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Lucky the Koala
Lucky the Koala
David at the zoo
Gorgeous Canberra

Canberra bounces back

Thursday, April 24, 2003
Our capital bounces back after the 2003 bushfires, making it bigger and better than ever before.

Canberra has always been a city in the bush, surrounded by national parks and reserves. On January 18 this year it was ravaged by bushfires which had a devastating effect on the city and its residents, both physically and emotionally.

Four people lost their lives in the fires; 350 more were injured and 451 homes destroyed. The cost to the private sector exceeded $200 million and more than $70 million worth of public assets and infrastructure was lost.

Tourism took a severe downward turn — figures were down 50 percent immediately after the fires. The renowned Mt Stromlo Observatory was destroyed, along with years of scientific research and millions of dollars worth of astrology equipment. It was Australia's oldest observatory and was housed in a cluster of heritage buildings which were also lost.

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in the city's south-west was terribly burnt; every tree was scorched and half of the inhabitants were killed. Botulism appeared in the water after the fires, which caused the demise of much birdlife.

As the ACT comes to grips with their devastation, Getaway paid a visit to see first-hand the reparation, both natural and manmade.

The National Zoo and Aquarium is the only combined zoo and aquarium and has minimal use of cages; animals which need to be segregated are done so by the use of waterways.

It is now home to a plucky little female koala, appropriately named Lucky. She somehow survived the fires which took her home in the reserve. Medicine, the kindness and skill of carers and a strong will to live on Lucky's part saw her pull through and she is the zoo's symbol of hope. When fully recovered she will be returned to the semi-wild environment at Tidbinbilla.

Helm Wines in Murrumbateman, one of the district's three wine-making areas, is run by Ken and Judith Helm and their daughter, Stephanie. They are fourth and fifth generation descendants of German winegrowers from the Rhineland.

They hold the first licence issued for cellar door sales in the area and all vineyards are in close proximity, making tasting and purchasing simple.

A visit to Helm Winery is more than just a visit to a vineyard. The Toual School House was built on the property in 1888 and served as a school until 1940. It also served as a meeting room for the Temperance League where, in a strongly Methodist area, many signed a pledge against the consumption of alcohol. In 1973, Helm Wines purchased and established Nanima Creek vineyard and in 1987 returned the old school house to its current location. It was restored as the vineyard's wine tasting room.

The Australian Institute of Sport is in Canberra and is where elite athletes are trained and coached to reach the extent of their talents.

Petria Thomas relocated to Canberra from Mullumbimby in New South Wales to get the best from her swimming skills. She has represented Australia in Olympic and Commonwealth Games and has won gold, silver and bronze medals in the discipline.

She and her husband love the city and its people so they were not surprised at how Canberrans came out to support each other during and after the fires. Locals are seeing their city in a brand new way and there is a genuine welcome given to visitors.

Canberra, of course, is home to federal politicians when Parliament is sitting. Senator Natasha Stott Despoja believes the city should symbolise what we stand for as a nation so it is really important that when people visit Canberra, they can look proudly at their nation's capital.


Australia's capital


Helm Wines tours are available by arrangement for $5 per person.
The National Zoo and Aquarium entry costs $18.50 for adults and $10.50 for children.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

Helm Wines
Butts Road, Murrumbateman 2582
Ph: (02) 6227 5953 Fax: (02) 6227 0207

National Zoo and Aquarium
Lady Denman Drive, Canberra 2600
Ph: (02) 6287 8400 Fax: (02) 6287 8401

Qantas: 13 13 13

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