Two buildings in Canberra rank high in the stakes for being the most hideous looking buildings in Australia – both these buildings are beside each other. One is the High Court of Australia and the other is the National Gallery.
Ok, so you have got it – I don’t like the building and for this reason it was not for some 12 years after moving to Canberra that I actually decided to have a look inside. I thought to myself – it’s what on the inside that counts.
I guess what one thinks of the inside (or indeed the whole set-up) is very much dependent on whether one is there at Her Majesty’s (or is it the Governor-General’s?) invitation to appear before the learned judges ,of this the highest court in Australia, or whether one is visiting at ones own volition.
To remove any doubt my reader may have – I fell into the latter category.
Inside this cavernous monstrosity are three small court rooms and a suite of administrative and judicial offices. The balance of the building, volume wise by far the greatest part, is a giant multi-story lobby and staircases.
You might think I don’t like it internally either. This is not the case and in spite of the 1980’s bright orange carpet or perhaps because of it I actually quite like it internally and it is certainly worth a visit. The 1980’s public areas décor/colour scheme, which is continued into the courts themselves, was personally selected by the Chief Justice of the day.
As noted earlier the High Court of Australia is the highest court in the Australian judicial system and first sat (in Melbourne) in 1903 when it comprised 3 Justices. It increased in size until 1946 when it reached its current size of 7 Justices appointed by the Governor General. The Court transferred to Canberra in 1980 – the building was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The main entrance of the Court is approached by a long ceremonial walkway replete with water cascade feature which runs the length of the walkway.
Most of the courts work relates to appeals against decisions of other courts though there is no automatic right to have an appeal heard by the court. Decisions of the High Court on appeals are final. Other activity relates to cases involving the interpretation of the constitution (brings to mind the iconic and classic Australian movie “The Castle”) and those involving a principle of law deemed by the court to be one of major public importance.
A small but interesting display of historical items is located in the main lobby while the walls are modestly and tastefully adorned with some reasonably interesting artwork including a six piece mural by Jan Senbergs designed to reflect on the history, functions and aspirations of the Court.
Court 1 – which is used for all ceremonial occasions and in all cases where the Full Bench of the seven Justices of the Court is required to sit was closed for refurbishment when I visited.
Court 2 – is used where a full court of five Justices is required – see picture.
Court 3 – is for matters dealt with by a single Justice.
All the courts are of modern layout with Australian wood featuring heavily throughout.
Court Guides are on hand to introduce you to the history, role and operation of the Court and its building. On days when the Court is not sitting information sessions are offered in the Public Hall and Courtroom 1 at 11:00am and 3:00pm. On Sundays, one session is held at 2:00pm. Outisde these hours guides are generally available to answer your questions.
If the Court is sitting, you can watch proceedings.
Court sitting details
Normally, the Court sits in Canberra for two weeks of every month, except for January and July when it is in recess. High Court sittings are open to the public. Normal Court sitting hours are from 10.15 am to 12.45 pm and 2.15 pm to 4.15 pm.
General opening hours
9.45 am to 4.30 pm Monday through Friday, except public holidays
Sundays from midday to 4.00 pm. (Though I missed it on my recent visit one of the guides informed me that some form of music or choir recital is planned on Sunday afternoons for the remainder of 2013).
The Chambers Cafe is open Monday to Friday from 9.45 am to 3.00 pm and on Sundays from 12.00 pm to 4.00 pm.
Admission fee: free
While near Lake Burley Griffin or browsing through the sculpture gardens at the National Gallery, you will hear tolling of bells, almost throughout the day.
The sound comes from the National Carillon, located on Aspen Island at Lake Burley Griffin. It was a gift from the British Government to the people of Australia to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Capital.
According to travelmallaustralia.com, the National Carillon has 53 bronze bells andis large by world standards. The pitch of the bells ranges chromatically through four and a half octaves. The bells each weigh between seven kilograms and six tonnes. Cast in England by John Taylor & Co., they are fine examples of the art of bellfounding.
The National Carillon tower rises to a height of 50 metres, allowing the music of the bells to drift across Lake Burley Griffin and through Kings and Commonwealth Parks. The tower is lit at night, providing a magnificent landmark in the National Capital. Recitals are performed throughout the year by local and visiting carillonists. All styles of music are represented, from arrangements of popular songs to compositions specially written for the Carillon.
The NFSA (to save words) was established to collect and preserve audio-visual material with enduring national cultural significance. As such, it provides a resource for researchers and also presents exhibitions and events. The collection holds over 1.3 million items and can be searched online. All that is very worthy, but what is there to interest you, the tourist? Well, when you visit (free), you can go to the theatre and watch a constant screening of Australian movies or documentaries. You also have access to a library and a shop where you can purchase all manner of books, souvenirs, or copies of movies (DVD). There also is a small cafeteria should you need refreshments.
When we visited recently, there was a display of posters for Australian films – film posters apparently were highly individual in different national styles until recently. A unique dimension was added by the inclusion of Polish posters for Australian films: quite different from those released locally for the same films!
The building housing the NFSA is interesting in its own right. It was built in 1929-1930 and served for over 50 years as the headquarters for the Institute of Anatomy. The style is called “Stripped Classical” – I guess that refers to the columns at the front. More interesting, however, are the ‘Art Deco’ touches throughout the building, mixed with representations of Australian wildlife: the skylight with its central platypus is an excellent example.
NB. The NFSA website contains very useful information on how to best preserve your own personal audiovisual material.
Main photo: the front façade
Second photo: the skylight in the entry foyer and door at rear, both in Art Deco style (vertical panorama)
Third photo: Polish poster for Australian film “Blue Fin”.
I was unsure whether to put this tip under 'things to do' or under 'off the beaten path', because so few visitors seem to get far beyond the Parliamentary Triangle! Finally, I decided that it definitely comes under the category of something to do: and something a little different at that.
The Royal Australian Mint opened in the inner suburb of Deakin in 1965. Since then, it has produced over 12 billion coins. Entry is free and there is ample parking, with free barbecues in the grounds. Inside, you can look at displays including a museum of coins from throughout Australia's history. On working days, you can watch the coins being produced. You can even mint your own $1 coin from a special press which is available to the public. Commemorative and collector coins are also available for purchase from the shop. Open weekdays 0900-1600, weekends and public holidays 1000-1600, closed Christmas Day and Good Friday.
On the southern side of Lake Burley Griffin is a series of imposing building, all of which, the exception being the library, have been set amongst trees so some of their lines are not immediately apparent.
One of these is the High Court of Australia. It lies between the National Gallery and Questacon (science museum) and around springtime, with the international flags adding even more colour, it makes a delightful place to go for a stroll.
If u want to learn how the coins are make in Australia, do make sure u drop by the Royal Australia Mint. The mint provides u with abundant information on the history of australian coins and the process of coin making. Special highlight is that u can mint your own AUD$1.00. It is machine operated which require u to slot in AUD$2.50 in order to mint your own AUD$1.00. WARNING!!! the process is very fast, the next thing u know, your own AUD$1.00 coin has been made... hahaha.. but it is a great souvenir.
Over here, u can even get some of those uncirculated coins and also those halogram coins. However, it is very very expensive!!! (sad)....:(
mon - fri (9am - 4pm)
Sat, Sun $ public holiday (10am - 4pm)
closed during xmas n good friday
The High Court of Australia is the highest court in the Australian judicial system. The functions of the High Court are to interpret and uphold the Constitution, to interpret Federal law and hear cases referred from other courts. It is one of Canberra’s most prestgious public buildings.
Open 9.45am to 4.30pm and entry is free.
you can operate a coin press to mint your very own $1.00 coin. And yes, it is legal tender. You'll also see a fascinating collection of coins and watch from the elevated viewing gallery as money is being made.
You can see the world of the champion athlete from the inside as you tour the complex.
The AIS tour is not to be missed, you get to see how champion athletes train and live and all tours are conducted by elite athletes. The tour incorporates Sportex - an exhibition of interactive sports displays, videos and tributes, as well as the latest sports technology. You also get to see athletes train in such sports as - Gymnastics, Basketball, Swimming etc.
National Capital Planning Exhibition Centre
The centre gives a good background about this 'planned' city and helps you gain a perspective that is otherwise impossible. It is also a great place to view the Lake.
Crowne Plaza Canberra Canberra
4 Reviews and 466 Opinions Well we stayed 2 nights in a Delux room. We did not even have to use the lift. And when we walked...
Hyatt Hotel Canberra Canberra
2 Reviews and 430 Opinions The Hyatt Hotel is situated in a lovely position beside the lake and within close proximity to the...
Novotel Canberra Canberra
2 Reviews and 1154 Opinions It was a pleasant time we had there over-all, despite the fact the hotel was undergoing renovations....