Old Parliament House - MOADOPH, Canberra
Unfortunately this magnificent attraction in under-going something of an identity crisis and for whatever reason seems to be trying to re-badge itself as the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House with an emphasis on the museum part. This identity crisis, I believe, stems from the move of the National Portrait section to its new permanent home at the newly built National Portrait Gallery in 2008.
I feel compelled to write a separate tip on The Museum of Australian Democracy component of this attraction simply to include it in the Tourist Traps section. See further details there.
That part out of the way Old Parliament House is a must see attraction and certainly one of my favorite buildings in the city.
Australia became a united federation in 1901 and on doing so a capital city was required. Rivalry then (as now) between Melbourne and Sydney meant that neither of these two main cities would be accepted as a capital. A number of alternative sites were considered and what was, without meaning to insult the original inhabitants and settlers, little more than an isolated sheep paddock was chosen and named Canberra.
The first Parliament of The Commonwealth of Australia met in Melbourne until a Parliament House (now Old Parliament House) was constructed in Canberra 1927. This building was only ever intended to be a temporary (Provisional) Parliament building pending construction of a permanent building by the lakeshore – as envisioned in the Walter Burley Griffin blueprint for Canberra. The lakeside idea was subsequently dropped in favour of a hill (Capital Hill) behind Old Parliament House – a story in itself which I cover in my review of New Parliament House. Temporary, in fact, lasted until 1988 during which time the number of people working in this building increased to around 4000. It is hard to imagine how 4000 people (originally built to house 300) could have worked here as you walk around this rabbit warren of a building today.
The two-thirds of the building not given over to the Museum of Australian Democracy is pretty much as it would have been the day Parliament moved up the hill. Both Houses of Parliament, the Prime Minister’s suite, Cabinet room, opposition leaders , speakers and numerous other offices and meeting rooms within the building are fully open to the public. A few items like the Prime Minister’s desk are roped off to protect them. Certainly nothing palatial about these offices – many of which are barely functional and most of which would certainly not meet current day occupational health and safety standards. Contrast this building with New Parliament House.
You will come across a few smaller, high quality, exhibitions including one on Australian Prime Ministers as you make your way around the building. Kings Hall, the rather grander entrance hall has an excellent display of paintings of Australian Prime Ministers together with a beautiful bronze statue of King George V who was monarch when the building was opened. King George V, then as Duke of York, represented his father, King Edward VII, at the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament on 9 May 1901 in Melbourne.
Downstairs you will find an exhibition of political cartoons which is now updated annually – Behind the Lines 2012. This section, while clearly sanitised, is still very entertaining though will be more appreciated by visitors with a sound knowledge of current Australian politics.
Fancy yourself as speaker for the day? If so when in the vicinity of the Speakers office keep your eye out for a large “speakers chair” and gown and wig. Put the gown and wig on and have a seat. Also when in the Prime Minister’s office look for the peep hole (which was actually used by staff to look in to see if the Prime Minister was available/ready to take guests, etc).
The building itself, designed by John Smith Murdoch is a classical almost art deco style, a style which I am generally not a fan but I make an exception for this building and its quite stunning white façade.
Old Parliament House hosts three eateries, The Ginger Room (high end) and two more modest offerings. All are recommended.
For reasons which I suspect I know, there is a nominal $2 entrance fee (children $1) to Old Parliament House. Interestingly this is the only Federal Government attraction in Canberra, which has an entrance fee.
Free 45 minute guided tours are offered at regular intervals. I encourage you to join one of these tours and listen to the stories of the goings on in this building over its 60 years of existence. Very high quality guides.
Open daily (except Christmas day)9am-5pm
Next Review - Parliamentary Triangle - South Side
This is the only piece of statutory in Canberra which falls into the category of bold, imposing and larger than life pieces, befitting of Empire.
King George V was King when Old Parliament House (across the road) was opened in 1927. As Duke of York, he represented his father, King Edward VII, at the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament on 9 May 1901 in Melbourne.
The memorial was sculptured by Rayner Hoff and unveiled in 1953 by Governor-General, Sir William McKell. The memorial was originally located on the lawn in front of Old Parliament house on the axis between Parliament and the Australian War Memorial.
The base of the memorial and remaining components including the stone figure of Saint George, which faced towards the War Memorial, were actually completed in 1941 when the onset of WWII delayed the casting of the bronze plaques and the bronze figure of King George. King George “arrived” in 1953 and the memorial was completed.
The King George V memorial, in addition to being a memorial to the King, doubles as a war memorial, commissioned before the Australian War Memorial was completed. As such, the monument has two distinct sides – the King George side, which honours both the reign of the monarch and Australian federation, and the Saint George side, honouring Australia’s contribution to the First World War.
In 1968 the memorial was moved a hundred metres to its current location, supposedly the one preferred by its creators, on the basis that it disturbed the clear line of view along the Burley Griffin axis joining the War Memorial and (Old) Parliament House. It is interesting to note that King George V has since been replaced by rather more modest elements of the Aboriginal “Tent Embassy” on the very same axis.
Attached is an old Department of Defence picture showing the memorial in its original location. Note also in this picture the then recently constructed Australian – American Memorial at Russell (towards the back). The is a great photo also in that it shows how much Canberra has changed in 50 years – the most obvious being the addition of Lake Burley Griffin since the photo was taken.
Another life-size bronze statue of George V by sculptor Bertram Mackennal can be seen in Kings Hall across the road in Old Parliament House. George V was represented at the opening of Old Parliament House by the then Duke of York and later George VI.
Next Review - Parliamentary Triangle - South Side
This is the Old Parliament House Garden a nice place to relax not far from the new parliament, in the very centre of Canberra. There was a wedding-reception held there in the park while I was there. Canberra is quite a newly built, artificial town but I was still surprised to learn that the so-called "old" Parliamenthouse garden was planted in 1931 and that is no Age at all for a new garden ;-))
The garden was designed by Rex Hazlewood, who was a man of many interests. He was a professional photographer and while serving in Europe during WW I he started to study English landscapes and parks.
Canberra in The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is the place where the politicians go to do their 'parliamentary thing' My memory tells me that both Sydney and Melbourne were vying for this honour so they built Canberra in order to settle the dispute.
You might enjoy a virtual trip though to the town of Tenterfield known as "The Birthplace of Our Nation" - Sir Henry Parkes delivering his famous Federation Speech in the Tenterfield School of Arts on 24th October 1889. This Speech ultimately led to the Federation of all Australian States on January 1st 1901.
there is a little town named after Sir Henry as well if you enjoy these little virtual detours come with me to Parkes
But if you want the best information on Canberra...well researched combined with excellent photography do visit the pages of VT member wabat.....just follow this link and then go to the reviews he has written.
You can read what I have to say as well if you wish...but Albert has done it so well
The Museum of Australian Democracy is located in the venerable old or provisional Parliament House, which housed our rowdy government for over 50 years.
The building was designed by John Smith Murdoch and a team of assistants, and intended to be a ‘provisional’ building, until a permanant building could be constructed. The design extended from the building to include its gardens, décor and furnishings. The building is in the Simplified or "Stripped" Classical Style, commonly used for Australian government buildings constructed in Canberra during the 1920s and 1930s.
The 'Museum of Australian Democracy' remembers the history of the building, with audio memories of significant moments in the history of the building provided in significant spaces. Members of the public can visit the old parliamentary chambers, ministerial and party room offices, even the bowels of the press room where journalists were packed into small spaces, but had be benefit of being cheek by jowl with the politicians.
This is old parliament house of Australia. You can learn the history of how the laws were formed, see the Prime ministers' office, the meeting halls for both senate and house of representative.
They also have special exhibition of specific topic. I managed to see "Martin Warajanga we're travelling" It exhibits the stories of indigenous people were not treated equally as citizens. They were taken away from their parents to work as labor. It is a shameful history of Australia, but Prime Minister , Kevin Ruold, has apologized to the people. Interesting and sad...
Open daily 9am-5pm.
This Museum showcases the history of Australian democracy, the laws, the institutions, the way we live as a society.
Having a look here, I read stories on people like well known Aboriginal Eddie Mabo who won legal recognition of his people’s land rights against enormous odds. I could see how innovative and controversal some decisions had been.
When I visited there was an exhibition on......One of the items on display was George Washington’s writing set (on loan for the first time outside America),
There is an area on the Prime Ministers of Australia (see other tip), temporary exhibitions and a hands on area.
I found this museum interesting, and the entrance fee was only a small $2.
open daily 9 - 5pm
THE SENATE GARDENS
This garden also has wooden Pergolas, and lots of beautiful Roses.
It has the Macarthur Rose Garden, which is named after John & Elizabeth Macarthur, the founders of the Australian Merino wool industry, a Bowling Green Clubhouse, Bowling green and Tennis courts.
There is commemorative Artwork and Fountain, celebrating the centenary of Australian Women’s suffrage. In 1902, Women were allowed to vote, and in 1903, A WORLD 1ST, Women were allowed to stand for parliament.
LOCATION…. Next to Old Parliament House.
FREE TO WALK AROUND
FREE GARDEN TOURS with a Volunteer guide, bookings are essential, a minimum numbers apply 02 6257 1068
OPEN 7 – 8 PM Daylight saving time
7 – 5 pm Non daylight saving time
House of Representatives garden.
Parliamentary gardens, Up until 1989 were only exclusively for use by the Parliamentarians and were not open to the Public. They were for use by Members, Senators and their staff as a place for relaxation and retreat.
In 2004, they were reconstructed and opened to the Public to enjoy.
Broinowski Rose Garden is named after one of the 1st public servants to be transferred to Canberra who was involved in the development of the capital.
When facing Old Parliament House from the front, on the right hand side is Gardens which include a Cricket pitch and Tennis courts. The Roses are Old English “David Austin” roses, and are planted with Lavender, Delphiniums, Foxgloves, Penstemon, and Irises, making it a very pretty garden.
The garden has timber Pergolas with climbing Roses and Wisteria.
Lovely in Spring, when the Roses were at their best.
LOCATION…. Next to Old Parliament House.
FREE TO WALK AROUND
FREE TOURS are available with a volunteer guide.
Bookings are essential on 02 6257 1068, minimum numbers apply.
OPEN 7 – 8pm daylight saving time
7-5 pm non daylight saving
History - Prime Ministers - Canberra ......go hand in hand.
There are a couple of places that you can learn about our Prime Minister's of Australia.
 is at the NATIONAL CAPITAL EXHIBITION
 is at the MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRACY located in Old Parliament House
We visited both of these exhibitions and I would say for me, the one in the Museum of Democracy was the best, and the one I will tell you about.
It is located on the main floor of the Senate Wing of Old Parliament House.
It tells the story of Australia’s prime ministers and their governments through an exhibition and research centre, starting with Australia’s 1st prime minister, Sir Edmund Barton in 1901 and showcases more than a century of political leadership through multimedia and interactive technologies up to our most recent Prime Minister. You pick up a phone at each Prime Minister and get to listen to their history, and to find out some very interesting facts.
This is where you find out more about the life and work of Australia’s current and former prime ministers.
Some examples are................
"Three Prime Ministers have died while in office, 5 more have resigned, 8 were defeated at a general election, one was replaced by his own party and one was dismissed from office by the Governor-General.
The youngest Prime Minister, Chris Watson, became Prime Minister at the age of 37.
The oldest person to become Prime Minister was John McEwen at the age of 68.
.........but, Robert Menzies was 72 when he left office.
Five Prime Ministers were born overseas, all but one in the United Kingdom.
William Morris Hughes, represented both parties."
Do you know which former prime minister was present at the hanging of Ned Kelly?
The answer to all these questions are found at the centre, or if you can't visit and just want to know, then visit this website............
The Prime Ministers of Australia exhibition is located in.....
the MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRACY
open daily, 9.00am–5.00pm (excluding Christmas Day).
This was another excellent exhibition in Canberra.
THE QUEEN IS COMING TO CANBERRA.........
Its, 1954 and evidently is caused quite a frenzy back then!
The President of the Senate gave up this sitting room to the Queen during her five-day visit in 1954. For her, this room (which became known as the Queen's room) was a place to relax and to get some much needed privacy. New furniture was made especially for her!
We had a look at her "room" and the furniture, probably really nice furniture for the 1950's. Have a look, I think I expected something a little more glamorous!
Here, in Old Parliament House, she made history as the first reigning monarch to open our Commonwealth parliament.
Located in the Museum of Australian Democracy, Old Parliament House
Open 9 - 5pm daily
Admission in 2009 was $2
....….Now on the National Heritage list, it was the seat of political power for over 60 years, a time of lots of changes and events.
Old Parliament House opened in 1927 and served until 1988.
Some important events in the history of "Old Parliament house" were Australia’s declaration of war against Japan in 1941 and the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labor Government in 1975.
The last time I entered Old Parliament House, it was still be used for Parliament, I sat in the viewing gallery and watched Parliament in action!
This time, it is a Museum. In a way, I think it is much better visiting now, as there is so much more that is open to the public.
When you enter, you are walking where many great dignitries like the Queen, have walked before. Well, we walked where the famous have once walked, and then made our way up the stairs and into the King's Hall which had a lovely parquetry floor, made of jarrah and silver ash.
In the centre is a large bronze statue of King George V, monarch at the time the building was completed. Located around the hall are bronze reliefs of prominent people who helped in the formation of the Commonwealth.
It was interesting viewing the portrait of the opening of the building in 1927 by the Duke of York (later King George VI) and the opening of Parliament by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954.
Onwards we went and into original Parliamentary Chamber where the Prime Minister’s once sat.
These are very comfortable leather seats, no wonder they look very comfortable when you see them on Television!
We had a look at the Prime Minister’s suite, meeting rooms, the Press gallery, Cabinet & Party rooms, the Senate & House of Representatives chambers, Speakers suite, and more.
It was interesting seeing it as it was, the style of furniture back in the 1920’s, and the architecture of those days, this is pre 1988.
Make sure you pick up a map with what there is to see here, there is quite a bit, so you need to allow over an hour to have a good look.
Guided tours: 9:30am, 10:15am, 11:00am, 11:45am, 12:45pm, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:15pm.
OPEN 9 – 5 pm daily
ADMISSION…… $2 adult, $1 child/concession, $5 family
Opened (finally) in 1927, Old Parliament House was known as the Provisional Parliament House as a temporary base, it was the seat of government until 1988.
It's built in what is known as 'stripped classical style' - no columns, pediments etc of the classical bent, but incorporates the symmetry associated with neoclassicism. As a result of an intended temporary building, it isn't built on a huge scale.
On 9 May 2009, Old Parliament House became the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House with the brief to encourage visitors to reflect on this history. Permanent exhibitions include Living Democracy: Australian Democracy: 2000+ Years in the Making: Prime Ministers of Australia. It will also host temporary exhibitions.
Open Daily (closed Christmas Day) 9am - 5pm
Admission Fees: $A2 adults, $A1 (kids and concessions), $A5 family
Old Parliament House does not really looks like an old parliament house, more like a mansion. It is a white beauty which gives the most important axis of the capital city the romantic touch. It is located between the War Memorial and New Parliament House and is a heritage place of outstanding importance.
This building was planned as a provisional building that should serve for only 50 years, until a new house could be built. So the architect John Smith Murdoch chose the so-called "stripped classical" style, using simple geometric forms. Instead of looking grandiose it was modest and functional. But it still looked nice - and now, compared to newer buildings around, it looks like a little palace.
Construction began in August 1923 and took until May 1927 and cost about £600,000. It was inaugurated on 9 May by the Duke of York, the later King George VI, accompanied by the then Prime Minister Stanley Bruce.
Depite several extensions the building was already too small in the 1960s (no wonder, as it was designed to house 300 people but in fact had to cope with over 4000). But it had to serve 61 years until 1988 when the new building was ready for use.
It has nothing of the darkness of the new house. On contrary, it is filled with natural light, floating to the inside through big windows and skylights.
An interesting fact is that the original designer of Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin, had intended Parliament to be built on the lakeshore but this plan was dismissed.
Open daily (except Christmas Day) from 9am to 5pm in winter and until 8pm in summer; admission $2. Free parking.
Old Parliament House also hosts Australia’s National Portrait Gallery and has a nice restaurant.
This is one of the harmless lasting memories. My visit to Old Parliament House.
Yes, this visit started with a lot of fun. And you should have it, too. Fall into childish behaviour and have your camera ready ;-)
Next to the entrance is a giant wooden chair, and on a coat hanger you find a black cloak and a white wig, so you can dress yourself up and have a seat, and feel like in the gold old days, or like an actor in an historic film. Everybody had fun like a child :-)
And even more: It is totally legal to do so!