The History of Campbell

Campbell, named as a suburb in 25 May 1956, has a key place in the history and heritage of Canberra, especially in its role as a new community at the time when the city was about to shrug off its long standing image as a bush capital and move positively towards becoming a worthy national capital and a city of world renown. 

Campbell got underway at about the time the Federal Government’s 1955 Senate Select Committee’s report recommendations and Sir William Holford’s 1957 ‘Observations on the Future Development of Canberra’ were setting the scene for a new approach to the future development of the national capital.  At that time Canberra’s population was only 36,000.

Campbell was named after the prominent merchant and landholder Robert Campbell of Duntroon Estate fame.  The suburb was destined to have a military presence and a direct relationship with the nation’s wartime history.  It was linked as it was on the eastern side by the Royal Military College (opened in 1911 at Duntroon) and later the Australian Defence Academy (1986), and on the western side by Walter Burley Griffin’s land axis (later Anzac Parade 1965) and the Australian War Memorial (original buildings 1941). 

On 1 March 1958 the planning and early construction plans for Campbell were in place and the suburb had welcomed its first permanent residents.  At the end of 1960 Campbell was extended to take in land which at the time included the Ainslie Migrant Hostel, the Australian War Memorial and also areas which would be the first for the Campbell High School, the former CSIRO National Headquarters and 120 houses north of Fairbairn Avenue. 



In the 1960s Campbell was a young supportive and baby booming community wanting to make the suburb into one of excellence, through local cooperation and mutual support.  Such an environment continued as Campbell moved through the various stages of urban and demographic change. 

Campbell has always been a diverse community, a situation brought by its urban design, its proximity to the city centre, its links to military history and the variety of its residential accommodation and landscape planting.  Its diversity has not hindered its unity as Campbell residents have always been prepared to take up the cudgels when one or other proposal has surfaced which threatened the nature of the community and its environment or overlooked the urban quality of the suburb. 



After 1951 and starting with Campbell, the neighbourhood concept was progressively implemented for the first time in Canberra.  The plan followed the principles of the Griffin Plan and was the first to depart from the standard 1925 gazetted plan.  The neighbourhood concept, created by town planned Trevor Gibson and architect  Constance Jackson, was based on six fundamental principles involving adaptations of British ‘new town’ planning practices and developments/ in the United States ie:

  • Major arterial and through traffic do not pass through residential areas; instead these streets provide boundaries of the neighbourhood,

  • Interior street patterns are designed and constructed using curvilinear layout, culs-de-sac and light duty surfacing to encourage quiet, safe, low-traffic movement and preserve residential atmosphere,

  • The population of the neighbourhood is that which can support the infants and primary school,

  • The neighbourhood focal point is the government infants and primary school centrally located on a common green, along with other institutions that have service areas coincident with the neighbourhood boundaries,

  • The neighbourhood size is such that a child will walk no more than 800 meters to school,

  •  The unit is served by shopping facilities, churches, a library and other local community facilities located near the infants and primary school. 


Campbell is renowned for its education facilities.  The Savige Street pre-school (now the Campbell Cottage day care centre), was opened on 20 October 1960, while a second pre-school began at 16 Rankin Street in 1965.  The Campbell preschool system was brought together at Campbell Primary School in 1991. 

The Campbell Primary School opened in the early part of the 1960s. When the Duntroon primary school was closed in the nineteen seventies the area it served was taken over by Campbell Primary school. The Catholic St Thomas More’s Primary School fronting White Crescent opened in June 1960 and has continued to play a key role as part of Campbell’s education system. 

The Campbell high school opened at the beginning of 1965 school year and became part of the new ACT secondary school system at the beginning of 1976. 

The Canberra Grammar School’s Northside campus fronting Blamey Crescent opened in 1967 and has since developed as a key part of Campbell’s  role as a diverse education centre. 

Thank you to Mr Foskett for granting permission to use his content and images