Canberra gem joins Commonwealth Heritage List

21 December 2020

One of Canberra’s last standing public service cafeterias has become the 389th place to be included on the Commonwealth Heritage List.

The West Portal Cafeteria on Constitution Avenue in Reid is a rare example of a bygone era in Canberra’s history, a time when public service officers could take a break from national administration to dine on roast beef sandwiches, sausage rolls and scones in purpose-built spaces.

Introduced in the 1950s and continuing into the 1970s, today only three public service cafeterias remain as a reminder of a time when Canberra was rapidly changing.

The West Portal Cafeteria is one of the more unique features in the development of Australia’s federal public service which was crucial in the establishment of the National Capital.

After World War II, when more government departments were transferred from Melbourne to Canberra and the capital was coming into its own, the provision of cafeterias was seen as addressing an important practical need for public service staff.

The building represents an era in the early development of Australia’s capital city and the establishment of the federal public service.

It is considered to have significant heritage value because of its rare free-standing design, use of high-quality materials and an ability to demonstrate the architectural achievement associated with the 1960s.

Commonwealth heritage listing will promote the significance of West Portal Cafeteria while conserving and protecting its heritage values for future generations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

There are currently more than 380 places on the Commonwealth Heritage List including Indigenous, natural and historic heritage sites.

The Australian Capital Territory has many places on the list including Blundells Farmhouse, the Carillon, the National Gallery of Australia and the National Library of Australia.

Find out more about the Commonwealth Heritage List: