Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Capital Quandrary of Canberran Queasiness

This morning I had a job interview. They were nice, the role sounds extremely interesting. As they have positions going all over I flagged that, while my first choice is Melbourne, given our strong family and friend supports in Canberra and Sydney we might consider one of those options.

The lead interviewer immediately and visibly sat forward, and explained rather excitedly that they are starting a new office in Canberra and may be offering roles there to people interviewing elsewhere. The interview continued on a good note.

I have another interview lined up, and it is unambiguously based in Canberra. We are having to consider the idea as more than mere remote possibility.

We both want to stay in Melbourne, but this has come about due to the combined factors of beloved wanting to spend the first year with bub, me running out of contract where I am, and my experience, as the sole breadwinner for a good year who is in dire need of a good job, being rather weighted towards policy and government law.

And frankly that's where my interests lie. Where do good, senior, government roles tend to cluster? Canberra. A bit of a clash with my Melbaphilia.

Please, if you are a Canberran, post about the good aspects to this because I'm feeling just a little depressed right now. Last night we chatted about live music, and beloved, who's spent some years living there, said 'well, there's Tilly's....and the uni bar.'

There's not much point having family who might share the baby sitting nearby if your evening entertainment options don't extend much beyond hiring a couple of DVDs.

Go on, tell me I'm wrong.

Then there's the pragmatic issue of finding a decent maternity bed and an obstetrician with only 5 odd months to go....


Anonymous said...

Duck and Zoe are there, so that's a plus! There's a cinema and heaps of arty stuff going on. You won't feel like going out much with a new baby (if given a choice between going out and sleep you'll opt for sleep), so the dearth of nightlife really won't affect you much.

My brother-in-law (Duck's BB) has gone from strength to strength in the public service there, and really found his metier. I know they have a distinct shortage of competent people at policy level.
The opportunities for promotion are endless and the skills are easily transferrable all over the country.

The schools are very good, but I know childcare is very hard to get. I suspect they have very strong mothers' groups. Obstetricians I don't know about, but Canberra leads the country in midwife-based care, including homebirth paid for by the state. If your girl has a complication free pregnancy, midwifery-based care with a public hospital doctor in Canberra is truly world's best practice. If hers is complicated, you'll get midwifery-based care with a specialist. What do you need an obstetrician for?

(Sorry, it's a bugbear of mine that healthy women think they need private obstetricians when midwifery-based care has the best outcomes for mother and baby).

Armagnac Esq said...

I know little about it, you're certainly welcome to leave long posts worth of advice, all will be duly considered...

Zoe said...

You are wrong. Tilley's doesn't have live music anymore! Of course there are now other places, but you are DREAMING if you're planning to get much gig viewing or clubbing in next year.

Naomi is completely correct about obstetric care. I'm going back to the midwife run Birth Centre at Canberra Hospital which is just about birthing heaven. (Except for the actual birthing part, which hurts your bottom.)

Canberra is an easy place to have a little baby - in fact it has the highest rate of little kids in the country. Many people swim back upstream to Canberra from Sydney or Melbourne when it's breeding season. Childcare can be difficult for kids under 18 months, but there Are Ways. Most people I know didn't have significant problems. If you decide to move, put your name down at a few places you like quickly.

Some things to consider:
- family and other support is very important
- if your wife really likes her job and would have access to part time work when she wants to go back, she should weigh that up against trying to find interesting part time professional work
- Canberra has excellent schools, parks, kids stuff in general
- there is a lot of interesting well paid work in Canberra
- housing costs are higher than you might think
- you are not really going out much next year, or very frequently in the following years. Sorry.

Canberra is not a cool place to live. As a consequence, you only very rarely come across people who fancy themselves as being to cool for school. I enjoy this aspect very much.

Armagnac Esq said...

I'm modelling my aspirations on a number of people I know who've made the effort to buck the assumptions and get out from time to time. If I didn't believe it could be done, at least a *little bit*, I wouldn't be having kids, so that probably puts its importance in perspective.

That being said I recognise that it's a major life shift- indeed the fact that my already pretty modest nightlife will steeply dwindle is a factor that in some ways makes Canby seem less unattractive.

You just need a couple of decent spots to escape to when the babysitters are offering, just something to look forward to.

House price wise- we know, it's quite frightening, it is definitely about 20% more for a comparable house in Canby as opposed to Melba.

But you provide plenty of positives as well, I shall send beloved across to have a look at this thread. And to think about the potential trials and tribulations of midwifery...?!

And there's that Patrick White discussion group you and Ampy are starting....

Zoe said...

Oh, it can be done. But you will be tired and poorer, and probably less inclined. I'm not talking about forever, btw, but for the first few months. Actually the second six months, really, as at first you can pretty much pop the baby in a handbag and take it to a restaurant unless it's reflux-y or something.

And do encourage your missus to investigate the midwifery option. You actually get a lot more of a midwife's attention and time than you do an obstetrician's (tried both last pregnancy). The key distinction is one Naomi pointed out - midwives are trained to deal with normal pregancies and deliveries, and obstetricians are trained to deal with abnormal pregnancies and deliveries - and sometimes they can be inclined to rely too heavily on that frame.

And of course we'll be very nice to her if you move here (and you)!

cristy said...

OK, I'll give this my best shot, but it will be very northside focused:

Cafes with atmosphere: Tilleys, Silo, new one at the Lyneham Shops, there are more, but I don't get out a lot and can't remember...

Decent bakeries: Silo, Cornucopia

Restaurants: Many - particularly good are Chairman & Yip, Au Lac, Kopi Tiam, China Tea Club...

Pubs: Wig & Pen, All Bar Nun, Edgars

Bars: Hippo Bar, Nightsbridge Penhouse

Live music: Uni bar, Toast, (not Tilleys anymore - Paulie decided to give it up).

Culture: Canberra Theatre, Street Theatre, NGA, many small art galleries (see Ampersand Duck's blog for regular updates)...

Bookshops: Beattie's books Lyneham, Electric Shadows Bookshop, Smiths, Paperchain

PLUS the new mall in Civic is going to house a new 6 screen cinema run by Ronin Films (Electric Shadows) and Dendy! Should be tops and have all the best art house films.

Canberra has a nice community feel. You will quickly find but one degree of separation between you and the rest of the place and that can be kind of nice (if occassionally scary). It has good public schools, and lots of bike paths that make it a very liveable place.

In the more established suburbs, you have a local shops that you can walk to, with a cafe, bakery, medical centre and pharmacy and that can be great when you have kids.

There is also lots of open space and playgrounds for kids to play on.

Also, people in Canberra tend to be more political and so you can expect interesting conversations at dinner parties (which are common in Canberra) and this can be a real bonus.

Finally, you may well find that DVDs and the odd film or dinner out is about all you are up to!

Hope that helped (I did skate over the cold and poor public transport issues a little...).

paul said...

I know I was down on Canb's public transport the other day (and it still sucks btw), but otherwise I'm finding the place very cosy indeed.

Housing prices aren't that much more than Sydney and Melbourne, for renting at least, and as long as you're not looking during peak season (Jan-Feb) there's plenty on offer.

The cafe scene is really quite good and soy milk (for those inclined) is much more widespread than in Melbourne.

Eating out is pretty expensive, though we are finding more and more cheaper options as we explore.

I think Cristy hit the highlights (Oh, and Tilly's does still do live music, btw, just not as often as it used to).

I'm in the public service and I know that my department at least is crying out for good people right now - that's what you get when you double the aid budget...

In all seriousness, I thought moving back to Canberra after an 8 year absence would be hell, but it's actually really great. I've found it easier to make friends because everyone has come from somewhere else and is looking for interesting people too.

As long as the work and family lives are fulfilling everything else will be just fine.

Anonymous said...

Cristy summed up the positives pretty well. Canberra is not a bad sort of a place, I've lived and worked here much of my adult life.

Other positives - it has distinct seasons, including occasionally very cold winters and exceedingly hot summers. But Autumn and Spring can be just glorious. I'd be remiss to gloss over the cold - this winter has been freezing, lots of temps well into the minuses, and when the wind blows as well, it can be truly bleak even for locals.

However, the town is well served by restaurants, including a quite good chinatown district on the northside, plenty of cinemas, theatre is occasionally good but sometimes a bit sparse. Excellent markets of all kinds, including a great growers market on the northside. Good coffee if you know where to look. There's lots of cultural stuff around too if you look for it.

Sydney's within easy reach (3 hrs of freeway) if you have to get away for a big city fix, or for more important stuff like specialised medical care.

It's a relatively easy drive to one of the best sections of coastline you'll come across - if you and yours are in any way beachy, there are some fantastic, unspoiled places not much more than two hours away. Lots of scope nearby for outdoor stuff like bushwalking, bike riding, sports of all descriptions.

On the negative side - local government here is awful, they have no idea that they are just supposed to be a big town council, but instead persist with the laughable notion that it's another state. Can be very irritating.

Public transport is not great - expensive, infrequent except at peaks. Too many could-be-anywhere malls. Traffic can be very rude and aggressive at times. I think the driving behaviour here is less courteous than almost everywhere else I've driven. Traffic is sometimes very slow - I kid you not, it used to be pretty easy to get around, but some routes now are just torturous. The roads authorities are in love with traffic lights and never seem to co-ordinate them. Lots of speed cameras ready to empty your pockets. Parking is scarce, although probably not as bad as the other cities.

Rents are high, and the occupancy rate is low, which means that it can be hard to find a place. Expect to pay at least 350-400/week for a half-decent house, and you can pay a lot more. Buying is also very expensive for what you get. You can check out what yuo'll pay for rent at - it has a good rental section.

There's the same unpleasant under-belly you'll find in most large cities - car theft is rife, some random street violence late at night, plenty of break ins courtesy of the local and interstate junkies, but probably not worse than anywhere else. A surprisingly high level of homelessness and poverty, not necessarily that visible, but it's certainly there, the welfare agencies have a never-ending stream of clients.

Employment - at the moment there's plenty, and reasonably well paid for those with ability and quals - not at private sector levels though. As Paul says, there is demand for people who have good skills. I occasionally recruit writers and economists, and good ones can almost set their own price - very hard to find. Be warned though - in my experience, the public sector (or at least the bits I know, can't generalise) is a much harder place to work than it was, particularly at upper levels. Some places work hours that would make a lawyer at PWC blanch.

To sum up, Canberra is OK to good, but it's not Sydney or Melbourne, and sometimes people from there find it a bit of a let-down. Overall, though, it's quite livable, and certainly less rush and bustle than those places can be.

Hope this helps, sorry about the length of the post.

Anonymous said...

Argh! About rentals, I meant vacancy rate, not occupancy rate. Sorry.

Good blog by the way, I enjoy reading it.

JahTeh said...

The place is full of cat people, even Comicstriphero has just brought home a new silver tabby. So if you can't find a babysitter you're sure to find catsitters.

phil said...

We left 10 years ago, for a variety of reasons, but including when the cold eventually got too much for my cold-weather-loving spouse. I'd been there since I was 15, years overseas notwithstanding. The bike paths are brilliant and I agree the change of seasons is nice. Can I suggest you spend a bit of time perusing RiotACT to get a feel for stuff. And Pryor, the cartoonist for the Canberra Times, is imho the best on the country. He used to do Keating as Louis XIV - superb. And you get the most progressive of Australian governments, although they appear no more competent than the norm, regrettably.

Armagnac Esq said...

Thanks all, see my new update post, y'all get hugs!

cristy said...

Someone mentioned the growers market - that is also a big highlight. It is out at Exhibition Park every Saturday from 8:00-11:00am and it is the best place to shop for fruit and vegies (and bread, homemade tofu, olives, etc.) for the week.

The accessibility of local bushland for hiking, climbing etc. is also a real bonus AND it is only 2 hours and 45 minutes to the ski slopes in winter.

Finally, when you have a child in Canberra your local early health care centre puts you in touch with a group of other parents (who all gave birth around the same time) for talks and then to form a playgroup. Apparently this can create a fantastic support network for parents in the early stages of the little one's development.

Ampersand Duck said...

Gosh -- not much more I can add to all that except that I think Silo is completely over-rated, there's a lot of excellent live music being played in Canberra loungerooms and parties, and there's a nine-cinema Dendy opening in Civic at the end of the year! Woo-hoo!

Go on -- come up to the dark side...