Preserving the Past, Embracing the Present: Oaks Estate, Canberra’s Often Forgotten Suburb


Nestled alongside the picturesque Molonglo River, Oaks Estate is a unique gem straddling the border between New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

Often dismissed as a mere corridor connecting Queanbeyan and the heart of Canberra, a deeper exploration reveals a close-knit community, an enchanting environment, and a treasure trove of history that unfolds the story of one of Canberra’s oldest suburbs.

Long before it was known as “Oaks Estate,” the area was visited by Aboriginal groups who established pathways to traverse the land. This land has been continually occupied over successive generations, as evidenced by scattered stone artefacts found in the area, providing a deep connection to the past that Oaks Estate’s residents hold dear.

In 1837, settlers established the area as “The Oaks,” creating a temporary workers’ settlement for those who were constructing early Canberra. Although the ACT Government contemplated returning the suburb to New South Wales at various points in history, it ultimately remained within the ACT. In 1974, a significant shift occurred when the government changed freehold land to leasehold land, leading to the construction of 77 flats and the establishment of its public housing.

Today, Oaks Estate has evolved into a serene and enchanting suburb, providing a peaceful haven for families, singles, couples, and retirees alike. For its 375 residents, Oaks Estate transcends mere suburban living; it’s a place where neighbourly bonds thrive, community spirit flourishes, and history seamlessly weaves itself into the present.

Locals enjoying Oaks Estate’s Floriade Festival: Maddi Green

Resident of 35 years, Karen Williams, holds a profound connection to the community. In 1997, her passion for the suburb led her to write and compile the insightful work, ‘Oaks Estate: No Man’s Land’. With several decades dedicated to addressing heritage, cultural, and environmental issues within Oaks Estate, she knows firsthand the unpredictable nature of life in this often “forgotten” suburb, which continues to cycle through periods trying to gain recognition and appreciation.

“The suburb has a sense of resilience, and there’s always something simmering beneath the surface,” she said.

For Ms. Williams, Oaks Estate is not just a place to live; it’s a haven for contemplation, a sanctuary for those who have formed a deep connection within their own experiences.

“It’s a great place to live, the residents love it here. It’s the neighbouring suburbs that don’t truly understand Oaks Estate,” she said.

However, there are others who also believe that the history and community should be celebrated. The Oaks Estate Residents Association is actively striving to be a driving force by sponsoring and organising various events and initiatives to enhance the suburb’s visibility.

Their overarching goal is to entice neighbouring suburbs to come and discover the multitude of offerings that Oaks Estate holds. This, in turn, will hopefully breathe new life into the community, spotlighting the suburb’s distinctive charm and profound historical importance while nurturing a heightened appreciation among both residents and visitors.

Railway Street in Oaks Estate: Maddi Green


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