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Westside: A teen exploration

Erin Hyde

Being a teenager in Canberra has its moments and often leaves many teens asking “what are going to do today?” when hanging out with friends on the weekend or after school… Seventeen year old Erin Hyde takes a look at Westside and explores why it’s set to be the new favourite hangout for teens…”

I crave adventure, I crave excitement, I crave new things; and I’m positive I’m not alone on this. I can barely stand to shop for more than half an hour, otherwise I find myself going into advertisement overload (no, I don’t want to invest my money into $200 skinny jeans that basically restrict my range of movements to a tiny shuffling pace!!).  Beyond a doubt the most common question that is asked amongst my friends is: ‘what are we going to today?’, yet in all honestly this is a question I often can’t seem to answer. Every adventure I attempt to embark inevitably seems to fade in the midst of reality as time drags on and I am still wandering around the streets aimlessly like a displaced pigeon.

Yet recently I have started to notice a change… Canberra is about to get more interesting – I’m sure of it.

I can see things starting to change before my very eyes. So I hastily preach: fear no more teenagers of the ACT, as soon we shall no longer be living in the capital of ‘dull’, and you can start to thank places like Westside for that.

Let’s be honest here – what Canberra really needs is a supplement of life. I truly am sick of hearing that the only thing you can find in Canberra is bicycles, public servants and politicians. So welcome Westside: a breath of fresh air, a glimmer of livelihood, a mish-mash village of shipping containers that is finally giving Canberra a bit of culture and distinction.


Photo: Martin Ollman



If you haven’t noticed already, at the base of the Commonwealth Bridge stands a curious structure; at first you might just regard it as a random assortment of abandoned storage containers but upon closer inspection you will be pleasantly surprised. Inside this mysterious venue you will find everything from open mic nights, to pop-up markets, to bike polo tournaments and the ACT BMX Jam. There’s a gym, a multitude of drool-inducing food venues, and finally there’s the lake. Westside is interesting and its events are unique, which is honestly all that I (and most teens) want from a venue.

So when I was heard that Westside has recently been criticised I was truly baffled. I understand that in the shadows of the National Library, Australian War Memorial and Parliament House it isn’t exactly an architectural masterpiece…but so what? It’s got character!

Canberra is a certainly a beautiful city: clean, well laid out, amply spaced and with definitions of traffic that would certainly be laughable to Sydney-siders. There is a reason Canberra was awarded most liveable city in the world (surprising at first I know, although if you think about it it makes perfect sense), but — and there is a but — being the most liveable city in the world does not equate to 24-hour excitement and a world of interest, in fact it usually guarantees the opposite.

There is definitely life here, but we rarely see it substantial quantities. Places like Braddon, New Acton and the Kingston Foreshore have created a bit of culture in Canberra as charming (and unique) hotspots of interest that attract people and a lively atmosphere; and now Westside will join that list as well.

So if you’re after a chilled afternoon or whether you want to embrace life head on and see what the world has in store – Westside can provide a smoothie by the lake, a falafel roll with your best mates or savouring the beats of one of Westside’s many live music performances…the choice is yours.


Photo: Martin Ollman


And whether you hate it or love it, there’s no arguing against the fact that Westside is something intriguing and distinct. Criticised or not, it is still being talked about – which means Canberra is talked about, and I don’t know about the rest of the population but I would certainly much rather have a bit of controversial spice in my life than nothing new at all.

I grew up by the beach – I practically lived half my life in it, I wouldn’t even be surprised if someone told me that my bodily makeup was actually ocean water; so when moving to Canberra I didn’t even contemplate the idea that the ocean wouldn’t be around – and oh boy was I in for a shock. So quite possibly, one of the most appealing aspects of Westside is that it allows people to (finally) enjoy the waterfront in an interesting environment – a lively environment with easily accessible amenities.

Throughout the structure, the lake is visible from nearly every viewpoint so whether you decide to venture down to the lakefront with your cup of coffee or sit up the courts in the sunshine, you always feel connected to the water. We have a lake for a reason people (!) and as the waterfront becomes more developed and lively, you can guarantee that I (and others) will be trotting down to the good ol’ Burley Griffin a hell of a lot more often – so Westside is definitely taking a step in the right direction.

Being a seventeen year old doesn’t exactly help my desperate search for intriguing and thrilling things to do either; it seems every squeal of delight that escapes my mouth upon hearing a favourite artist of mine is performing in Canberra is quickly retracted and replaced with a sigh of anguish. Why? Because as I scroll down that hope-filled event page, I usually come across dastardly fine print that was attempting to evade me stating ‘This is an over 18s event only.’ Ah the joys of being underage…


Photo: Jessica Schumann, HerCanberra


I love being seventeen, don’t get me wrong; but every time my eyes settle on those soul-crushing words I truly contemplate getting a fake ID and morphing into a of-age alter ego at nights. Yet upon hearing about Westside my hopes were renewed…and I have not been let down so far. Westside may not be hosting any of my favourite bands as of yet (please do), but it has given me a place to go, whether it’s to enjoy one of their live performances or market days – Westside keeps my temptations to adopt a new identity at bay and my weekends interesting.

So no, Westside doesn’t exactly fit in with the straightforward, ‘nice’ and orderly stigma that Canberra has come to acquire, but it is finally giving our city a dose of the culture that it so desperately needs. Westside has won me over and I’m certain will appeal to people from all walks of life whether that be vivacious teenagers like me, hyperactive primary schoolers, parents, grandparents or even your beloved pet; so for a relaxed afternoon, a boisterous night or simply to enjoy the lakeside – Westside certainly won’t disappoint.

Feature image courtesy of Martin Ollman.


Erin Hyde

Originally from the Central Coast, I moved to Canberra in Grade One. Although at first a bit of a 'Canberra-basher', I have definitely grown to love the city; I see it getting better every day and am always off around the city looking for new things and adventures. I am currently a student but the academic life definitely isn't for me, so I'm looking forward to see where life takes me (and Canberra!). More about the Author

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