A recent post compared the government shutdown in the United States to Australia’s 1975 crisis over passing an appropriations bill. To resolve the crisis, the Queen’s representative, Sir John Kerr, who served as Governor-General, sacked Australia’s prime minister and put in the opposition leader to pass a bill before the supply (appropriations money) ran out on 27 November. When Parliament sought a no-confidence vote for the new prime minister, Kerr dissolved Parliament and called for elections. Kerr’s actions have remained controversial all the way up to today, and I noted there was a pending court case to make his communications with the Queen public, to determine to what extent Queen Elizabeth II was involved with her Governor-General’s decisions. Buckingham Palace has always maintained she knew nothing at all.
A court recently found that the palace letters between Kerr and Queen Elizabeth II will remain off-limits to the public. The decision has outraged many Australians and prompted more discussion about becoming a republic versus remaining a constitutional monarchy. This article explains the case and the constitutional ramifications of the court’s decision.
Imagine someone with a spray can, painting graffiti on a wall. How do you picture that person? Chances are you envision someone young, in a hoodie, standing in a dark underpass. Last August in Canberra, the Streetwise Project decided to change that perception and transform a drab public place into something more colorful and dramatic.
The call went out to find people, age 55 or older, who wanted to work on an intergenerational street art project. Two professional graffiti and street artists served as mentors and planned to teach their techniques in workshops. The professionals, both younger artists, would then paint murals with the new group of older artists at a bus station.
The Streetwise Project had several goals: to combat ageism, reduce stereotypes about graffiti and street artists, and give an intergenerational experience to older people, to bring them into the community and lessen feelings of isolation.
A few months later, 35 enthusiastic people, all over the age of 55, attended three workshops. Calling themselves the Silver Sprayers, they were passionate and inspired to paint. The result can be seen in the wonderful, quirky murals at the Woden Bus Interchange.
The Silver Sprayers all loved their first experience in making street art, and the public’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Since the project is ongoing, the group is hoping to paint more in Narrabundah, another suburb of Canberra. Next stop, Narrabundah!
Canberra, the capital of Australia, is a planned city. The designers were two American architects selected in a worldwide competition. Although Canberra still reveres Walter Burley Griffin, history has overlooked the other half of the partnership: his wife Marion Mahony Griffin.
Marion Mahony was born in Chicago in 1871. She was the second woman to graduate in architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1894, making her one of the first licensed female architects in the world.
Beginning in 1895, Marion Mahony worked for Frank Lloyd Wright as part of the Prairie School architectural movement. She was his first employee and later one of seven draftsman who contributed to the style of architecture that made Wright famous. She is best known for her drawings and watercolor renderings of Wright’s designs. In 1910, a book of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs was published in Germany, which became one of the most important publications about architecture in the last century and influenced Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Mahony’s drawings, retraced in ink, made up more than half the book. When people see her drawings and watercolor renderings, they think of Frank Lloyd Wright, but the notoriously arrogant architect never gave her any credit for her work.
Marion Mahony married Walter Burley Griffin in 1911, another Prairie School architect she had met in Wright’s studio. She devoted herself to furthering her new husband’s career. She persuaded him to enter a competition for the design of Australia’s proposed capital city in Canberra. They collaborated on the entry, and Marion created 14 large presentation drawings of Walter’s design. Ironically, neither Marion nor Walter had ever seen Australia. Her drawings captured the imagination of the judges, and the couple won the competition.
In 1914, they moved to Canberra to oversee the building. After many bruising, bureaucratic battles over the new capital city, very little of their vision survived. Although only small parts of their original plan were implemented, the couple had other successful projects in Australia. Marion managed their Sydney office and did the designs for their private commissions. Their projects included five new towns, several suburban communities, three campus plans, houses, and some industrial and commercial buildings.
The couple also worked in India, where Walter designed a university library. After her husband died there in 1937, Marion returned to Australia and then to the United States. She continued working and was also known as a horticulturist, graphic designer, and painter. She remained an advocate for community planning and the environment until her death in 1961. In 2005, her paintings were published in the book Marion Mahony Griffin: Drawing the Form of Nature.
In Canberra, memorials to her husband Walter Burley Griffin are easy to find. The lake in the center of the city bears his name. His portrait is on a commemorative postage stamp.
Marion Mahony Griffin is more elusive. The National Archives of Australia exhibited her renderings in 2013 for Canberra’s centennial. That same year, a view from the summit of Mount Ainslie, the subject of her most evocative drawing, was named in her honor.
A group of students is working for a plaque to honor the accomplishments of Marion Mahony Griffin as part of a larger effort to recognize the forgotten women in Canberra’s history.
Rose Ciccarelli is an American writer and editor living in Canberra, Australia.