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This website contains names and images of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Navigate Senate Committees

In November 1954, government concerns about lack of progress and deviation from Griffin’s plan led to the establishment of a select committee on the development of Canberra.

The committee’s September 1955 report has been described as ‘a monumental piece of work’. Fundamental to its 76 recommendations was a proposal to replace the powerless and debilitated National Capital Planning and Development Committee with a National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) vested with the authority to plan and coordinate the city’s ongoing development.

In 1957, during debate on a bill to establish the NCDC, one Member of Parliament remarked:

'It is my view that the bill before us now may not have reached this House for some considerable time had it not been for the helpful research undertaken and the stimulating challenge to action presented by that Senate committee.'

The NCDC oversaw the completion of construction and the growth of Canberra into Australia’s largest inland city.

John Archibald McCallum, Liberal senator, NSW, June 1950, National Library of Australia, nla.obj-136818040

Senator John McCallum, ‘that relatively rare phenomenon, a scholar in Parliament’, began campaigning for progress and improvement in the development of Canberra in 1951.

Three years later McCallum articulated his concerns in a persuasive motion to establish the committee and was subsequently elected as its chair.

Former Clerk of the Senate Alan Cumming Thom has said that McCallum’s committee ‘did more to develop Canberra than any other single event and gave a taste to those Senators in the 1950s of what could be done by Senators doing a job of work instead of just being a voting number’.

Federal Capital Commission, Survey Branch, City of Canberra, locality plan, revised to ca. 1954 on base map, National Library of Australia, nla.obj-363942949

Griffin plan as revised ca. 1927 by the Federal Capital Commission, updated with roads and buildings to ca. 1954, probably by the Department of the Interior for use by the Senate Select Committee on the Development of Canberra.

Find out more

Web resource—National Capital Authority (NCA)

Research Guide No. 25, National Archives of Australia

Roy Bullock, committee secretary, Interview with Eric Sparke, 1984

National Library of Australia, TRC 1593, session 2, 00:00:04-00:04:56.
Full interview available at

Ian Wood, committee member 1954-55, Interview with Ron Hurst on his dissenting report

National Library of Australia, TRC 4900/84, session 3, 00:55:43–00:57:24.
Full interview available at

Audio—Ian Wood, committee member 1954-55, Interview with Ron Hurst on ministerial responses to the report

National Library of Australia, TRC 4900/84, session 4, 00:00:35–00:01:54.
Full interview available at