Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

Our Oddities Series takes us to the Jervis Bay Territory, one of the three internal territories of Australia - the other ones being the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

What sets Jervis Bay apart is its size: a few dozen square kilometers, a few dozen residents, what could have led the Australian Federal government to carve parts of the State of New South Wales to create a new territory that is, literally, a backwater?

The answer lies in the push, in the early days of the Commonwealth, to create a federal capital that would neither be Sydney nor Melbourne, the two capitals of the largest states and the largest cities in the new nation. As a result, Canberra was created as a federal capital in 1913, 12 years after the foundation of Australia. The Federal Capital Territory (now the Australian Capital Territory), taken from the state of New South Wales, was over 100km from the sea, so it was deemed reasonable to attach to it a small patch of coastal land that could serve to develop a port under direct federal supervision.

The coastal exclave of Jervis Bay was awarded to the federal government in 1915, but projects to build a port and link it by rail to Canberra never materialized. As a result, it has stayed as a separate territory with a population one hundred times less than the second smallest Australian Territory.

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