25 September 2023

When Peter Allen called Canberra home

Start the conversation

ArchivesACT has announced that its records surrounding the appointment of the ACT’s first ‘Ambassador for Canberra’ is its popular Find of the Month for December.

The ambassador was entertainer Peter Allen (pictured), who in 1981 was an international superstar.

In a statement accompanying the ‘find’, the Archives said Mr Allen had been a frequent visitor to Canberra, performing, attending events and even adding his own special brand of pizzazz as the ‘Prince of the Mardi Gras’ parade for Canberra Day in 1980.

“Then Minister for the Capital Territory, Michael Hodgman decided to hold a public ceremony in Petrie Plaza to proclaim Peter Allen the first Ambassador for Canberra and present him with the ‘keys to Canberra’,” the Archives said.

“This privilege had never been granted before, and local Public Servants had to research and develop appropriate materials, including speeches, official scrolls and, of course, designs for keys.”

It said the official function also required planning which was complicated by a commercial collaboration with a local radio station.

“Finding the right balance between the gravitas of a Government ceremony and the less formal approach of a community station was challenging,” it said.

At that time Mr Hodgman was already the subject of public criticism for his previous declaration of the ‘Freedom of the City of Canberra’.

“First came a heated debate over his decision to recognise RAAF Fairbairn over the Army. Then questions were raised over the principle of a non-resident being allowed to hand out freedom to a city he did not even live in,” the Archives said.

“The decision to name a popular entertainer an Ambassador for Canberra would have provided Mr Hodgman with some much needed local approval.”

The Minister embraced the idea with enthusiasm, even giving a radio interview committing to personally presenting a key to the city to Mr Allen well before planning for the ceremony was properly under way.

The key was to be chrome plated and engraved with unrecorded wording. It was manufactured by a Belconnen locksmith for the sum of $70.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.