Ainslie Public School, Ainslie, Canberra, ca. 1927 – click to enlarge

Ainslie was named after James Ainslie who was the first overseer of Duntroon Station.  He was wounded at the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and came to Australia shortly afterwards.  In 1825 Ainslie was employed by Robert Campbell to take a mob of seven hundred sheep southwards from Bathurst to look for suitable grazing land.  Ainslie chose the Limestone Plains, now known as the Canberra district, and it is reputed that he camped under a particular clump of gum trees.  For many years these trees were just called ‘the clump of trees but the area has been improved with more plantings and a reticulation system and is now called Corroboree Park in Ainslie.

As legend has it, Corroboree Park was once the site of an old corroboree ground.  It is unfortunate there is little written information on this.  Mrs Iris Carnall, in her story, refers to a memory her mother had as a small girl of corroborees around a very old tree in the park.  One or two people living near the park have found Aboriginal artefacts when digging in their gardens.  These factors point to the past presence of Aborigines in the Ainslie area.

The Ainslie shops were not in existence until the early 1950s.  Prior to that most requirements actually came to the door.  The butcher, baker, milkman, grocer and fruiterer all came down the street, some in horse drawn vehicles.  Life seemed far more simple then.  The wood for heating and cooking was collected from Mt Ainslie and children were free to roam, making their own entertainment.  Very few people owned their own cars, so the main forms of transport were bicycles buses or walking.  Sport figured [prominently] in most people’s lives.  Most people have heard of the Ainslie Football Club, but how many people are aware there was also an Ainslie Rugby Union Club and an Ainslie Rugby League Club?

People often referred to past happenings in Corroboree Park.  The Park has seen the building and opening of the Ainslie Tennis Courts and the erection of the Ainslie Hall which was used for a variety of purposes ranging from dances, to boxing tournaments and church services.  A succession of fairs and merry-go-rounds has visited the park, the first merry-go-round being horse drawn.  This peaceful place has quite a history.

Ainslie was originally the name given to the area north of the Molonglo River, encompassing today’s suburbs of Reid, Ainslie and Braddon.  According to old newspaper reports, the first cottages were built from 1921-1923, however these were in fact built in today’s Braddon.  The first houses built in the Ainslie we know today were constructed around the Corroboree Park area from 1925.  This is now a Heritage Precinct, designed to preserve the streetscape.  Ainslie was gazetted as a Division name on 20 September 1928.  Consequently some important buildings built prior to 1928 such as the Ainslie Primary School and the Ainslie Hotel (now Olims), are in Braddon.

[Extract from Voices of Old Ainslie – A collection of life-stories from the early residents of Ainslie Louise Lyon 1995.  Available by contacting]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *