The ACT has voting representation in the Commonwealth Parliament, and has its own Legislative Assembly and government, similar to the states.As the city has a high proportion of public servants, the Commonwealth Government contributes the largest percentage of Gross State Product and is the largest single employer in Canberra, although no longer the majority employer.

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The word "Canberra" is popularly claimed to derive from the word Kambera or Canberry, which is claimed to mean "meeting place" in Ngunnawal, one of the Indigenous languages spoken in the district by Aboriginal people before European settlers arrived, although there is no clear evidence to support this.

An alternative definition has been claimed by numerous local commentators over the years, including the Ngunnawal elder Don Bell, whereby Canberra or Nganbra means "woman's breasts" and is the indigenous name for the two mountains, Black Mountain and Mount Ainslie, which lie almost opposite each other.

Compared to the national averages, the unemployment rate is lower and the average income higher; tertiary education levels are higher, while the population is younger.

Property prices are relatively high, in part due to comparatively restrictive development regulations.

Other notable early settlers included the inter-related Murray and Gibbes families, who owned the Yarralumla estate—now the site of the official residence of the Governor-General of Australia—from the 1830s through to 1881.

Newspaper proprietor John Gale circulated a pamphlet titled 'Dalgety or Canberra: Which?Commonwealth Place runs alongside the lake and includes the International Flag Display. The largest event in Canberra up to World War II was the 24th Meeting of ANZAAS in January 1939.The Canberra Times described it as "a signal event ..., it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall.The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), 280 km (170 mi) south-west of Sydney, and 660 km (410 mi) north-east of Melbourne. Although Canberra is the capital and seat of government, many federal government ministries have secondary seats in state capital cities, as do the Governor-General and the Prime Minister.' advocating Canberra to every member of the Commonwealth's seven state and federal parliaments.