Queanbeyan (KWEEN-bee-an) is a small city in New South Wales, Australia, which is unusual because of its close proximity to Canberra. In fact, it is so close that from a purely spatial point of view, it is part of Canberra. It's a mere fifteen minute drive from one CBD to the other. And yet, from just about any other point of view, particularly the political and cultural, they are two very disparate places.
Queanbeyan predates its neighbour by about ninety years. It developed along more or less typical lines for settlements in that region, beginning as a good spot for sheep stations and gradually growing into a town, and then a city.
The name "Queanbeyan" derives, in true Australian idiom, from illegal activity. A fellow called Timothy Beard (ex-convict, naturally!) had a squattage very near the present site of the city, which at the time (1828) was called "Quinbean", an Aboriginal term meaning "clear waters".
At time of writing, Queanbeyan has a population of approximately 30,000. As you would expect from a small country city, there is basically no heavy industry. Most of the local businesses are involved in retail or manufacturing, and are very small on average, with 90% of businesses employing 5 or fewer people.* It is estimated that Canberra employs 60% of Queanbeyan's working residents, and that Canberrans comprise 40% of the Queanbeyan workforce.*
Queanbeyan proper sits athwart the unimaginatively named Queanbeyan River, which joins the Molonglo River nearby. The city's built up territory verges directly on the NSW / ACT border.
Subjectivity Alert! The Queanbeyan income demographic is very low when compared with Canberra. This is not to say that Queanbeyan is a morass of poverty, rather that Canberra, being the national capital, has an unusually high income per capita. Consequently, some interesting social biases have evolved. Many Canberra residents, particularly within the younger age groups, subscribe to the notion that Queanbeyan is massively inferior and "dodgy". Conversely, there is a prevailing attitude in Queanbeyan (and, indeed, many parts of Australia) that Canberra is full of stuck-up public servants and middle-class yuppie wannabes. Each of these stigmas has the effect of contributing to the other.
The reality of Queanbeyan (and unless you plan on visiting, you'll just have to take my word for it) is that it's a clean, quiet and peaceful spot. It has character, while remaining relatively free from ostentation. There are some nice parks near the centre of the town, and the main street has some buildings that date back to the 1830s. It is extremely well policed, as I discovered to my chagrin a number of times. The people, especially the business owners, are welcoming and friendly, and the council has a good reputation for pro-active improvement of the city.
* These statistics come from a census conducted in 1996. Make what you will of their current relevance.
- Queanbeyan City Council - http://www.qcc.nsw.gov.au/
- Queanbeyan Tourism - http://www.queanbeyan.nsw.gov.au/