I actually called into the Narrabundah Shops (Narrabundah is a relatively close suburb to the city centre though somewhat off the tourist map) to have breakfast at a nice looking café I had spotted a little time before. It was closed. In fact everything was closed apart from an IGA store (supermarket) and the place was pretty much deserted, as well as looking rather decrepit (that is apart from the café and a couple of restaurants which I have not frequented). Granted, it was 8am on a Sunday morning – though that doesn’t account for the decrepit look!
I should add in reference to Narrabundah Shops that all Canberra suburbs have a small concentrated shopping area with a varying number of retail outlets. There is no such thing as corner shops, which some readers may be familiar with, in Canberra. Some of these ‘Shops’ are great little centres of social activity, some are not.
Suffice to say, Narrabundah Shops (above) has seen better days and is no longer the place to be seen breakfasting on a Sunday morning. It is clearly a casualty to the nearby trendy and popular Manuka and Griffith Shops.
Not deterred and not yet famished I determined to have a look around – I can generally find something of interest in most places. Having parked my car, I went for a short wander and came the street adornment depicted below and in my main picture, across from the shops, and not far from the rather ugly looking public toilets. I probably didn’t need to add that last location marker but now you know there are toilets here should that need arise while you are here.
I fear I have digressed, back to the art-work.
It is a 1998 work, in two parts, by Susie Bleach and Andrew Townsend and relates to the social history of the area. In the foreground, on the pavement, is a black hawk (in slate, I think) set in a white pebble mosaic. This is a link to the Aboriginal history of the area with Narrabundah meaning ‘little hawk’ in the local aboriginal language. To the rear is a similar leaf shaped steel structure held aloft by some steel poles on the top of one of which is a weather vane comprising of a flying hawk and a yellow disc, which may depict the sun. This part of the artwork identifies with European construction workers who settled in Narrabundah post WWII. Many of these workers were refugees from WWII seeking a better life than that of post war Europe.
Paradoxically, this influx of construction workers, who came at the outset of a post war building boom in the then very young national capital, caused rather a stir in Canberra as there was no housing for them to live in!
The solution was ‘the Narrabundah pre-fabs’ which comprised 362 ‘temporary’ prefabricated homes, shipped in by rail from Sydney and erected on the outskirts of the then city in the post war years to accommodate the new tradesmen and their families. Picture 5 – courtesy of the Old Narrabundah Community Council Inc – shows these new homes in the early 1950s. The vast majority of this early construction has long since gone and though a few uninspiring remnants remain they need not figure on the visitor’s ‘must sees’ in Canberra unless you have a particular predilection for such things.
What may be of more interest is some more modern aboriginal artwork in the immediate vicinity of the Narrabundah Shops.
Narrabundah is home to a significant number of Canberra’s small Aboriginal community and consequentially home to a number of Aboriginal organisations including the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service which provides free health care for local Aboriginal people. The outside of the Health Centre building hosts a number of rather nice Aboriginal paintings.
A short walk, some 50 metres, back towards the shopping centre along Kootara Crescent the bus stop is also worthy a look – or rather the interior of it is for its rather beautiful Aboriginal artwork.
It’s amazing what a short walk , even in an area you don’t expect to find anything, can uncover.
Location: Iluka Street and Kootara Crescent, Narrabundah