20 December 2023

Where to find Canberra's worst bus shelter, according to the teenager who's visited every one

| James Coleman
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Bus shelter costume

Nick Goncalves wearing his bus shelter costume for Book Week 2023. Photo: Sally Dalwood.

Every Book Week, you’ll see costumes based on all the usual suspects – The Wizard of Oz, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Where’s Wally, and so on.

But not for Nick Goncalves, a Year 9 student at Calwell High School. His inspiration was none other than Beautiful Bus Shelters of Canberra, by Newcastle-based artist Trevor Dickinson.

“To be honest, it was kind of thrown together pretty late,” the 15-year-old said.

“We were just looking around at books in that house and I saw that one and thought it would be a good costume.”

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The result – constructed from pool noodles and cardboard with help from his mum Sally Dalwood – had fellow students cheering him on with “bus stop, bus stop, bus stop” and, sure enough, it won him the competition.

Trevor himself found out about the costume when Nick met him at the National Portrait Gallery.

“Meet Nick. He not only won a fancy dress competition in this amazing costume, he’s also completed a mission to visit every concrete bus shelter (and some wooden ones) in Canberra,” Trevor posted to social media on 3 December.

“Well done Nick, I salute you!”

Canberra bus shelter costume

The costume featured the words ‘Big Fat Poo’ inside, inspired by one of Trevor Dickinson’s drawings. Photo: Nick Goncalves.

That’s right. Nick has spent several months putting together an online map on Google of all of Canberra’s iconic “bunker-style” bus shelters (accompanied with a photo and ranked from “exceptional” to “underwhelming”).

The fascination traces its roots to when his grandma bought the Beautiful Bus Shelters of Canberra book.

“Nick’s always been really interested in everything to do with Canberra,” his mum Sally said.

“He loves exploring Canberra by bike. He loves just checking out and learning about all the landmarks, and bus shelters are just so uniquely Canberran, and really took his attention. Having the book encouraged him to go out and check them all out.”

Canberra bus shelter

Nick Goncalves spent several months over 2023 photographing Canberra’s concrete bus shelters. Photo: Sally Dalwood.

Nearly every day after school between March and July, his mum or grandparents would drive him through a different selection of streets to track down each and every concrete bus shelter.

“It’s been great because it’s enabled us to have lots of conversations in the car,” Sally said.

“And Nick likes to play his ’70s and ’80s music while we’re driving, so there have been a few sing-alongs as well.”

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Designed by Queensland-born architect Clem Cummings, at least 477 of the concrete bus shelters were dotted around the suburbs between 1975 and 1995, before the design was retired due to “community requests” for more comfortable and compact (and see-through) options.

Transport Canberra has moved a few around over the years, and given them a lick of paint to “bring them to life once again”. Others have been decorated with murals from local artists.

Nick has colour-coded them all – red for “ordinary”, dark blue for “ones I specifically remember and thought were really good”, brown for “really bad”, green for “interesting”, and a lighter blue for “ones I haven’t got to yet”. So far, the latter includes a handful in Denman Prospect.

“The worst one is probably the one outside Higgins shops – didn’t like that one at all,” he said.

Meanwhile, the honour for the best goes to the one near the intersection of Sulwood Drive and Tuggeranong Parkway on the northern edge of Kambah, largely thanks to a particularly moody shot of it after dark.

A close second is the one outside the Hawker Primary School, covered in “massive Indigenous artwork”.

Canberra bus shelter

Nick Goncalves’ favourite bus shelter near the intersection of the Tuggeranong Parkway and Sulwood Drive. Photo: Nick Goncalves.

Sally said it’s “awesome” from a parent’s perspective to watch Nick put his mind to the mission so fervently.

“I’ve learned so much from Nick and from the project … He can tell you pretty much the best route from anywhere to anywhere, but I still need my GPS.”

And it seems he may come dressed as an IGA sign for next year’s Book Week.

“I was thinking of maybe visiting every local shop, or getting a photo with every suburb sign, but I don’t reckon I’ll be able to top bus shelters,” Nick said.

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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