly: Yarralumla – quiet, safe, clean and beautiful, not to mention close to just about anywhere you will need to get to, this friendly suburb next to Lake Burley Griffin is perfect for families.
Lyneham – located only 3km from the city centre, Lyneham is close to parks, cafes and shopping. It features gorgeous tree-lined streets and a mix of modern and heritage homes.
Kambah– Australia’s largest suburb, Kambah is located close to several stunning natural areas and provides easy access to shopping, schools and transportation.
Upmarket: Griffith – Canberra’s most expensive suburb in 2014, this high-end neighbourhood is close to some of the city’s finest schools and within walking distance of two great shopping areas.
Red Hill – with an average house price of over 1 million, this is one of Canberra’s most beautiful and exclusive areas. Its houses, parks and gardens are truly stunning.
Yarralumba – while this isn’t the city’s most expensive area, it sure feels like it is. Located on the southern bank of Lake Burley Griffin, Yarralumba lies just over 3km from the city centre.
Hip and trendy: Civic – home to an array of cafes, restaurants and independent shops; Civic is also where you’ll find the city’s edgiest trendsetters. In 2014 this area was voted Canberra’s hippest suburb.
Braddon – located just outside the city centre at the foot of Mount Ainslie, this is one of Canberra’s youngest neighbourhoods and features an array of trendy bars and restaurants.
Up and coming: Franklin – home to Canberra’s most affordable housing, this diverse community boasts plenty of green space as well as an impressive array of shops, cafes and decent transportation.
Holt – this up and coming Canberra suburb has tree-lined streets, affordable housing and a welcoming community vibe. There is even a golf course within walking distance.
Ngunnawal – one of the city’s best kept secrets, this suburb is close to schools, shops, and restaurants. It also has some of Canberra’s most affordable housing at the moment.
Source: Flickr | Prescott Pym
Cost of moving
The cost of moving to Canberra will vary depending on the amount you want or need to take with you, as well as how far it needs to travel. The following estimates are based on moving a 20 foot shipping container and do not include flights or visas:
|Los Angeles||£2,479 GBP|
|Abu Dhabi||£4,237 GBP|
While there was a time when Canberra was known for its lack of nightlife, nowadays you can find almost any type of entertainment any night of the week.
Head to the New Action Nishi precinct and catch a documentary at the Palace Electric Cinema, or drop by the Canberra Theatre Centre and be treated to world-class ballet, opera or comedy.
If you are looking to bust a move there are plenty of dance clubs and live music venues where you can hit the floor. For those just looking for a bite to eat, Canberra has a wide variety of superb dining options to suit every taste and budget.
Schools and education
Canberra holds the crown as Australia’s most educated city and provides a huge array of educational opportunities.
There are 150 schools in Canberra and the greater ACT area, the vast majority of which are government run, while most others are either religious or privately run schools. With 43.4 schools per 100,000 residents, Canberra has a greater number of schools per resident than both Sydney and Melbourne.
Most Canberra schools cater to both boys and girls and there are also six international schools.
In terms of post-secondary education, there are a huge variety of options in Canberra ranging from community colleges and technical schools through to a world renowned hospitality school and even a military academy.
Universities in Canberra
Canberra is also home to several world class universities including Australia’s best; the highest ranked universities (according to the World University Rankings) are the following;
The Australian National University (Ranked 25) – Specialties include Law, Medicine, Physics, Engineering, Business and Economics.
University of Canberra (Ranked 651) – Specialties include Health, Arts, Design, Business, Government, Law, Technology and Mathematics.
Canberra's ranking against the world
For a small city, Canberra has been making plenty of noise on the global stage of late. For instance, in the recent Mercer Quality of Living Survey, Canberra was ranked the 30th best city in the world, beating out London, New York City, and larger Aussie centre Brisbane.
The National Library of Australia here boasts the largest Asian language collections in the entire southern hemisphere and in 2014 the United Nations declared Canberra a world leader in disaster management.
Canberra is also the world’s number one supplier of analytical systems, services and instruments for radiation detection and monitoring.
While Canberra may not be quite as multicultural as Sydney or Melbourne, its residents hail from all over the world, and every year Canberra hosts the National Multicultural Festival which draws tens of thousands of people from all over the country.
Source: Flickr | Adrian Fallace
A day in the life
Finding a good place to live isn’t always easy. There are often sacrifices to make, tough decisions to agonise over and many people will tell you that you simply can’t have it all. Canberra is proof that they are wrong.
If you have been dreaming of a life where your job is well paid; where you can live in a clean, safe and healthy community, where your kids can attend world-class schools and quality of life is actually a priority, look no further.
You won’t find a city that encourages activity, promotes engagement and celebrates diversity quite like Canberra. That life you have been dreaming of is waiting for you here in the Australian capital. Why not make the move?