Turner is a leafy, early Canberra suburb, close to Canberra City and the Australian National University, which is located in the suburb of Acton.
Turner is named after Sir George Turner, a Federalist, legislator and one of the founders of the Australian Constitution. He was a Premier of Victoria, and later Federal Treasurer under prime ministers Barton, Deakin and Reid. Streets in Turner are mostly named after writers, legislators and pioneers.
Turner was developed in the 1940s and 1950s. It was one of the last suburbs developed with the garden city theme of super-wide nature strips. In fact, it is said that Turner represents the pinnacle of spacious garden city design with wide twelve yard nature strips with generously wide roads that give a more spacious feel than older suburbs, such as Reid or Braddon, and more consistently wide nature strips and larger parks compared to slightly later suburbs like O’Connor.
Turner, though a small suburb, can be divided into the three logical areas of south-eastern, western and northern. The south east area is bounded by Northbourne Avenue, Barry Drive, Watson Street and Masson Street. This area was first developed in the 1940s and originally consisted of detached dwellings. Very few of these houses are left after a development boom from 2000-2005 demolished them to build blocks of units. The western part which is bounded by Barry Drive, David Street and McCaughey Street consists of detached dwellings. The northern part of the suburb which is bounded by Northbourne Avenue, David Street, McCaughey Street and Greenway Street consists of mainly detached dwellings and some medium density.
David Street, which forms Turner’s northern boundary, is designed to line up with Black Mountain in one direction and Mount Majura in the other direction. This provides an impressive vista in either direction whilst driving this street. Greenway Street also provides impressive vistas to Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain.
Original block sizes were generous in Turner, ranging from around 800 m2 to 1400 m2, with a couple even reaching 1600 m2. 900-1000 m2 is typical. In the post-war period, when resources were scarce, surprisingly small houses were built on these large blocks that are now inner city. This has made Turner blocks prime targets for redevelopment, whether it be for units, townhouses, dual occupancies or occasional luxury houses. It was quite usual with the original buildings to have tiny three bedroom and even two bedroom houses on the blocks with floor areas of around 85 m2 – 110 m2. These houses were not only small but typically had tiny windows and were poorly positioned on the block for solar access – an important consideration in Canberra’s cold climate. Houses were typically positioned for aesthetic effect, with various ideas like inner-corner semi-detached (Hackett Gardens), facing the corner (Macleay Street) or symmetrical arrangements between the houses (Holder Street).
Over the years, very few if any houses remain in their original unextended state. Floor plans of the original government designed and built houses can be obtained from the local planning authorities. Many houses have been replaced by multi-story unit developments. The scale of redevelopment post-2000 has been significant, with the population near doubling since 2001.
A number of artefacts of the original design of Turner can still be seen. Firstly, as is typical for Canberra, powerlines are behind the houses so as not to interfere with street trees. Street lamps are low and designed for pedestrians. Several different designs of lamp were installed originally, and examples of each can be still be seen; however, unfortunately, the replacement of lamps has not been historically sensitive. Some streets have footpaths with the house numbers imprinted on the concrete and red fire hydrants can be seen in some areas. Because the suburb’s construction was interrupted by the war, various ideas can be seen in the layout of footpaths. For example in the southern areas, footpaths cut off the diagonal of the block. In McKay Gardens it has service lanes as might be found in Balmain in Sydney.
Turner has an excellent combined Special-Education and Mainstream Public school situated between David, Hartley and Condamine Streets, with a combined pre-school. There are also a number of child-care centres.
Turner has a generous selection of churches, including a Baptist Church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Lutheran Church, Friends Meeting Place and a Korean Full Gospel church meeting at the Baptist church.
It also has a tennis club and lawn bowls club and several ethnic clubs: a French association, Polish club and Croatian club.
Turner is within walking distance of the CBD and it also adjoins the local O’Connor shops. Its proximity to Acton, the location of the Australian National University, makes it a desirable location for students and professors to live, although the high rent prices of late have forced many students to look elsewhere.