The Australian Government took possession of 2,357 km2 of land from
New South Wales (NSW) in 1911 to form the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) as
the site for the Australian national capital. That capital, Canberra, lies
between Sydney, 307 km north-east, and Melbourne 655 km south-west.
territory, at Jervis Bay, was acquired from NSW in 1915. This transfer was in
accordance with the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1908 which stated that the
seat of government (ACT) should have access to the sea. The Jervis Bay territory
was to be that access. Jervis Bay is administered by the Department of the
Environment, Sport and Territories on behalf of the Australian Government. It
has been used for defence activities, grazing, forestry, water catchment
purposes, conservation and recreation. Its total area is 7,360 ha.
The ACT has three contrasting landforms. In the north, where
urban development has taken place, it is a lowland of undulating hills including
the floodplains of the Murrumbidgee and Molonglo Rivers, mostly below 600 m.
Beyond this are forested mountain slopes rising to 1,200 m divided by numerous
tributaries of the Murrumbidgee. In the south and extreme west is an upland of
steep ridges and mountain peaks rising above 1,800 m.
The lowland, including the city of Canberra, has an average
annual rainfall of 630 mm, unevenly distributed throughout the year. In most
years there are light snowfalls in winter. Strong winds are frequent, mainly
from the west and north-west. The mean maximum temperature in Canberra is
19.7°C, with the highest on record 42.2°C. The mean minimum is 6.9°C, with the
lowest on record, -10°C. On the mountain slopes the rainfall is higher but very
uneven, due to variations of aspect. The mountain ridges have an even higher
rainfall which may reach 1500 mm annually. During much of the winter the ground
temperature is near or below freezing point. Snow falls frequently and may
persist for some months.
of Foreign Affairs and Trade, International Public Affairs Branch 1995