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Canberra is Australia's capital city, as well as its biggest inland city. A political compromise during debates over Federation saw agreement that Australia's capital would be in New South Wales, but would be placed away from Sydney. After an extensive search, the present site, about 300 kilometres south-west of Sydney in the foothills of the Australian Alps, was chosen and Federal Parliament opened there in 1927.

The city's main industry is that of government, with the Federal Parliament (shifted to a new building in 1988 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of white settlement), most government departments, the High Court, and many national monuments including the War Memorial and the recently-opened National Museum there.

Canberra's 320,000 residents live in a city originally planned by the American architect Walter Burley Griffin. With extensive parklands punctuated by landmark buildings, a total lack of commercial activity in its center, and its many circle streets, it is perhaps understandable (though undoubtedly unfair) that many Australians regard Canberra as a kind of surreal fantasyland removed from the realities of their own existence, somewhat similarly to the American perception of Washington, D.C..