Australia has six states and two territories, like this.
The most discernible difference between states and territories is that a territory has a definite article before its name, eg the Northern Territory as opposed to, say, Queensland. There are other differences, but nothing you need to bother about.
The Northern Territory (NT) in some ways epitomises one of the images other people have of Australia: the Red Heart full of nothing very much.
Don’t be fooled. As well as Uluru (which is so much more than ‘just a big rock’ in so many ways impossible to verbalise) the Northern Territory has an unparalleled depth of Aboriginal culture, thousands of square miles of fascinating scenery and a wealth of spectacular national parks, like Kakadu
It’s also home to a few unique Australian events, like the Henley-on-Todd Regatta
All of which is just a start, but I’m not a travel agent.
The Australian Capital Territory (the ACT) is more commonly known as Canberra, the seat of the Australian Federal Government which is what the ACT is about: 910 square miles carved out of New South Wales as a compromise between warring politicians, who had spent 11 years since Federation in 1901 fighting over whether Melbourne or Sydney should be the Federal Capital.
But this is politics, remember, so even after Walter Burley Griffin was finally declared the winner of a competition to design the city, controversy raged unchecked. It was no surprise when the designs of all three finalists were referred to the tender mercies of a Departmental Committee charged with preparing their own solution. The resulting conglomerate became the official plan.
But this too was jettisoned within a few months of being adopted, along with the government and the committee that had produced it. The new government reinstated Burley Griffin, who proceeded to achieve very little due to a lack of funds and his own ability to antagonise the (still warring) pollies. His contract was concluded in 1921 and the development of Australia’s capital once again dwindled into the haphazard.
Two world wars and the Great Depression put considerable strain on Australia’s resources and nothing much happened in the growth of Canberra for quite some time. Fortunately for us all, the National Capital Development Commission was established in 1955, its brief being the rapid and appropriate development of a capital city worthy of the country it was supposed to represent.
The NCDC immediately returned to Burley Griffin’s original design, and a combination of effort and determination have now realised the full scope of his vision.
Canberra today is a beautiful city settled serenely into the frame of the surrounding hills around the shores of a large artificial lake
with all the national political, academic and cultural institutions you’d expect.
But despite its undeniable grace and charm, I have to admit that what entertains me most about our political capital is that it is designed as a series of concentric circles, and is a great place for hot-air ballooning.