Broadly, Canberra is divided into a series of areas - inner Canberra (north and south), Woden Valley, Weston Creek, Belconnen and Tuggeranong - each with various suburbs. As you're going to be working in the city area, I'd suggest one of the less distant areas to minimise travel and also bus changing - there are interchanges at Belconnen and Tuggeranong town centres. I think your preference for somewhere with restaurants, nightlife etc also fits with that - so rule out Gungahlin, southern Tuggeranong (Kambah at northern Tuggeranong almost counts as 'inner') or the outer parts of Belconnen. Kingston, Ainslie, Dickson might be good choices within differing price ranges. NB that Canberra has fairly few 'pubs', the nightlife tends to be in clubs. I can't help much with rental prices, but look at www.realestate.com.au and you'll get some idea (from memory it also has maps). Hope this helps.
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