If cottage means a small house on a plot big enough for a decent sized veggie patch, then my family and I live in a cottage.  Like many other Canberrans living in one of the city’s older suburbs, we live in what is popularly known as an ‘ex-govie’.

In 1911, Canberra was declared the national capital of Australia.  At that time, it was home to the Ngunnawal people and a few European homesteaders, but not much else.  So, the national capital had to be built from scratch.  Accommodation was scarce so the government built whole suburbs of government houses to cater for its employees.  By the end of the 1960s, the last of the ‘govies’ were built.  Over time, these houses were sold off, and the term ‘ex-govie’ was coined.

One owner has described the ex-govie as the caravan of houses.  it is very small, basic and uniformly rectangle.  Ex-govies are renowned for being built like brick shit-houses.  Construction quality is high and they are unfailingly strong.  Our house was built in 1969, and hence represents the end of an era in Canberra’s development.  Our house is about 100sq metres (or 11sq).  This was the average build size of a 1950’s house in Australia.  This compares to the average new build size of 233sq metres in Australia today.  In urban areas, homes now often take up the whole house block.

Australia has some of the biggest houses in the world today.  I’m not quite sure why people want bigger and bigger houses.  Maybe it is a case of “keeping up with the Jones”.  The problem is that larger homes come with larger embodied and operational energy costs even with improvements in building energy efficiency regulations.  It also seems that houses aren’t built to last anymore, with an expected 30 years lifespan for the off-the-shelf project house.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a time when I dearly would have loved a bit of extra space (see Keeping Up With The Jones) and we probably would have got a bigger house had we the means to fund it.  Now we unanimously agree that we would prefer to retain our garden, rather than up-size our house.  On these hot summer days, I think our house is naturally cooler as a result.  Our energy use is only half of a one person household.

Here is a peek at our house.  It is not flash, but it is home.


I can’t help feel a little pleased about our limited energy use.  But, there is one other thing I’m thrilled about.  It might be a bulk-standard ex-govie, but in one small aspect, it is unique.  I have been reliably informed that we have the best letter box in Canberra, maybe even Australia, with several neighbours having serious letter-box envy (or so they’ve told me).  Want a peek?  Yep, I made this with the help of a friend (thanks shortfatchinaman).


I would like to show you inside my house, but it is a little messy and, you know, what happens in the house, stays in the house.

Oh alright, here’s one photo.  Fynnie does love to lounge on the laundry pile.


It’s a small world after all, that is, unless you’re king of the castle.

Kind Regards

Response to the Ragtag Daily PromptCottage.




40 thoughts on “The Caravan Of Houses

  1. I definitely have mailbox envy it is a beauty…. I could do a real rant about the big house syndrome, to me it is shocking the way a perfectly adequate house with a nice garden is pulled down then the whole section taken up with a 2 story monstrosity. I house sat in Canberra in a renovated ex-govie that had kept its character and garden. They had put under floor heating in which we appreciated as it was 3 months of winter we where there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Pauline. Strangers walk past and take photos of my mailbox. So funny.

      I believe you may have had a rant about big houses before. 🙂 The ex-govie next to us has just been sold and no-one has moved in. It’s a big block – 919sq metres. So ripe for development, dual occupancy or maybe some huge monstrosity. I’m dreading it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the post. I love your garden and mailbox, too! We don’t see too many of those gardens in Perth anymore. The contagion of ‘development’ is everywhere in suburbs with bigger blocks. I moved to a bigger home with smaller gardens (three small ones around the home) only because the watering and upkeep of the garden was more than my mortgage in the old home. I’ve had a gardener for 15+ years who is elderly and loves to potter around for some beer and golf $. I haven’t used a heater in absolutely years and rarely use AC. I just keep the curtains drawn in the hottest part of the day to cool the house. Effective! With solar panels my bill is next to nothing even when I spend more time at home. But I am yearning for a simpler life in the coming years.


    1. Thank you, dawnbird. With a job like yours, a big garden is not practical. A simpler life is something to look forward to. Our garden takes a lot of work. We’ve got too many pots because of plants that Fynnie the Terror dug up. 🙂 Still we love it. I would love solar panels one day, but in the meantime the ACT government has a 100 renewable energy target. That will change though if the other side gets in. We hide in the cave during the day, and put the evaporative cooler on in the evening if the humidity is low. We used to get lovely cross ventilation, but I think the prevailing wind direction has changed.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You do have a fabulous letterbox. I can understand why people notice it. Houses are getting bigger and the blocks are getting smaller. So many beautiful old houses have been demolished so that developers can either build “McMansions” or a townhouse or several units on the space of one family home.


  4. I was in Canberra in 1971 when your ex-govie was just a kid! See how far we go back? I emigrated to Australia right out of college, stayed two years and then went a-roving. Enjoyed your piece.


  5. A lovely looking home and a fabulous mailbox Tracy! We’ve never felt the need to live in a large house either and totally agree that the increase in energy consumption and carbon footprint are too big a price to pay. Hope you are enjoying your sunny weather and wishing you and your loved ones a blessed and very happy New Year 🤗🐾💖🐾 xxx


  6. I like your house and your mailbox, Tracy! No wonder people take photos of it–I hope the mailman smiles when he passes your house. People next door to me (I live in a very old neighborhood) ripped up their entire yard, redid the entire inside and then put up a privacy fence and we never see them. Why??


    1. I had to laugh at your dog on the laundry. That is one of my cats. Husband wants to fold and put away his clothes. No. Parker would prefer to sit right on top of them. Cracks me up every time.


    2. Hee hee, the mailman is a big fan. He told me so.

      I’ve had the same neighbours on my right now for over 20 years. We love them, and if they were ever to move I think I would be bereft. I do like a bit of privacy but no possibility of interaction seems a bit bizarre. It seems quite at odds with how we’ve evolved as humans. People can be very strange.


  7. Great post! More is not necessarily better! I can never understand the need for grandiose houses, that seem to be the norm these days. Many are not environmentally sustainable…and besides, who wants to do all that cleaning! Fabulous letter box!


  8. In the Vancouver area we many houses like yours. Most built post WW Two. In our area your bungalow would also be called a rancher. In some areas we have huge homes which are euphemistically called by some monster houses. At one point our off the grid friends were house sitting a 20,000 square foot behemoth under renovation.


    1. Wow, the house your friends looked after sounds like it could double as a shopping mall. The people who live in it must be strangers to one another. Yes, our house does have that post-war cachet about it. I think that is because after the war, it was difficult to get skilled trades people to develop the national capital, so by the time the 60s arrived, there was real pressure to put housing in, hence the small, quick to erect houses.


      1. It was set up for entertaining. It had an indoor pool with a swim up bar. The games room had a grill for informal snacks. The mansion was undergoing a several million dollar renovation.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I love your house! The big house thing is a little strange to me. My house is 1000 square feet (I guess about just under 100 sq meters). It gets a little crowded when four other people are in it, but I know people raised families here. The only problem, really, is the bathroom which has a door straight into my room and another door into a little hallway by the second bedroom. It’s also tiny.


    1. I think I would get lost in a big house, Martha. It brings our family closer together, and I don’t have to yell too loud, to attract attention.or ask for help.

      I imagine having the second door in the bathroom can get a bit awkward with visitors. Our bathroom is tiny too, so we reconfigured it (my father is a builder). It seems much roomier now. We’ve been so lucky to have family help with renovation projects.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Mailbox envy has now officially spread across the ditch!!!!
    We’re seeing the same McMansions built here with all the nightmare implications of that. In the words of my cynical 20 year old son — “people are nuts.”

    Liked by 1 person

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