One mountain. Many tales

Picture of the city and black mountain

In 1832 Robert Hoddle was surveying the limestones plains on the banks of a meandering river, close to a peak had been burnt by the region’s original inhabitants. Hoddle named it Black Hill. The name stuck.

Local Aboriginal clans have visited this woody hill for tens of thousands of years. It afforded a vantage point across the grassy woodlands, a point of orientation as they followed the seasons and moved through this remarkable landscape.

In 1973, amidst howls of community protest, a sod of soil was rather controversially turned. Some seven years later, a telecommunications tower adorned Black Mountain’s summit, touching the sky. As the national capital’s tallest landmark, the 195 metre Telstra Tower is a dominating, orientating feature that welcomes the traveller, be it by land or air, to our beautiful city.

Rising 812 metres, and with unparalleled vistas, Black Mountain is synonymous with the bush capital’s contemporary skyline.

Over the years this mountain has inspired rather grandiose notions of attracting visitors to its lofty summit. One such proposal, put forward by the Black Mountain Cable Car Pty Ltd, involved building an aerial gondola that provided a bird’s eye view of the city below. The plan went nowhere.

As a cornerstone of the Griffin’s legacy, Black Mountain represents the western terminus of the water axis running through the Molonglo floodplain, now Lake Burley Griffin. The Griffin Plan called for the hills and ridges to be set aside as natural open spaces, today conserved for all generations. Black Mountain is an integral element of the rich tapestry that is the pre-eminent Canberra Nature Park reserve system.

Dotted with notable cultural institutions on its lower slopes—the Australian National Botanic Gardens, ANU and CSIRO—this mountain is a place of learning, a place of immersion, a place of connecting with nature on our doorstep.

A bevy of connoisseurs have uncovered myriad tales, accounts and insights based on the intrinsic natural and cultural values of this extraordinary mountain. Bringing together this wealth of knowledge has culminated in what promises to be a wonderful community event, the 2018 Black Mountain Symposium: the past 50 years informing the next. The information has been clustered into themes of people and place, the environment and natural history.

This symposium is your opportunity to delve into a truly remarkable landscape as told by Canberrans for Canberrans. For program details and to register for the 24 August symposium, visit

Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks & Conservation Service.

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful platypus.

Article also appeared on 14 August 2018 in The Chronicle