The Canberra Weekly property section.

Dealing with Canberra’s undesirables

There’s quite a funny song that appeared on the British TV comedy show ‘Spitting Image’ many years ago, entitled ‘I’ve Never Met A Nice South African’ and it provides a suitable backdrop for the trouble I’ve had with writing this post.

Originally, this piece had an introduction along the lines of: “Every city has their undesirables and Canberra is no exception. In London, it’s investment bankers, in Copenhagen, it’s the hipsters, while in Canberra, it’s estate agents.”

But, just like the Spitting Image song, this sweeping claim troubled me. For the record, I’ve met plenty of lovely South Africans. I actually know an investment banker who’s a pretty good guy. And I even know an estate agent whom I believe to be ethical and principled.

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Ask the family: Our youngest shares his thoughts

In the second of my guest blogs, nine-year old Mini-CBRbound uses his best handwriting to share his thoughts experiences from his first year as a Canberran. It’s not for the faint-hearted, he paints a good picture of deprivation in the early months after our move, but it perks up towards the end. Mini’s participation bribe was an extra hour on the Xbox – I can hear the squeals of excitement from the rumpus room right now.

A boy leans against the side of a bed while filling out a questionnaire.

Mini-CBRbound adopts a curious writing position to share his views of a year in Canberra.

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The cost of living

We had a bit of a shock last week when we received our first winter gas bill. In the past 12 weeks, it has cost us nearly $2,200 (or £1,100) to heat our house. A few days later, the electricity bill arrived, adding a further $500 to the damage.

A quick phone call to our energy supplier, ActewAGL, revealed that, for the same period last year, this house was billed $2,400. For the year before, also $2,200. A bit of checking with friends and neighbours showed us that nobody was surprised at this, and that high energy bills are something of the norm, certainly in Canberra, and perhaps across Australia. Continue reading

House prices a complex picture for migrants

If there’s one thing that Aussies and Brits have in common, it’s a constant fretting about the housing market – are prices going up or down? Are we at the peak of a price bubble? Should you rent until things calm down?

There’s no shortage of experts willing to offer answers to all of these questions but, in truth, only time will offer up the real answers.

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Danger at dusk

This weekend, as part of researching my next book, I went to a literary festival in Sydney, about a three-to-four hour drive from Canberra, or about the same distance as London to Liverpool.

I had to be in Sydney by 10am, and would be leaving at just after 5pm, but the trip caused me no end of consternation because I found it hard to decide whether to go up and back in a day, or to include an overnight stop along the way.

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Credit crunch

Despite being in Australia for more than six months now, there are still things that take us by surprise. Mostly, when we are caught off guard, it has little consequence other than to teach us something new – like a new piece of Aussie slang, or the curiosity of getting a day off for the Queen’s birthday when they don’t get one in Britain – but occasionally the surprises are slightly more problematic, as we found when applying for a credit card this month. Continue reading

Ice cold in Canberra

Frost covered trees in a snow-covered field.

In our last winter, the weather conditions were very different.

When we first told people we were moving to Canberra, non-Aussies would invariably ask where Canberra was, while Aussies would usually say something like: “What do you want to go there for? It’s freezing.”

But we’d seen the pictures of sunny Australia from afar, and had already gone through our wardrobes ditching thick jumpers and winter coats in anticipation of year-round pool-life in the lucky country.

So, now we are knee-deep in our first Canberra winter, how cold is it?
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Elemental Australia

Banished’, a new BBC drama about the first British penal colony in Australia has had the CBRbound family gripped for the past few weeks. Written by the excellent Jimmy McGovern, writer of Cracker, Hillsborough, The Street, The Accused and many other outstanding series, the show attempts to depict how Australia would have been for those very first European arrivals.

As well as connecting these new arrivals with the story of those early settlers, the show also serves as a reminder of how brutal this land could be, and still can be – something that, as born and bred Europeans, still takes us by surprise.

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A healthy tip for new migrants

As a new migrant to Australia, there are some things that take longer than others to understand. And none, save pensions, seem more complex to me than the issue of healthcare and private health insurance.

I’d like to say that we’ve cracked it and that, below, you’ll find a short précis of all the things you’ll need to know as a new arrival in Canberra, but that’s far from the truth. But what I have cracked is a little tip that so important that I shudder to think that we may have missed it. Continue reading