The beetles are accompanied by other sculptures of sheep and a sheep dog, hardwood poles decorated with farm objects found in the area, and architecture that draws on the features of an old woolshed down the road – all of which hark back to the area’s former sheep and cattle grazing days.*
The sculptures were installed in 2002 and are by Matthew Harding. There is one carved granite beetle and five cast bronze beetles. The seven sheep are made from galvanised steel chain on a metal frame and the dog from rusted sheet metal.**
‘Inspired by the rural history of the area, the Kambah Village Shopping Centre artworks include elements depicting a rural iconic venacular such as livestock, working animals, Australian insects, corrugated iron, tools and hardware.’
The nearby woolshed and two other structures (a meat shed and a Nissan hut for hay) are remnants of a rural property called ‘Kambah’, that gave its name to the suburb. (However, the area was originally called ‘Sulwood’ when farming started in the area in 1875.)
The last leaseholder was a returned serviceman and grazier from Cooma, Sim Bennet. He worked the property successfully for around 30 years and won awards for his achievements in pasture improvement and experiments with different forage crops (mixtures of phalaris & subterranean clover dressed with superphosphate) that aimed to increase wool yields, boost lambing rates and address soil erosion.***
In 1970, the land was resumed by the government (having been purchased by the Commonwealth in 1913). It became the first suburb in the Tuggeranong Valley in Canberra’s south when it was gazetted in 1973.
Suburban settlement began in earnest from 1974 – with the area soon nicknamed ‘Nappy Valley’ (although the proportion of young children has dropped since then).****
After the Bennets moved out, Kambah Homestead was used for a while by the Canberra YMCA and a number of community groups but was demolished in 1981 after being repeatedly vandalised.
(See here for a photo of the homestead in 1970 and here for a map of its location in relation to the woolshed and Village Creek (that roughly runs alongside Drakeford Drive). The woolshed is located very close to the centre of the aerial photo.)
The vandalism is perhaps less surprising given the number of kids and the fact that Kambah was named the bogan capital of the ACT and included in a list of the top ten bogan suburbs in Australia by The Punch in 2009.
(Wikipedia defines ‘bogan’ as an individual ‘from an unsophisticated background or someone whose speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour exemplifies a lack of manners and education’. They are commonly associated with footy (Rugby League or Aussie Rules), flannelette shirts, tight jeans, ugg boots, VB (beer), Bundy (Bundaberg Rum), hotted up cars and bad haircuts.)
The new breed of bogans with money (the ‘cashed-up bogan’) might not trash the place (and may even drink wine – see this post) but are still more likely to do circle work (doughnuts) and burnouts in the car park than read the heritage signs. At least their utes look right at home parked outside the Kambah Tavern. (For more about bogans and their utes, see this post.)
Whatever you are celebrating this time of year, have a happy and safe one!
* There is still some grazing nearby but nowadays it is mostly kangaroos and a few cows.
** To see how they are made – check out the artist’s website – ‘Kambah Village Shopping Centre Artworks‘ Matthew Harding website (Accessed 13 Dec 2013)
**** Kambah is the largest suburb in Canberra as it was originally intended to be four suburbs. The Kambah group centre master plan (ACT Government 2012, p.9) notes that ‘the population of Kambah is declining. In 1991 the population of the suburb was 18,400. By 2006 it had declined to 16,100 and is projected to fall to 14,250 by 2021. …Kambah’s population is also ageing.’
Other sources include: ‘Kambah District Park‘ (ACT Government website. Accessed 23 Dec 2013)
Photo credits: Aerial photo of Kambah from the east (Graeme Bartlett 23 August 2008/ Wikimedia Commons); other photos (Pip Marks)