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Rising to the top

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They are national, and often international names, but with Canberra roots.

We ask some of the city’s most successful exports what Canberra means to them.

Peking Duk

Credit: Ian Laidlaw.

Musical duo

Electronic music sensation Peking Duk formed in 2010 when Adam Hyde and Reuben Styles met in the Civic skate park. They’ve since racked up second spot in the Triple J Hottest 100 (for 2014’s High), and the 2017 Apple Music Song of the Year award and more than 30 million streams on Spotify for Stranger.

Canberra is: “Clean. Full of trees. Beautiful in autumn. Incredible in the summer. Ninety minutes to the beach but also only 90 minutes to the snow. Home to Australia’s politics—the good and the bad. The most middle-class city in Australia. Vibrant with amazing food, music and art culture. Liberal, not like the party. Home to the most relaxed cannabis laws in the country, four plants is legal, and consumption is decriminalised. Often high, also in altitude! Busy on Anzac Day and never short on schnitzels. Home to the best public schools. The greatest city in the world.”

Canberra is not: “Crammed with people. Corporate-minded. On the beach. At the snow. A place where you might meet someone new. A city with an abundance of laksa joints, although it does have Oz’s best one (at Dickson Asian noodle house). Too shabby.”

Kellie Hush

Fashion Maven

Born and bred in Belconnen before she took her University of Canberra Journalism degree and embarked on fashion writing at the Sydney Morning Herald, Kellie rose to become the Herald’s fashion editor, was editor-in-chief at Grazia and in 2012 moved into the ranks of publishing royalty with her appointment to head Harper’s Bazaar Australia. She has recently announced her resignation from the magazine realm and plans to launch a fashion line.

Canberra is: “Great for education, happy childhoods and lifestyle. But for me, I always had big stars in my eyes and I left as soon as I graduated to move to Sydney so I could pursue a career in fashion.”

Canberra is not: “Big enough. Maybe I would have stayed to be a political journalist, and I have lots of friends who have moved back, but it is not for me. It still feels like a country town, and while I understand that is part of its appeal, I have always been after a bigger career—a bigger pond.”

Naomi Hogie

Bridal Fashion Designer

As a 10-year-old, Naomi remembers sketching elaborate ball gowns, and hasn’t ever stopped. Her business model is based on helping brides create bespoke and beautiful one-off gowns within a budget. She does this from a base in Canberra while her designs have won fans around the country. And after Naomi Peris Bridal was invited to launch the 2018 collection at Milan Fashion Week, the international orders are now coming in.

Canberra is: “Spacious, leafy, colourful, creative, relaxed, urban, cool, quiet, hidden, interesting and beautiful.”

Canberra is not: “The fashion capital of the world….yet.”

Zoe Barnard

Credit: Nicole Bentley for VOGUE Australia.

International Model

Born in Hong Kong, and educated at Canberra Girls Grammar School, Zoe was a gangly teen discovered while eating frozen yoghurt at Bondi Junction by an IMG Models scout. Putting aside ambitions to be a ski instructor, she started working in Sydney during the school holidays, nabbing a Country Road campaign.

Then she jumped on a plane to New York, and has worked for the likes of Victoria’s Secret Pink, Bonds and David Jones, been featured in Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar, and recently strutted the runway at Australian Fashion Week.

Canberra is: “The perfect opposite of New York City. It’s full of nature, with gorgeous trees lining just about every street. For me, Canberra means meeting up with family for Sunday brunch in Manuka, and early mornings dragon-boating on the lake. It’s the perfect place to make mistakes and memories. To learn and grow up in Canberra is to one day realise you never hated it has much as you thought you once did. Because it’s home.”

Canberra is not: “A place to stay forever. I think to truly appreciate its charm you need to travel and explore the world, and then come home.”

Emiko Davies

Cookbook Author

Born in Canberra, Emiko spent her summers swimming in the Cotter River and catching tadpoles. At 11, her diplomat father moved the family to Beijing and she would grow up calling China, the US, and Italy home. Despite returning to Canberra with her Italian partner in tow and writing about food for Fairfax, the tug of Italy was too strong to resist. Emiko has produced two cookbooks—Florentine and Acquacotta—and a third cookbook is due imminently.

Canberra is: “Liveable. It’s constantly changing and growing, something I find refreshing when coming from an ancient city like Florence. It’s full of beautiful outdoor spaces, great museums, cafes, markets and is incredibly family-friendly. It’s also surprisingly international. I never thought I’d be saying this after growing up in Canberra in the 1980’s but now as an adult with a young family of my own, it is probably the one place I’d want to choose to live right now (if I didn’t have a homesick Italian husband).”

Canberra is not: “Close enough to the coast. If only it had beaches like Sydney, I could have convinced my husband to set up home in Canberra long term! And it’s not well-connected internationally, which makes flying tedious—when will I be able to fly Florence-Canberra without a million stopovers?!”

Terri Winter

Credit: Amelia Stanwix.

Founder of top3 by design

Moving from the Bega Valley to study at Narrabundah College, Terri combined earnest study with sneaking into Manuka nightclubs before she turned 18. Having completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design at the University of Canberra, she came up with a revolutionary idea of starting up a Sydney store that stocked the “top 3 designs” of a variety of iconic pieces. Now with stores across Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, Terri is a leader and mentor in the design community—judging Launchpad, the Good Design Awards and hosting Channel 10’s Australia by Design – Innovation.

Canberra is: “The place I turned from experimental teen to design-interested being. Canberra holds a special place in my heart having lived and studied there for five years. Since I went to university the hotel and bar culture has matured so much, there are some really cool restaurants and bars now.”

Canberra is not:  “As connected as it could be. When in Europe I often jump on a train instead of a plane and at 300kms per hour, a few hours later I am there. Connecting the Australian east coast cities with a VFT is long overdue and would be great for Canberra.”

Sotiris Dounoukos


A graduate of the Australian National University and the Victorian College of the Arts School of Film and Television, Sotiris has been much-lauded for his short films, winning awards at the Melbourne and Toronto International Film Festivals, among others. His first feature film is the adaptation of Helen Garner’s book Joe Cinque’s Consolation, which is set in, and filmed, across Canberra. It was the recipient of the Canberra Critics Circle Award for excellence.

Canberra is: “A good place to grow up, to study and to develop outside the pressures and distractions of bigger cities. I remember Canberra as a great place to receive a film education (thank you Gino Moliterno, Roger Hillman and Andrew Pike) among local cinema-goers who were curious, informed and committed to the possibilities of the art form.”

Canberra is not: “Investing enough in music and theatre. The staff and students of the School of Art and School of Music are immensely talented, and our high schools produce talented performers every year. ArtsACT and local venues should receive more support, to help the local arts be part of everyday life and to create incentives for established artists to move here.”

Terry Snow

Businessman, philanthropist

Chairman of the Canberra Airport and Capital Airport Group, Terry began his career in 1965 after attending Canberra Grammar School and getting qualifications in accountancy. Today, he is the only Canberran ranked among Forbes Australia’s 50 richest people with a fortune in excess of $1 billion dollars.

The Snow family has overseen a massive overhaul of the airport and is currently developing the entire suburb of Denman Prospect. In 1991 Terry and his brother George established the Snow Foundation to assist disadvantaged people. It has distributed more than $20 million to various groups and individuals and Terry was awarded an Order of Australia in 2006.

Canberra is: “An exciting city to live in, adjacent to some of Australia’s most beautiful coast and mountain areas. The city is enhanced by a vibrant city plan which gives great open-air access to our wonderful landscape and built forms. It’s the best-kept secret in Australia.”

Canberra is not: “A stodgy town geared only toward the public service.”

Mary Finsterer


Recognised as one of Australia’s finest composers, Mary has received awards for her music in Europe, Britain, USA and Canada, and has also represented Australia in five International Society for Contemporary Music festivals. She has received a Churchill Fellowship, Australia Council Composer Fellowship, and Royal Netherlands Government Award among others. A proud product of Dickson who was educated at Merici College, Mary has composed everything from chamber music, electro, and the score for Die Hard 4 which she recorded at Fox Studios in LA.

Canberra is: “Quiet. The fact that the city embraces the natural surroundings, gives it a restorative quality and a sense of space that inspired me in my pursuit of academic study and delving into the world of music and art.”

Canberra is not: “Big. In my teenage years, it was a natural progression to venture out into the wider world and seek out opportunities, so I moved to Sydney after I had finished Year 12. Canberra was very much smaller then.  Moving to a bigger city offered me more opportunity to study and work with professionals of international standing.”

Jure Domazet

Property Developer

It was not a given that Jure Domazet would join his father’s property development business. But eventually, after studying Law and Commerce at the Australian National University and working as a solicitor for Clayton Utz, the tug of the family business became too much to resist.

As Managing Director of the Doma Group, Jure has propelled the company into the national commercial property and the luxury hotel sphere with major developments across Canberra, Sydney and Newcastle.

Canberra is: “A place that is now retaining its younger (and older) innovators and attracting people from elsewhere to try their hand here. There are many businesses that exist today in Canberra that would have just been a crazy idea less than a decade ago. Canberra’s also the equivalent of a resort town with its tourist season being the Parliamentary sitting periods. I enjoy seeing the regular influx of new faces into town—you are just as likely to be sitting across from a Canberran, as a Federal Minister or business magnate.”

Canberra is not: “A place full of people who are relaxed and positive about life and the world. I think we have too many people who are expected to analyse and critique things at work and then think that the same approach should be taken to life in general. There are far more reasons to be happy than to be outraged, yet many comments in our local paper would make you think we are living a very challenging existence.”

Laura Peel

Credit: Steve Cuff.

World Champion and Olympic Aerial Skier

Raised in Canberra where she began her aerial experimentation as a gymnast at the tender age of three, Laura spent her winter Sundays skiing at Perisher. It was almost inevitable she would combine both skills and make an international name for herself as a freestyle skier.

Laura competed in the 2011 and 2013 World Ski Championships, came seventh in the Women’s Aerial event at the 2014 Winter Olympics and won her first world title in 2015. Dealing with injury in 2016, Laura returned to compete in the World Cup in Moscow and won bronze before placing eighth in the 2017 World Championships. In January, she won two bronze medals in the World Cup in New York and is currently training in Quebec. When she is not training, Laura still lives in, and loves, Canberra, which is home for the three months of the year she is not training, competing and travelling.

Canberra is: “Nature therapy! With so many parks and walking and cycling trails on your doorstep, it’s so easy to unplug, get outside, and rejuvenate.”

Canberra is not: “Where you want to spend the Christmas/New Year holiday break! A mass exodus to the South Coast usually occurs, and you’ll find yourself alone in most of the bars.”

Nick O’Leary


His dad may have worked for a Prime Minister, but Nick O’Leary stayed well away from the House on the Hill once he finished school. Instead, he was drawn to the region’s superior wine country where he developed a passion for creating hand-worked Shiraz and Riesling wines that encapsulated the character of the region.

Nick started his eponymous wine brand Nick O’Leary Wines in 2006. From its very humble beginnings producing around 500 dozen a year, he has grown the local label to one of the biggest wineries in the Canberra region—and a brand loved nationally—producing well over 10,000 dozen bottles a year. He has also won a 5-RedStar Winery ranking by James Halliday for seven years—a rating only given to the top 10 per cent of Australian wineries. He has won NSW Wine of the Year in 2014 and 2015 at the NSW Wine Industry Awards—the first time in the award’s 19-year history that a winery has won the award twice let alone in consecutive years.

Canberra is: “The place to be. It’s an ever-growing hub of fine wine and cuisine with some of Australia’s finest businesses actively supporting and backing a constantly-expanding spread of local produce.”

Canberra is not: “A large country town anymore. It’s a thriving city and a fierce competitor. It’s not to be overlooked.”

This article originally appeared in Magazine: RISE for Spring 2018, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here.

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