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Old Parliament House and Curtilage, King George Tce, Parkes, ACT, Australia

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List National Heritage List
Class Historic
Legal Status Listed place (20/06/2006)
Place ID 105774
Place File No 8/01/000/0017
Summary Statement of Significance
Old Parliament House and curtilage is the historic building and its internal courtyards, perimeter gardens and lawns, and the front forecourt area.  As the home of Australia's Federal Parliament, for 61 years, Old Parliament House is important for significant milestones of Australia's democracy history that were forged within the building, particularly national legislation development that was critical to the improving social processes, landmark political events such as the establishment of new political parties, and numerous national political events. The front facade of Old Parliament House including its entrance portico and the immediate grassed area to its north have been the setting of countless events gatherings, protests and demonstrations.  Significant amongst these are the opening of the building in 1927 that heralded the symbolic birth of Canberra as the Nation's capital. A sequence of defining events for Aboriginal rights at Old Parliament House included the Yirrkala Bark Petition, the 1967 Referendum and the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972, all of which contributed towards Aboriginal Land Rights legislation. Another major event was the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in 1975.
 
The building through its alterations and additions, reflects the increasing numbers of Members and Senators and the change in the physical functioning of Parliament with the executive arm of government being accommodated into the legislature's area, a pattern now set and present in Parliament House. The internal fabric and collections of Old Parliament House convey the way in which the parliamentary functions were conducted within the building reflecting the everyday use of the building over a period of 61 years of Australian legislature. 
 
King's Hall and the Chambers have features that reflect both the austerity of the time and a dignified formality as evident in the decorative skylights, elegant pendant lights, and parquet flooring, as well as in the height of the ceiling, accentuated by the raked galleries, and the timber wall panelling, and the extensive, restrained and subtle decoration. The Hall features bas-relief busts of prominent personalities related to Federation, the judiciary and of the first Parliament in 1901 on its colonnades, and portraits of former Prime Ministers, as well as the statue of King George V.  The Chambers demonstrate, through their fabric, furnishing and objects, the growth of Parliament, including the evolution of communications technology applied to the reporting of parliamentary debates and events to all Australians.
 
Furniture intimately involved with the events that occurred in the building and that contribute to the richness of the place include the John Smith Murdoch designed furniture and fittings; the HMAS Australia table, the Country Party Table and the first Australian Cabinet table (used by the Whitlam, Fraser and Hawke cabinets), items which underly the significance of Australia's role initially as a member of the British Empire and later as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the President of the Senate's Chair presented by the Dominion of Canada and the Speaker's Chair, presented by the United Kingdom Branch of the Empire. There is a rare, intact surviving record comprising both furniture and documentation including the initial design concepts, specifications, quotes and detailed drawings for manufacture. 
 
Old Parliament House is an exemplar of the Inter-War Stripped Classical style architecture, reflecting the classical symmetry and forms of the style, and as the central expression of the style of Federal Capital Architecture in Canberra. The courtyards and garden setting are integral with the building. Old Parliament House building well demonstrates the customs and functions of the Commonwealth Parliament by the layout of the building expressing the division of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the nature of public and press access to formal Parliamentary processes.  The building also reflects the austerity of the time of its construction the importance of the Parliamentary Library.
 
Old Parliament House is a landmark feature and has a major role in the symbolic physical representation of a democracy in the Parliamentary Triangle. Being sited on the land axis and along with Parliament House, displaying the historic sequence of Parliament, it contributes to the planned aesthetic qualities of the Parliamentary Triangle. The two buildings are a major vista feature along the land axis and represent the primacy of Parliament over the executive arm of government. Old Parliament House demonstrates a high degree of achievement in combining built features into the designed landscape to achieve an aesthetic purpose.
 
Old Parliament House has a strong association with the Commonwealth Government Architect, John Smith Murdoch and is regarded as his most important work.  Old Parliament House has indisputable association with numerous politicians and their political life.
Official Values
Criterion A Events, Processes
Old Parliament House as the Provisional Parliament House was the first purpose-built home for the Australian Parliament.  It was central to the development of Australia as a nation from its opening in 1927 until the opening of the new Parliament House in 1988 and demonstrates Australia's political process.
 
Old Parliament House is a site that has provided a physical focus for events that reflect Australian democratic values, and political and social rights.  It also stands for the right to argue and dissent, and reflects the orderly succession of governments through the democratic process, as reflected by the seven changes of government that took place during the years in which Parliament sat in the building.
 
The building set the pattern of combining the functions of the executive arm of government and the legislative function in the one building.  This commenced with the provision of ministerial offices at the design stage followed by Prime Minister James Scullin moving Cabinet meetings into the building in 1930-31.  These actions initiated the major expansion of the building to house both the legislative and executive functions of government, a pattern that continued in the design of Parliament House.
 
The North Wing has historic importance as the main venue for parliamentary functions from 1927-88.  The Senate Chamber, House of Representatives Chamber, and King's Hall are highly significant as venues for the debates, petitions and votes associated with 61 years of Australian legislature.
 
Old Parliament House is an important place in the story of the creation of the Australian democracy and has associations with several related defining events.  Landmark political events associated with the building included legislation in 1942 adopting the Statute of Westminster 1931 and the declarations of War in 1939 and 1941.  The building was also the place of 61 years of national legislation shaping Australian society, the extension of the voting age to 18 year olds in 1973, and the establishment of new political parties such as the Democratic Labor Party in the 1950s, the Australian Democrats in 1977 and the Liberal Party of Australia in 1944-45. 
 
Old Parliament House saw the growth of Commonwealth responsibility for Aboriginal affairs.  Key events included the Bark Petition sent by the Yirrkala community to the House of Representatives in August 1963 protesting bauxite mining in Arnhem Land, and the Referendum in 1967 that overwhelmingly supported Commonwealth power to legislate for Aboriginal people.  Amongst other developments, the Referendum result led to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, proclaimed on Australia Day 1977.  With the new responsibilities arising from the 1967 Referendum, the Commonwealth Parliament became the focus of Aboriginal political protest.  The siting of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy outside Parliament House in 1972 was a part of this protest.
 
The front façade of Old Parliament House and the immediate grassed area to its north have been the scene of numerous events, gatherings, protests and demonstrations.  Significant events included the formal opening of the Provisional Parliament House in 1927 and the address by the former Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, on the front steps of the building after his dismissal by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, in November 1975.
 
Old Parliament House, in particular King’s Hall and the Chambers, has been the venue of important ceremonial events including: the public mourning for the deaths of Prime Minister John Curtin in 1945 and former Prime Minister Ben Chifley in 1951; State receptions held in honour of Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 and 1963; and events associated with Royal visits in 1927, 1935, 1945, 1954, 1963, 1974 and 1977.
 
Old Parliament House has a richness of internal fabric and collections that convey the way in which parliamentary functions were conducted and the everyday use of the building.   In particular these features include the purpose-designed furniture and furnishings that maintained their original setting and purpose for over sixty years.
 
King's Hall and the Chambers have features that reflect both the austerity of the time and a dignified formality.  These features include the decorative skylights, elegant pendant lights, and parquet flooring, as well as the high ceilings accentuated by the raked galleries, the timber wall panelling, and the extensive, restrained and subtle decoration.  The Hall features bas-relief busts of prominent personalities (related to Federation, the judiciary and of the first Parliament in 1901) on its colonnades, and portraits of former Prime Ministers as well as a statue of King George V.  The Chambers demonstrate (through their fabric, furnishing and objects) the growth of Parliament over 61 years, including the evolution of communications technology applied to the reporting of parliamentary debates and events to all Australians.
 
Significant furniture of Old Parliament House includes the John Smith Murdoch designed furniture and fittings; the HMAS Australia table; the Country Party Table (Murdoch's original cabinet table from West Block) and the Cabinet table (used by the Whitlam, Fraser and Hawke Cabinets). Furniture items which underlie the significance of Australia's role initially as a member of the British Empire and later as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations include the President of the Senate's Chair (presented by the Dominion of Canada) and the Speaker's Chair (presented by the United Kingdom Branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association). Furniture and fittings designed or purchased for the extension or alterations to the building including those items associated with the Senate and House of Representative Wings and the President of the Senate and Prime Minister's suites are of particular value.
 
Old Parliament House has a rare record (documented in the Old Parliament House) which is made up of both furniture and a variety of documents related to the furniture.  The documents include initial design concepts, specifications, quotes and detailed drawings for manufacture.
 
The Old Parliament House Library is of heritage significance, in particular, the remaining features of the original library and the later additions or changes to the library up to and including the 1958 extension are of value.
 
Criterion B Rarity
Old Parliament House is uncommon in that it housed both the legislative and executive functions of government.  This is reflected in the construction of the House of Representatives (southeast) and the Senate (southwest) Wings, the front pavilions and in a great number of internal changes.
 
The House of Representatives Wing provides extensive and relatively intact evidence of the accommodation provided for Members and Ministers at various periods and the working conditions of parliamentarians and staff over the period 1943-88.
 
The former Members' Private Dining Room contains the remains of the 1927 hand-painted wall features.  These decorative features are rare. They are the only examples of these features in the building and are also rare within the ACT.
 
There are important records of both furniture and its documentation relating to initial design concepts, specifications, quotes and detailed drawings for manufacture.
 
Criterion C Research
Old Parliament House has a significant collection of documents which are associated with the place.  This collection is an important source of historical information.  The documents include plans, photographs and files that are directly related to the design, construction, use, and alteration of the Chambers and King's Hall.  An inventory of the collection is documented in Old Parliament House.
 
Criterion D Principal characteristics of a class of places
Old Parliament House is a primary example of the Inter War Stripped Classical style of architecture.  This style was dominant in Canberra’s government architecture of the 1920s - 1940s.  It is also an example of how this style was varied in Canberra during the 1920s-1940s.  This style variation was a major stylistic feature of Federal Capital Architecture in Canberra.
 
The Inter War Stripped Classical style of architecture was varied to include the influence of Garden City ideals.  In the case of Old Parliament House, this included courtyards with loggias and pergolas, verandahs, internal courtyards and adjacent gardens.  Despite these influences the central stylistic expression of the building retained its classical orderliness.
 
The characteristics of the building’s style and their expression in Old Parliament House’s exterior and interior, are due to the design work of the Commonwealth's first government architect, John Smith Murdoch.  Murdoch's design is modest, embracing classical symmetry and forms, having balanced masses with projected bays with arched bronze framed windows.  The architectural detail between the storeys (spandrels) also emphasises the verticality of the elevations. 
 
Old Parliament House and its curtilage also forms the central feature of a precinct.  This precinct includes the two Secretariat buildings (East and West Blocks), the Old Parliament House Gardens, Constitutional and Magna Carta Places and the National Rose Gardens.  There is some commonality in the design style of the early buildings within this precinct.  This precinct reflects a period when there was an increase in Commonwealth Government power and an increase in the public’s interest in Canberra.  The essential character and symmetry of Old Parliament House have remained intact despite several substantial additions.  The design of the building and its layout, its curtilage spaces and its interior rooms all demonstrate the customs and functions of the Commonwealth Parliament.
 
The building's Chambers reflect the roles of the House of Representatives and the Senate.  The seating arrangements particularly indicate the formal and adversarial nature of debate.  The Public and Press Galleries illustrate the nature of public and press access to formal Parliamentary processes.  This access is further demonstrated by the spaces allocated to the recording of Parliamentary sittings.  The presence of Executive Government staff indicate the major involvement of the Executive in the processes of Parliament in Australia.
 
The House of Representatives Wing comprises two blocks constructed in three phases: 1943, 1949 and 1965.  The Senate Wing comprises two blocks and these were constructed in three phases: 1943, 1949 and 1972.  These building Wings retain much of their internal layout and some fittings.  They are an unusual physical record of the difficult working conditions of parliamentarians, staff and press representatives over the period 1943-88.  Early surviving interiors of the building include King's Hall, the Library, Senate Chamber, House of Representatives Chamber, Dining Rooms, Senate Opposition Party Room, Ministerial Party Room, Clerk of the Senate's Office, Member's Bar, Senate Government Party Room and Leader of the Government in the Senate's Office.  King’s Hall and the Chambers are important for reflecting the austerity of the times and the building’s style.  The rooms tend to be simple spaces with little decoration and have subtle and repeated classical references.  For example, the use of Greek key patterning is evident in the Chambers and in the external metal and rendered balustrades.  Some of the rooms have a certain grandeur resulting from generously proportioned spaces with clerestory windows.  The use of timber for wall or ceiling panelling and furniture also distinguishes some rooms.  These variations in interior detail highlight the hierarchy of parliament.
 
The importance given to the Parliamentary Library as a source of information for Parliament is demonstrated by its position within the building.  The key positional features are its location on the central axis of the building, its close proximity to both Chambers and its access to and from King's Hall.  Its designated importance is also demonstrated by the design and fit-out of the Library rooms which feature extensive timber panelling and fittings.  These fittings were normally reserved for high-status spaces such as the Chambers, the Party Rooms, and office holders' rooms.
 
The building is also of interest for surviving features consistent with, if not influenced by, Garden City ideals.  These features include the courtyards with loggias and pergolas and the courtyards with verandahs.  These features express aspects of the garden city principles and in particular the typical linking of internal spaces with the landscape setting.    The adjacent Senate and House of Representatives gardens are a part of this landscape setting.  These gardens have been substantially redeveloped but they contain the original garden layout.
 
Criterion E Aesthetic characteristics
Old Parliament House is an iconic national landmark that has a major role in the symbolic physical representation of democracy in the Parliamentary Triangle.  This landmark importance has been strengthened by the siting and design of the new Parliament House building.  These two buildings are read together as part of the land axis vista and they are also a part of the planned aesthetic qualities of the Parliamentary Triangle.
 
Old Parliament House is a major component of public and familiar views of Canberra.  In particular, Old Parliament House is appreciated for its crisp lines, stark white colour, pronounced vertical patterns and classical form.  It makes a major contribution as a viewpoint towards the Australian War Memorial and in the other direction to Parliament House.  The building is highly valued by the Australian community.  This value is reflected in the popularity of its image, as documented in countless tourist and other imagery.  These popular images include those made since the construction of Parliament House completed in 1988.  These post 1988 images of Old Parliament House are enhanced by the presence of Parliament House.
 
Criterion F Creative or technical achievement
Old Parliament House is a significant landmark in Canberra.  It is a major component of Walter Burley Griffin's designed landscape of the Parliamentary Triangle which was designed to hold the principal components of parliamentary government.  In particular the Griffin design sought to demonstrate the strict separation of the legislative, executive and judicial components of government and the hierarchical relationship between them.  Old Parliament House demonstrates a high degree of achievement in combining built features into a designed landscape to achieve an aesthetic purpose.
 
Erected at the base of the former Camp Hill on the main Land Axis, Old Parliament House symbolised the primacy of Parliament (or the legislature) over the executive arm of government.  In this way the building contributed to the planned democracy symbolism of the Parliamentary Triangle now fulfilled with the construction of Parliament House on Capital Hill.  This new Parliament House upholds Griffin’s design intention and embraces the Old Parliament House as an integral feature of the Land Axis vista.
 
The success of Old Parliament House as a landmark is also due in part to its modest scale and aesthetic qualities, and the open landscaping and gardens between the building and the lake.  Intended as a provisional structure, Old Parliament House was deliberately designed as a simple yet dignified building possessing appropriate exterior aesthetic and formal qualities for its use and location.
 
It is a significant component of the designed vista along Canberra’s Land Axis.  The Land Axis is one of Griffin’s main city design components which sets the order of the Federal Capital’s design.
 
Although manifesting building failures in the past, with a constantly leaking roof, Old Parliament House demonstrates a high degree of achievement in combining built features into the designed landscape to achieve an aesthetic purpose.
 
Criterion G Social value
Specific rooms and spaces within the building are directly associated with events that shaped the political and private lives of prominent individuals in Australia's political and social history.  Many of the former parliamentarians' support staff and media representatives retain strong associations with the building and its contents.
 
The importance of Old Parliament House to the Australian community was demonstrated when organisations and individuals rallied to support the retention of the place when it was threatened with demolition in the 1970s.
Criterion H Significant people
Old Parliament House has an important association with many people, particularly national politicians.  Prime Ministers of Australia who served their term in Old Parliament House include:
 
Stanley Bruce          from      29/10/1922     to      22/10/1929
James Scullin          from      22/10/1929     to      6/1/1932
Joseph Lyons           from      6/1/1932         to      7/4/1939
Earle Page                from      7/4/1939         to      26/4/1939
Robert Menzies       from      26/4/1939       to      29/8/1941
Arthur Fadden         from      29/8/1941       to      7/10/1941
John Curtin              from      7/10/1941       to      5/7/1945
Frank Forde             from      6/7/1945         to      13/7/1945
Ben Chifley             from      13/7/1945       to      19/12/1949
Robert Menzies       from      19/12/1949     to      26/1/1966
Harold Holt              from      29/6/1966       to      19/12/1967
John McEwen          from      19/12/1967     to      10/1/1968
John Gorton             from      10/1/1968       to      10/3/1971
William McMahon  from      10/3/1971       to      5/12/1972
Gough Whitlam       from      5/12/1972       to      11/11/1975
Malcolm Fraser       from      11/11/1975     to      11/3/1983
Robert Hawke          from      11/3/1983 and continued beyond 1988 when Federal Parliament moved to the new building.
 
Prominent individuals associated with the Wings include Senator Neville Bonner AO, the first Aboriginal parliamentarian, elected in 1972, and Dame Enid Lyons and Senator Dorothy Tangney, the first women parliamentarians, elected in 1943.
 
The building is the most prominent example of the work of the Commonwealth's first government architect, John Smith Murdoch.
Description
Building
Old Parliament House is a large three storey rendered brick building with the main floor on the intermediate level.  The strong horizontal pattern of the white painted main facade is symmetrical and features four original bays with arched bronze windows, verandahs, balconies which have been enclosed with glass, end bays which are stepped forward, and the rhythm of stepped cornices and parapets.  The balanced masses of the Senate and House of Representatives Chambers rise above the surrounding offices and other rooms.
 
The building has strong symmetrical planning based around a number of major spaces. The major axis through the building, aligned with the Land Axis of the Parliamentary Triangle, features a series of spaces: King's Hall, Parliamentary Library and the Dining Rooms at the back.  The cross-axis features the Senate and House of Representatives Chambers, which are placed symmetrically either side of King's Hall.  All of these spaces are on the main or intermediate level.  Surrounding these spaces are many smaller meeting rooms, offices and other service areas, which are placed on the lower ground, main and upper floors.
 
There are two enclosed courtyards located between the north Wing of the building and the south Wing containing the Dining Rooms.  A vestige of the Library courtyard also survives as a link between the larger courtyards.  The original flat concrete and membrane roofs have been covered with low-pitched metal roofs. 
 
As Old Parliament House has undergone many small and large changes over its life, there have been major additions to the building at both sides, front and back (the southeast, southwest, northeast and northwest Wings), containing many offices and meeting rooms. These have generally maintained the construction, external finish, height and rhythm of the facade but changed the mass of the building.  These extensions to the House include the Prime Minister's office and President of the Senate's suite.  Other changes include the enclosure of verandahs and balconies, and changes to and a loss of original finishes in many rooms, though not the major spaces.
 
Major interior spaces of architectural interest include: King's Hall, Library, Senate Chamber, House of Representatives Chamber, Dining Rooms and Bar, Senate Opposition Party Room, Speaker's Office, Clerk of the Senate's Office, Leader of the Government in the Senate's Office, Prime Minister's Office, Cabinet Room, and the President of the Senate's Suite.  The interiors feature impressive Tasmanian Blackwood finishes.
 
The contents of Old Parliament House include furniture, signs, light fittings, carpets, office furnishings and equipment.  Many of these items have been retained in their original location.  Significant among the collection are items presented to Provisional Parliament House to mark the opening of the building in 1927 and the large collection of original furniture and fittings specifically designed for the building and installed in 1927.  Subsequent additions to the original collection document important stages in the adaptation of the building to meet the ever-increasing demands of accommodating more Members and their staff.  This process continued until the relocation of the Australian Parliament to the new Parliament House, where new furniture and fittings were provided.
  
Old Parliament House is an example of Inter War Stripped Classical style architecture.  Key features of the style displayed by the building include: symmetrical facade, division into vertical bays indicating classical origins, vestigial classical entablature, simple surfaces and spandrels between storeys subdued to emphasise verticality.  Some of the 1927 interior furnishings include: timber wall panelling; summonsing clocks; feature carpets in the Chambers and feature rubber and parquetry flooring in the Lobbies; built in sink, coat and locker cupboards and bookshelves.  Some of the interior features added during the 1970s refurbishments and extensions include: timber wall and ceiling panels, roped wallpaper and built-in desk units. 
 
Old Parliament House is a crucial element in Walter Burley Griffin’s landscape/land axis between Mount Ainslie and Capital Hill and is central to Canberra’s Parliamentary Zone designated for parliamentary and national capital uses.
 
Curtilage
The curtilage, part of the National Heritage place includes the four courtyards, the forecourt area including the flagpoles and the external side gardens. The larger courtyards were established as a feature within the original building. A vestige of the Library courtyard also survives as a link between the larger courtyards, along with the two smaller courtyards that were established when the building was extended in the 1960s.
 
History
A Provisional Parliament House
The federation of the Australian colonies to form the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901 created a need for building accommodation to house the functions of the new federal Government, most importantly its Parliament. Though the Australian Constitution stipulated that the seat of government was to be established in New South Wales outside a 100-mile radius of Sydney, no decision had been made as to its location at the time of federation. In the absence of a permanent home for Commonwealth Parliament, the first Parliament was ceremonially opened in the Exhibition Building in Melbourne on 9 May 1901 and, for the next 26 years, met in the Victorian Parliament House in the city’s Spring Street. Canberra was eventually chosen as the seat of government in October 1908 and in 1912 an international competition was held to select a design for the federal capital. The winner was the Chicago architect, Walter Burley Griffin. An official commencement to the major task of building the new city was made in 1913, but the world war and post-war stringencies brought development works to a virtual standstill for many years. It was not until 1927 that Parliament was moved to the Federal Capital Territory and even then little progress had been made in building the city.
 
In his winning design for the federal capital, Walter Burley Griffin had fixed upon Kurrajong Hill, now Capital Hill, as the focal point of his city. From it, the main avenues of the city radiated outward, and from it also ran the city’s principal axis - the Land Axis - to Mount Ainslie. Lying astride the Land Axis, Griffin’s 'Government Group' of buildings was to occupy a triangle formed by Commonwealth Avenue, King's Avenue and the central basin of his ornamental lake. The apex of this 'Parliamentary Triangle' rested on Kurrajong Hill which was to be crowned by a 'Capitol' building.
 
Griffin did not intend his Capitol building to be a legislature or parliament like its namesake in Washington. Instead, he envisaged it as a ceremonial or cultural edifice 'representing the sentimental and spiritual head of the Government of the Federation' and commemorating the achievements of the Australian people.  Parliament House was to occupy a position on Camp Hill, north of and lower than this structure. On the slope running down to the shores of the lake from Parliament House and confined within the boundaries of the Parliamentary Triangle, Griffin placed the rest of his Government Group, which comprised a series of departmental and judicial buildings. The whole scheme represented in a physical form the current conception, shared by Griffin, of the principal components of government - legislative, executive and judicial - their desired separation in a parliamentary democracy and the hierarchical relationship between them.
 
In June 1914, the Commonwealth Government announced an architectural competition for the design of the new permanent Parliament House to be erected in the position Griffin had designated for it on Camp Hill. Less than three months later, however, the Minister for Home Affairs deferred the competition to an indefinite future date because of the outbreak of World War I. The competition was revived in August 1916, but again postponed indefinitely in November of that year.
 
After the war, the nation's huge war debt, militated against the erection of such a building, as the cost of construction would certainly be very substantial. The construction of a provisional parliament building was agreed after years of debate, on the location and style of the building.  This followed a lengthy series of sittings in March-April 1923 in which the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Work interviewed some fifty witnesses, and produced a report in July of that year, in which it recommended either the erection of the nucleus of the permanent building on Camp Hill or the provisional structure on its northern slope.  Although the erection of a building on the slope of Camp Hill was a clear departure from Griffin's plan, the placement of the provisional structure in this position preserved the relationship that Griffin had envisaged between the various arms of government and their hierarchical arrangement within the Parliamentary Triangle.
 
Design Assumptions and Influences
 Plans were submitted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its 1923 inquiry and important modifications were made as a result of the committee's work. John Smith Murdoch, the Commonwealth Government Architect, did not agree at all with the siting of the structure on the slope of Camp Hill and felt that in this location it would be 'rather in the way' of the permanent administrative buildings that Griffin intended for the area but he had to conform to the ideas of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee and ultimately to the wishes of the Government.
 
One paramount consideration for Murdoch in elaborating the design was that the building should be a low-rise structure 'so that the view from the permanent Parliament House [on Camp Hill] will be interfered with as little as possible.' While the building was also designated as a 'provisional' structure, it was intended to serve as the nation's Parliament for about fifty years, with a possible later role for some decades as a government office building. As the building was intended to last for at least 50-100 years (as a Parliament and later as a Government Office), and would occupy such a prominent position in the Canberra layout, it was essential that it was a dignified structure possessing aesthetic qualities befitting its role and location.
 
In the words of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, 'the external architecture would be simple, but decorous.' Murdoch produced a design in stripped classical style which, apart from the moulding of its cornice, left the building free of external decorative features. It was Murdoch's intention that the classical proportions and other classical elements would give the building the dignified appearance desired of it, enhanced by a plain white plastering of the external walls.
 
The design of the building was also influenced by Griffin's concept of parliamentary government making parliament house the focal point of the Parliamentary Triangle and of the city plan in general because the legislature consisted of two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Griffin made the Capitol building on Kurrajong Hill the focal point of his plan and placed parliament house in a subordinate though still important position in the Parliamentary Triangle, depicting the building as a long rectangular structure sitting transversely astride the land axis. The clear implication was that the land axis would divide the parliamentary building into two halves equal in size and status, with the House of Representatives on one side and the Senate on the other, reminiscent of the Capitol in Washington. The idea survived to become one of the underlying assumptions of Murdoch's design for the provisional building on the northern slope of Camp Hill. However it is not clear why Murdoch, who had visited the Capitol in Washington, reserved the eastern half of the building as the Representatives side and the western half as the Senate side which is the reverse of the arrangement in the Capitol.
 
The size of the building was based on the needs of Commonwealth Parliament and on the assumption that the numbers of parliamentarians would not rise above a total of 168 - 112 in the House of Representatives and 56 in the Senate - for the projected life of the building as the home of Commonwealth Parliament. Murdoch allowed sufficient space to cater for an expansion of the Membership of each house by a factor of just over fifty percent. As for the internal layout of each Chamber, Murdoch had originally designed the seating arrangement to mirror that of the House of Commons in England, but this was altered to the horseshoe or semicircular pattern of seating used in the French Chamber of Deputies but did not adopt the French system of having Members address the Chamber from a rostrum mounted at the front.
 
The Provisional Parliament House also had to provide office accommodation for twelve Ministers when Parliament was in session. These were to be located in separate departmental buildings or in one of the proposed secretariat buildings, East or West Block. Similarly, the provisional structure was to include a back-up cabinet room for use during parliamentary sessions, with the main cabinet room to be housed in West Block. The building also had to provide offices for various parliamentary officials connected with the House of Representatives and the Senate, together with the staffs of three other parliamentary departments: the Joint House Department which was established in 1922, the Parliamentary Reporting Service which recorded proceedings and produced Hansard, and the Parliamentary Library. A complicating factor with the space needed for the Library was that it also included the nascent National Library, with all the growth in bookholdings and demand for future space that implied. In his plans for the building, Murdoch allowed for some expansion of the Library's holdings, but he indicated that this allowance was conditional on separate premises being provided for the National Library at an early date.
 
Other space was required in the building for press representatives, dining and recreation facilities, engineering services and a small post office which was to be established at the rear of King's Hall. The press representatives were to be housed in two groups of six offices located in the gallery above the main floor. At the rear of the main block and connected to it by four covered walkways was to stand a two-storey dining/recreation block (the South Wing), complete with kitchen on the lower floor, and dining rooms, a billiards room, lounge and Members' bar on the main level. The engineering services for the building were to include a pneumatic tube system to connect Parliament House with the Government Printing Office and Canberra's general post office. The Library was placed midway between the two houses. As a whole, the building was to contain the two legislative chambers and 182 other rooms. Of these, 63 rooms were offices designed to accommodate approximately 108 parliamentarians and parliamentary staff.
 
Murdoch's plan made no provision for offices for private Members and Senators; they were expected to make use of their party rooms to attend to their correspondence and any other business they needed to transact outside the chambers. Murdoch suggested that East and West Blocks could be taken over as private offices for parliamentarians once the two buildings had served their purpose as accommodation for the Secretariat but nothing ever came of this idea. 
 
In its report, the Standing Committee on Public Works recommended that the building could, if required, be enlarged by providing a partial lower floor beneath the suites of rooms flanking the Library on the ground floor, by erecting one-storey Wings on each side of the dining-recreation block and by building a partial upper storey at the front of the building on each side.  There was some uneasiness, however, about increasing the scale of the building and particularly its height lest the additions began to intrude on the vistas from the top of Camp Hill to Mount Ainslie and vice versa when the permanent building was eventually erected.
 
As it was, the Committee made some major changes to Murdoch's original plans for the provisional building. The office space lost from the main floor as a consequence of the Committee's changes was re-gained by expanding the accommodation available on the lower floor. The Committee also effected some alterations to the front aspect of the building, making it flatter in appearance partly by removing to other locations the large Senate club and committee and reception rooms that Murdoch had originally placed on either side of the entrance vestibule.
 
Murdoch's design for the structure did not make any provision for the carrying out of the executive functions of Government in the building; it was intended to serve essentially as a building for the legislature. Pending the relocation of Commonwealth Government departments from Melbourne, the executive work of Government that had to be performed in Canberra was to be carried out by a skeleton staff, or 'secretariat', from each department.  These staff were to be housed in two temporary Secretariat buildings - East and West Blocks - that were to be erected close to the rear of the provisional parliament house. Later, as government departments progressively moved to Canberra, they and their officers were to be accommodated in a permanent Administrative Building. But the Government's decision to relocate substantially more public servants to Canberra than mere secretariats, coupled with its failure to proceed with the construction of the permanent Administrative Building, created major problems for the Provisional Parliament House and lead to unanticipated early alterations and additions to the building.
 
Construction and Early Difficulties, 1923-39
 With the aid of a steam shovel, the Minister for Works and Railways, P.G. Stewart, turned the first sod for the commencement of work on the Provisional Parliament House on 23 August 1923. Construction proceeded over the next three years, consuming some five million bricks produced at the local brickworks at Yarralumla, as well as 2,000 tons of cement.
 A significant feature of the construction and fitout of the building was that special care was taken to incorporate native timbers from each Australian state, except South Australia. Thus, the timbers used in the provisional building and their states of origin were: Queensland Silky Oak; Cedar; Blackbean; Queensland Maple; and Walnut; New South Wales Blackwood; Tallowwood; Hoop pine and Coachwood; Victoria Mountain Ash; Tasmania Blackwood and Mountain Ash and Western Australia Jarrah.
 
Tasmanian Blackwood was used for panelling the lower walls in the legislative chambers and for most of the timberwork, doors and doorframes throughout the building. The same timber, faced with copper, was used for the front door of the building. All of the exterior window and doorframes were of Queensland maple coated with a tough oil-based varnish to give protection against Canberra's harsh summer sun. All of the flooring in the building was also of Australian timber, except for a small amount of Baltic pine used for flooring in the press-rooms. On the lower floor, all of the floor bearers and joists were made of Australian hardwood, but imported oregon was used for the joists in the main floor, upper floor and flat roof, and for the main trusses over the legislative chambers.
 
Construction of the Provisional Parliament House was completed in 1927 at a cost of £644,600, a figure almost three times in excess of the original cost estimate of £220,000. A further £250,000 was spent on furnishing the building. At the time of its completion, the building covered four acres of ground and included a total of 182 rooms, plus the two legislative chambers. Surrounding the House, another 132 acres were in the process of being converted - not without difficulty - into lawns, gardens and recreational areas, including tennis courts, a bowling green, cricket pitch and at some point a putting green. Among the guiding principles of the layout and planting of the grounds were that the levels should be symmetrical, that the design should be of a formal character and accentuate the land axis running to Mount Ainslie and that the plantings should be 'loose and low' such that they would not dwarf the flat profile of Parliament House or obscure views of it.
 
Grass needed to be grown in the areas around the House, which had been a building site for over three years, in order to keep the dust down with the official opening of the provisional building approaching, great haste was made to develop lawns at least in the front and at the sides of the House. The result was acceptable for the opening, but development of the surrounds continued in fits and starts for a number of years. Excavations for the ornamental pool in the grounds in front of the House were carried out in 1929 and finished in 1933.
 
The Provisional Parliament House was officially opened by the Duke of York, later to become King George VI, at a major ceremony in Canberra on 9 May 1927.  Jimmy Clements and John Noble are noted as being the only two Aboriginal people present at the celebrations of the opening of Parliament House. Immediately following the opening ceremony, Parliament adjourned to re-convene on 28 September, more than four months later.
 
Despite the comfortable appointments to the new building and its handsome, white appearance in the Canberra landscape, serious problems began to manifest themselves as soon as Parliament commenced regular sittings in the building. Complaints were made about the acoustics of the Chambers from the very start of sittings in the building. This resulted in the laying of felt floor coverings over the rubber flooring in both chambers in 1928 and the hanging of heavy drapes. Later, green carpet was laid in the Representatives Chamber in 1929 and red carpet in the Senate in 1936.
 
In this same early period, trouble with the roof emerged. The Oregon beams and trusses over King's Hall, some with a span of 52 feet (15.85 metres), began to shrink in Canberra's hot, dry climate and by early September 1927, the shrinkage had caused the ceiling over King's Hall to sag by nearly a foot in some places, with consequent damage to the plasterwork. The sag was corrected by tightening the bolts in the trusses, though this led to large chunks of plaster falling from the ceiling.
 
Before the year (1927) was out, it was found necessary to remove roofing material from a large area of the roof and re-lay it with new material. Heavy rains in August 1929 caused leakage through several spots in the roof of the main building, while the exposed terraces at each end of the dining-recreation block were flooded, with the water flowing into some of the rooms on the ground floor. In an attempt to rectify the problem with the terraces of the dining/recreation block, three layers of bituminous felt were laid over the entire area. Further episodes of rain saw serious leaks develop through the roofs over all of the covered ways and, in the main building, in that part of the roof over the suite occupied by the President of the Senate (Rooms M251-3) attributed to minor cracks opening up in the concrete of the roofs as settling of the foundations occurred in the new building. Renewed efforts were made to fix the defects.
 
The Government proposed that the greater part of each department would remain in Melbourne and that, in the interim, secretariats comprising a skeleton staff from each of the twelve ministries would be accommodated in purpose-built Secretariat buildings, to become known as East and West Blocks, in Canberra. In total, the secretariat staff was intended to number only about 200 officers. As East and West Blocks were intended to accommodate some 440 officers between them when they were built, they were clearly insufficient to meet departmental requirements for office space. With the onset of the Depression in the aftermath of the Wall Street crash of October 1929, any prospect of an early resumption of the building project evaporated.
 
It became less convenient and less practical for Ministers to try to rush from one building to another. During the period 1923-5, the Bruce-Page Government held Cabinet meetings in Parliament House, Melbourne from time to time. From these offices, Ministers could quickly and easily make their way to the legislative chambers to attend sittings. A consequence of this trend was that Ministers tended to drag departmental staff into Parliament House with them, creating pressure to provide office space to accommodate the departmental officers.
 
During 1930-31 James Scullen moved cabinet meetings into the building and in 1932 Prime Minister Joseph Lyons and his Cabinet abandoned the Cabinet Room in West Block in favour of what had hitherto been the back-up Cabinet Room in Parliament House.
 
Pressure on accommodation in the House was intensified by the emergence of the Lang group of five disaffected Labor MPs with a need to provide them with their own party room. In early 1935, the Librarian's office (Room M54) was extended to provide office space. At the same time, a set of new rooms were constructed on the 'balcony recess' on the Senate side to accommodate the Librarian and his secretary. Twelve months later, an office was provided for the Governor-General in Parliament House where Executive Council meetings could be held and where he could have private meetings with Ministers and other people.
 
Labouring under the financial straits of the Depression years, successive governments in the 1930s felt unable to devote scarce resources to develop a national capital at Canberra. The upshot was a continuing lack of departmental office space close to Parliament House, a situation that fostered the insidious trend of turning the House into a de facto home for the executive. The issue eventually boiled over into the public domain in June 1937 when Senator J.S. Collings and other MPs made complaints in Parliament about the appropriation by the executive of space in the building at the expense of the legislature.
 
As Murdoch had foreseen, Members and Senators would want their own offices to carry out their electorate duties and other work in privacy and away from the distractions and interruptions of a party room. This instigated the Chief Architect in the Department of the Interior, Edwin Henderson, to put forward a scheme in 1937, to erect a two-storey Wing on the outer side of the garden courtyard on the Representatives side, a scheme that lapsed.
 
Instead, the Government decided on some expedient additions and alterations to create more office space in the building, achieved mainly by subdividing some of the larger rooms, enclosing the verandahs on the northern side of each garden court, and converting two visitors' rooms, four small corridors and even a toilet into offices. A double storey extension was added to the rear of the Library that obliterated the small garden courtyard immediately south of the Library, completely filled in one side of each covered way that ran alongside the Library to the dining-recreation block. All together, the 1938 changes to the building produced twenty more offices, bringing the total number to 83.
 
Although the accommodation had been adequate enough for the original band of about 25 journalists who made up the press gallery, the increase in their numbers during the 1930s, the introduction of new technology and a simple desire for improved working conditions prompted them to seek better office space. During 1939, five additional offices for the press, together with a common room, on the upper floor of the Representatives side of the building were constructed.
 
War and the Changes of the 1940s
The outbreak of World War II in September 1939 had a major impact on Commonwealth Government administration in Canberra, accelerating its growth and increasing its complexity. The national war effort entailed a phenomenal increase in government responsibilities and business, and before the end of 1939 five new government departments had been established; a further twelve would be created before the war ended.
 
The accommodation problem was compounded by the creeping trend over the years to house the executive in Parliament House, in lieu of providing separate departmental accommodation elsewhere in Canberra.
 
The Government resolved to make some substantial additions to the building which entailed the resurrection of Henderson's 1937 scheme, itself based on Murdoch's 1922 sketch plan, to build Wings on the outer side of each garden courtyard, involving the demolition of the two covered ways. The additions allowed some parliamentarians other than Ministers the luxury of having their own offices. Once established, the precedent stood as a model of the kind of accommodation that each private Member and Senator hoped would be provided by the further expansion of Parliament House.
 
Further office space was created in the early 1940s by using the verandahs fronting the garden courtyards, and the Cabinet Room was altered in 1944 possibly to accommodate an expanded Cabinet. In 1947, work was carried out under King's Hall and both chambers to provide greater structural support, while steel trusses were put in place over King's Hall to give greater stability to the roof and ceiling than had been given by the oregon beams. The small post office was removed from King's Hall at this time, too. A decision to discontinue varnishing the building's external woodwork resulted in it deteriorated badly and in 1949, moves were commenced to protect and conceal the weathered external timbers by painting them.
 
By 1948, the nation's population had more than doubled since 1901 leading to a corresponding increase in the number of people each Member was expected to represent and a resultant growth in their workload. To redress the situation, the number of Senators was raised to sixty in 1948 and, thereupon, the number of Members to 121, thus giving a total number of parliamentarians of 181.  This was in excess of the projected total number of 168 that it was originally thought that the provisional building would ever need to accommodate in its fifty-year history. As it was, additional space was required to cater for the expansion of other activities associated with Parliament, notably the work of the press gallery.
 
The solution adopted was to add a third storey to each of the 1943 Wings and extend them with three-storey right-angle returns so that they joined each end of the dining/recreation block. The walls had to be thickened and strengthened to bear the extra load. Australian timber, in this case Queensland maple, was used for all joinery and timber paneling.
 
When complete, however, the extensions provided fifty additional offices, two attendants' boxes and four toilets, and included extra space for the press gallery on the upper floor next to the chambers. At the same time, seating accommodation in the Representatives and Senate chambers was increased to provide respectively for up to 124 Members and sixty Senators.
 
Changes of the 1950s and 1960s
With the advent of the 1950s, the pressure for accommodation space and other difficulties continued to beset the Provisional Parliament House. During 1950, the loggias on the northern side of each garden court were filled in to create more office space while, on the southern side of the courtyards, the verandahs to the dining/recreation block were closed in with sliding glass windows.
 
In January of that year, leaks from the roof returned to bedevil the building and further troubles with the roof led in 1952 to the construction of a metal roof over the Library.  Fears of water penetrating the building had also led to the periodic painting of the exterior walls to prevent moisture seeping through the external cement rendering. Meanwhile, a new air conditioning system was provided for both chambers and for parts of the Library, and the kitchen on the lower floor of the dining-recreation block was overhauled and modernised.
 
In 1954 a Senate Select Committee was appointed 'to inquire into and report upon the development of Canberra in relation to the original plan and subsequent modifications...' It recommended that a commission be set up to plan the development of Canberra and carry out a coordinated program of works; this led later, in 1957, to the establishment of the National Capital Development Commission and included a recommendation that an early start should be made on plans to erect a permanent Parliament House.
 
It was decided that maintenance works would be carried out on the old building, but that further additions to the structure would be unlikely. Thus, in 1956, a major five-year program was instituted to replace the electrical wiring in the whole building. In the course of this program, a new IBM clock system was installed and the paging system was also upgraded. Over the same period, the parquetry flooring of King's Hall had to be completely replaced. In 1958, a new roof was put on the building in an attempt to fix once and for all the interminable leakage problem, and the Library was extended to its rear by the construction of an infill section between the two 1938 Wings.
 
The release in May 1958 of the report of Sir William Holford, a leading British town planner recommended that the permanent building should be erected astride the Land Axis on the southern shore of the proposed lake where it would become the whole focus of that axis. 
As there were approximately twice the number of Members as there were Senators, accommodation was in much shorter supply on the Representatives than on the Senate side.  A new extension erected in 1965, stood east of the 1943 Wing and added another 70 rooms to the building, bringing the number up to a total of 520. The building now became for the first time an asymmetrical structure.  The year 1965 also saw the erection of an additional sporting amenity for parliamentarians in the shape of two squash courts, which were built adjacent to the tennis courts.
 
Changes of the 1970s and 1980s
After a delay of nearly two years, small extensions were made to the front east and west corners of the building, new offices on the roof and a Wing on the Senate side to match the Wing erected on the Representatives side in 1965. But even while the additions were being built, it was recognised that they were no more than a stopgap measure and that they would still not provide enough office accommodation for the occupants of the building, notably the Parliamentary Departments and staff. 
 
Despite the abandonment in October 1968 of the lakeside site that Holford had favoured, deep divisions existed among parliamentarians and the Parliamentary Departments as to an alternative location for it. The competing sites were Camp Hill and Capital (formerly Kurrajong) Hill. In 1970, the Joint Select Committee for the New and Permanent Parliament House pressed for work to commence on the permanent building but, with no agreement as to where it was to be erected, no commencement was possible.
 
The construction of the new senate Wing, as well as the extensions to the roof areas, was completed by September 1972, though time was still needed to fit out and furnish the additions.
The temporary office accommodation for the Prime Minister, his staff and the Cabinet Room in the extreme southwest corner of the southwest Wing was completed and handed over for use on 5 December 1972.  The pokey rooms and narrow corridors did not lend themselves to privacy or the concealment of major political developments, such as intrigues and conspiracies against party leaders and contributed to the hothouse political environment of the place.
 
In 1974, the long-debated question of a site for the building was finally settled in favour of Capital Hill, the one that Murdoch had recommended back in the early 1920s, and the following year the Labor Government appointed a new Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House. Revived as a more effective body by the Fraser Government in 1976, the committee produced a series of reports in which it argued strongly for work to begin on the project.  To choose a design for the building, a two-stage international design competition was inaugurated in April 1979 and the winning design - that submitted by the New York architectural firm of Mitchell, Giurgola and Thorp - was announced in June 1980. Prime Minister Fraser turned the first sod for the new building on 18 September 1980 and his successor, Bob Hawke, laid the foundation stone on 4 October 1983.
 
In 1984, in what looks like a last-ditch effort to squeeze some extra office space out of the Old Parliament House building, the two verandahs at the front were closed in. At about this time, too, a temporary annex was erected in the House of Representatives gardens to provide some overflow office accommodation. Further pressure was placed on the building at this time by a major increase in the numbers of parliamentarians to 224.
 
Describing the working conditions in Parliament House some years earlier, John Button (Minister in the Hawke Labor Government ) had told how, “... Members work in small crowded rooms painted in Education Department cream and furnished with uniform carpets, railway station furniture, a tramways clock, and an elaborately complex system of division bells designed one suspects by Thomas Edison...”  “ ... Apart from cramped physical conditions a member is constantly subject to the hazards of air and noise pollution - the former from a ferocious central heating system which dries the throat and saps the energy (one suspects a hidden malevolent hand), and the latter from the ubiquitous division bells. In my own case relief from the central heating is provided only by a heavy shower of rain, which pours through the roof of my office, necessitating the removal of books and papers and their replacement by buckets.”
 
In 1988, parliamentarians and parliamentary staff vacated the provisional building after 61 years' occupation and moved to their new home on Capital Hill. The old place left its mark on the new structure, however, as from the outset - and despite its name - the 1988 building was designed as a home for both Parliament and the executive. While it had at one time been under serious threat of demolition, the argument for retaining the Provisional Parliament House had been taken up the Australian Heritage Commission and other organisations and individuals in the mid-to-late 1970s.  Following the departure of Parliament, the building remained vacant for some time until pressure from such bodies as the Australian Council of National Trusts persuaded the Government to restore and re-use it.
 
Curtilage Gardens
The Garden Courtyards were integral elements of the original building design.  They linked by means of a covered way with the landscape beyond the building, to the east and west with gateways in the hedges and to the House of Representatives Garden and Senate Garden across Parliament Square. The link between these Courtyard Gardens through the Library Garden was equally effective.
 
The gardens remained intact until the 1970's when both their use and design were radically altered.  Athough the alterations had little impact on the six of the courtyard, the visual effect created a greater sense of enclosure as verandahs were blocked and further storeys added to the building.  These additions broke changed Murdock's vision forever by breaking the connection between the inner courts and the outer gardens.
 
The courtyards provided venues for garden parties and informal gatherings. Photographs of Parliamentary groups were taken there. The use of the courtyards by school groups caused impact on the grounds requiring paving around the poplars and fountains. Murdoch had proposed a simple classical style for the courtyards with the planting of the Lombardy Poplars (Populus nigra 'Italica') as features, a theme that he also used in the nearby landscape of the Parliamentary Triangle to create visual 'gateways'. Fountains were also installed on either side of the courtyard pergolas.  The courtyard poplars were ceremonial plantings, planted by the Marquis of Salisbury and Duke and Duchess of Kent. Pergolas of masonry and timber were features of the garden courts grown over with Banksia rose (Rosa banksias 'lutea'). In the 1970s these were replaced by oregan structures. In 1996 the poplars were replaces with new trees and the gardens restored to the 1927 design.
 
The smaller internal courtyards were established during the 1965 extensions to provide greenery for the internal facing windows.  The House of Representatives courtyards was planted with exotic trees including Silver Birches and shrubs.  The small Senate courtyard was substantially altered in 2000 to accommodate the Electoral Education Centre.
 
The gardens at the front of Old Parliament House, sometimes called the forecourt, were established for the opening in 1927 and consisted of shrubs, holly and flower beds. The rose bushes in the area were a later addition. The external side gardens were planted with low shrubs and turf to enable the building to be clearly seen. In the 1960s poplars were planted near the building and under-plated with exotics species and edged with roses.
 
Aboriginal history associated with the site
The physical evidence of Aboriginal people’s presence prior to 1900 has been identified in the immediate Old Parliament House area, and the range of artefacts appears typical of the artefacts occurring in the Canberra region, the artefacts found includes:
A stone axe-head found when the lawns around parliament house was being formed (Moss,1939:163)
Scrapers and points found in 1925 on the sandy ridge between parliament house and the Molonglo River (Moss,1939:163)
A wooden boomerang was found while digging a hole in wet sand within the grounds of Old Parliament House (Bluett, 1954: 14-15).
Implements found by Mr Kinsella in the sandpits near Parliament House (Gillespie, 1984: 14)
 
Political History Associated with the Building
Despite the difficult working conditions in the Provisional Parliament House, a rich history of legislation and reforms were planned and enacted within it.  Important amongst these were those that dealt with Indigenous Rights.
 
Yirrkala Bark Petition The Yirrkala community sent the Yirrkala Bark Petition (Bark Petition) to the Commonwealth House of Representatives, Canberra in August 1963 (Old Parliament House), complaining of the decision to excise land from the Arnhem Land Reserves for bauxite mining.  The excised land had economic and spiritual significance to the Yolgnu people / Yirkala community, whowere very disturbed at the lack of prior consultation (DAA, 1984:3).  The Bark Petition is important, as it was the first time Indigenous people took their claims of traditional rights to country into the national arena, using traditional images (and language) to demonstrate their traditional rights to country.  As Galarrwy Yunupingu, the son of Munggurraway Yunupingu one of the painters said “…it represents the title to our country under our law”.  It led to the Woodward Commission on Land Rights, which contributed to the Australian Government passing Indigenous land rights legislation and marks the beginning of the nations attempts to address the issue of Indigenous land rights.  The Bark Petition remained at Old Parliament House until it was moved to the new Parliament House, where it is currently housed (Kleinert, 2000).
 
1967 Referendum
One of the most significant advancements of the 1960s was the 1967 Referendum.  On 27 March 1967 a referendum was held to decide on two matters including a proposal to remove sections of the Constitution (ss.127 and 51), which were considered discriminatory towards Indigenous people (Griffiths, 1995:101-103).  With an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote for the referendum 91per cent of Australians, gave the Commonwealth power to legislate for Aboriginal people (potentially over-ruling State arrangements) and count them in the census (Yunupingu, 1997:5).  While this did not lead to immediate change, this action, together with the creation of an Aboriginal Affairs portfolio in 1968 and the early land rights protests in the Northern Territory, brought the struggle for Indigenous rights onto the national agenda (CHCAP, 2003:37-38). 
 
Aboriginal Tent Embassy
The establishment of an Aboriginal Tent Embassy outside Parliament House in 1972 was a direct act of protest and a call by Indigenous Australian’s for national land rights, sovereignty and self-determination.  The protest was an important event in the development of Australian democracy, and specifically in Aboriginal political history.  The 1972 protest action has shaped subsequent approaches to Indigenous protest in Australia, and the original embassy site has ongoing relevance for Indigenous people as a place of protest.
 
First Land Rights Legislation - The Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act 1976
With the 1967 Referendum, the Commonwealth Government was now legally empowered to legislate on behalf of Aboriginal people across the nation, and address the issue of national land rights.  Following the Federal election in 1972 the Commonwealth Labor Government appointed Justice Woodward to recommend how land rights could best be granted.  The 1974 Aboriginal Land Rights Commission Report by Justice Woodward said there should be legislation to restore to Aboriginal People of the Northern Territory their territorial land.
 
The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill was initially introduced to the Commonwealth Government in October 1975; it was again introduced following the change of government in June 1976.  The Bill was passed in December 1976 and proclaimed on Australia Day, 1977.  This legislation was pinnacle with regard to Indigenous land rights as it was the first time the Commonwealth Government was able to legislate to address these issues.
 
The following summary of legislature changes that have contributed to Australia's democracy and illustrate the nations growing maturity. 
-        the adoption of the Statute of Westminster Adoption Bill, giving Australia responsibility for its own democratic institutions with independence from Britain;
-        the Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1948;
-        the elections of 1929 and 1931, the United Australia Party and the Lyons Government;
-        the elections of 1940 and 1943, the Menzies, Fadden and Curtin governments;
-        1944 "Fourteen Powers" referendum;
-        the 1946 referenda on Social Services, Marketing and Industrial Employment;
-        the 1948 referendum on Rents and Prices;
-        an array of social measures such as the widows pensions, and maternity benefits for Aborigines, funeral benefits, unemployment and sickness benefits;
-        the focus for the beginnings of national-level political activism for Indigenous rights and the claims for democratic recognition and inclusion that evolved in to the Aboriginal rights movement in the 1960s and 70s;
-        post-war immigration policies;
-        the establishment of the Aboriginal Embassy on the lawns outside Old Parliament House;
-        the ending of the White Australian Policy in 1966 and the policy of multiculturalism adopted in the 1970s;
-        the expansion of franchise rights with 18 years olds given the right to vote in the federal elections in 1973;
-        the formation of the Democratic Labor Party in 1957;
-        the attempts by the Menzies government in 1950 to ban the Communist Party of Australia;
-        the idea that heritage belongs to the nation and the Australian Heritage Commission Act of 1975;
-        the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975;
-        the founding of the Australian Democrats in 1977, and the Greens and One Nation parties;
-        the constitutional crisis of the blocking of the Whitlam government's supply bills, depriving the government of funds, forcing an election and challenging the legitimacy of the Governor General; and
-        the Native Title Act of 1993.
 
 
New Uses for Old Parliament House
From 1992 onward, the building became the host for new uses and users, notably exhibitions of the National Museum of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery, the Council for the Centenary of Federation and the National Trust shop (in Mick Young's former office, when he was a Minister in the Hawke Labor Government).
Overwhelmingly, the majority of these new uses were associated with the Government or national bodies and, as such, they in general continue and accord with the original vision that Griffin had of buildings located within his Parliamentary Triangle. Numerous successful exhibitions have been held in the building many of which relate to Australia's political history.
Since management and control was taken over by the Department of Communication Information, Technology and the Arts, the place has seen several Conservation Management Plans for the protection and presentation of the heritage values of the place.  The most recent plan (May 2000) has aided in the overall recognition of the heritage values of the place and guided the management and conservation of Old Parliament House.  In addition a Conservation Manual was developed in 2000 in accordance with the CMP to aid in maintenance and conservation work on the building and collections.

 
Movable Items  - Furniture and Fittings
As chief architect for Provisional Parliament House, John Smith Murdoch also had the responsibility for the design of the interior.  The style which Murdoch developed for the interior and the furnishing and the stripped classical style became the underlying influence not only for the interior spaces, but for the design of the furniture and fittings. with classical simplicity, hierarchical order, spatial unity and proportion, and new technology and utility.
 
The gift to the new Australian Parliament in August 1925, from the Empire Parliamentary Association was a replica of the Speaker's Chair from the British House of Commons at Westminster, designed by A.W.N Pugin. The Chair features intricatelt carved heraldic panels and is crafted from English oak roofing timber from Westminster Hall and Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory, which saw service in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  Murdoch appreciated the symbolic ties between Australia and England which the chair represented, but he abhorred the idea of the introduction of such a strong visual element into his building. The chair was installed in the House of Representatives Chamber in time for the opening of Provisional Parliament House. Today, it is the single most important item of furniture in the building.
 
Some of the interior plastered walls were painted in off-white and light beige and devoid of ornamentation. This created a dramatic contrast in areas where natural timber was introduced as an interior feature as wall paneling in the Chambers or prominent offices, or timber flooring in King's Hall, and in rooms where free standing furniture was the major element. Rooms were bathed in natural light and artificial light was concealed in restrained fittings.
 
Further discretion was achieved by the use of subdued floor coverings, and metal finishes were either painted white or crafted in a dull antique bronze finish. The major use of colour in Provisional Parliament House was restricted to three hues - red, the colour for upholstery in the Senate, green for the House of Representatives, and blue for the former Prime Minister's Suite and the Parliamentary Library.
 
While Murdoch undertook the overall design responsibility, the day-to-day issues relating to furniture design were handled by H.M. Rolland, an architect with the Federal Capital Commission, previously Works Director with the Department of Works and Railways in Canberra. A Furniture Officer, L. H. Taylor, was employed to handle the administrative matters and draft the designs, assisted by J. D. McColl. Staff in the Department of Works and Railways in Melbourne, were also responsible for the preparation of plans and drawings.
 
Considerable research was undertaken in the formulation of the furniture requirements. The only recorded acquisition for Provisional Parliament House, other than the two international gifts of ceremonial furniture (the Speaker's Chair in the House of Representatives and the President's Chair in the Senate) was the Admiral's table. The then Speaker, Sir Littleton Groom accepted the offer of a mess table from the Admiral's suite from the battle cruiser HMAS Australia, the former flagship of the Australian fleet which was scuttled off Sydney Heads in 1924.
 
The furniture designed for Provisional Parliament House is simple and utilitarian. Designs have no political boundaries yet each item conforms to a hierarchical system, based on the significance of the space it was to occupy and its functional requirements. Within each category of item, be it desk, chair, table or sideboard, uniformity of design created a consistent 'Parliamentary' style.
 
Each item of new furniture was detailed in a working drawing, which was then traced and reproduced as a blueprint. At the final stage, the drawing was examined and checked within the office of the Architects Department of the Federal Capital Commission. Detailed specifications for the manufacture of each category of items were then prepared for quotation.
A chronology of history of Old Parliament House is provided in the nomination report (Old Parliament House Governing Council 2004).
 
Associational History
Prime Ministers of Australia who served their term in Old Parliament House include:
Stanley Bruce from 29/10/1922 to 22/10/1929
James Scullin from 22/10/1929 to 6/1/1932
Joseph Lyons from 6/1/1932 to 7/4/1939
Earle Page from 7/4/1939 to 26/4/1939
Robert Menzies from 26/4/1939 to 29/8/1941
Arthur Fadden from 29/8/1941 to 7/10/1941
John Curtin from 7/10/1941 to 5/7/1945
Frank Forde from 6/7/1945 to 13/7/1945
Ben Chifley from 13/7/1945 to 19/12/1949
Robert Menzies from 19/12/1949 to 26/1/1966
Harold Holt from 29/6/1966 to 19/12/1967
John McEwen from 19/12/1967 to 10/1/1968
John Gorton from 10/1/1968 to 10/3/1971
William McMahon from 10/3/1971 to 5/12/1972
Gough Whitlam from 5/12/1972 to 11/11/1975
Malcolm Fraser from 11/11/1975 to 11/3/1983
Bob Hawke from 11/3/1983 and continued beyond 1988 when Federal Parliament moved to the new building.
 
Neville Thomas Bonner AO, entered the Commonwealth Federal Parliament as a Liberal Senator for Queensland in 1971.  He was the first Indigenous person to serve in the National Federal Parliament.  Mr Bonner was elected on three consecutive occasions and served until 1983 (Hansard, 1999:2041).
 
Dame Edith Lyons and Dorothy Tangney the first women elected in 1943.  Janine Haines AO, was the first woman to become leader of an Australian parliamentary party in 1986.  There have been several political family dynasties associated with Old Parliament House, the Anthony family of Hubert, Doug and Larry, the Beazelys, the Downers and the Creans.
 
Condition and Integrity
Old Parliament House is in a sound physical state. 
The facade of the building is in fair condition.  In 2001, Connell Wagner Pty Ltd completed a survey of the external fabric, the results of which indicated that most of the pre-1988 render is in need of stabilisation and major sections have delaminated. The manager of Old Parliament House (the Department of Communication, Information, Technology and the Arts) is investigating the most appropriate method for conserving these sections.
 
The roofs on either side of the North Wing require conservation work along with safety provisions including lines, ladders, and walkways.
 
The interior of the building is in good condition overall.  Some signs of deterioration of the fabric and collection were observed several years ago, which prompted a monitoring of visitor impact study to determine causes and quantify rates of deterioration.  This study will be implemented in key areas over the next few years.
 
Emergency services are in good condition with some more work required to sprinklers. Air conditioning is a mix of brand new and old.  The Property Section is progressively upgrading the older units as funds permit.  Also introducing new air conditioning to areas not served (such as press galleries).  Wiring is again a mix with much of the pre 50s areas being in Vulcanised India Rubber (VIR) cabling which must be replaced to meet Australian fire safety standards.
 
Over the past 4 years (2000 – 2004) the building has undergone a series of conservation and mechanical service upgrades. In particular:
 
North Wing
Resurfacing King's Hall;
Upgrade of the fire suppression system;
Reconstruction of the Country Party Rooms for Interpretation;
Upgrading air-conditioning systems;
Re-roofing across the front; and
Conservation of fabric and fittings in the Prime Minister's Suite, the Speaker's Suite, the Leader of the Government in the Senate Suite, the Ministerial Party Room, the Opposition Party Room and the Senate Club Room, and some rooms on the Lower floor currently occupied by staff.
 
Senate Wing
Removal of asbestos and reconstruction of several rooms for Interpretation;
Removal of redundant Vulcanised India Rubber cabling and upgrade of air-conditioning services on the Upper Floor; and
Conservation of the fabric and fittings on the Upper Floor.
 
South Wing
Restoration and conservation of the former Members' Private Dining Room.
 
During these projects, all work is fully documented.  Where possible, all pre–1988 fabric is retained.  In general, a great deal of work has been completed to upgrade emergency services throughout the building, and to upgrade some air conditioning systems in gallery areas.
 
The furniture collection and building fabric is in good condition overall.  The collection is used for interpretive purposes on the main floor, in staff areas, on loan to other collecting institutions for exhibitions and to tenants within Old Parliament House.  The remainder is stored throughout the building.  All care is exercised during the handling and use of collection items in accordance with the Conservation Management Plan.  The collection is audited and regular condition assessments are conducted.  Conservation work is completed by appropriately qualified and experienced conservators.  Preservation methods are implemented to reduce rates of deterioration.

Location
About 2.5ha, King George Terrace, Parkes, comprising the area bounded by the centre lines of King George Terrace, Queen Victoria Terrace and Parliament Square, and including all of Sections 39, 42, 43 and 50 Parkes.
 
Bibliography
Old Parliament House Governing Council (2004) National Heritage List Nomination for Old Parliament House and Curtilage. Report.
 
Charlton, K. Garnett, R. and Dutta, S. (1984) Federal Capital Architecture, Canberra 1911 –1939.  the National Trust of Australia.
 
Australian Construction Services  (1991) The Building in its Setting. Old Parliament House Redevelopment.
 
Australian Heritage Database: Old Parliament House and Curtilage.  Commonwealth Heritage List Record (22/06/05).
 
Howard Tanner and Associates (1986 Feb) Provisional Parliament House Canberra: conservation plan. Howard Tanner and Associates.
 
Howard Tanner & Associates (1986) Provisional parliament house, The conservation plan: Appendix B Political Chronology, Appendix C List of Artworks. Report No.2..
 
Apperly, R, R Irving and P Reynolds (1989), Identifying Australian Architecture. Angus & Robertson.
 
Garnett, Rodney and Hyndes, Danielle (1992), The Heritage of the Australian Capital Territory, National Trust of Australia (ACT) and others.
 
Metcalfe, Andrew (2003) Canberra Architecture. Sydney, Watermark Press.
Pearson, M., Betteridge, m., Marshall, D. O'Keefe, B. and Young, L. (2000) Old Parliament House Conservation Management Plan.
 
O'Keefe, B and M Pearson (1998), Federation: A National Survey of Heritage Places, Australian Heritage Commission.
 
Old Parliament House (2005) Old Parliament house Internal and Surrounding Gardens. Supplementary information for the National Heritage List.
 
Old Parliament House, KE Emu Database system.  A Record of furniture and items.
 
Reid, P. (2002) Canberra Following Griffin, a Design History of Australia's National Capital.  Commonwealth of Australia.
 
Cultural Heritage Centre of Asia and the Pacific (2003) Creating an Australian Democracy.  Unpublished final report prepared for the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Heritage Division.
 
Commonwealth of Australia, Old Parliament House. Place report in the Australian Heritage Data Base.
 
Bluett, W. P. (1954) The Aboriginals of the CBR District at the arrival of the white man, Paper read to the CBR and District Historical Society, 29th May 1954.
 
Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific, Deakin University, 2004, Creating an Australian Democracy, Report prepared for the Department of Environment and Heritage.
 
Department of Aboriginal Affairs (Heritage Division), (1984) The History of Aboriginal Land Rights in Australia.
 
Kleinert, S., Neale, M. (eds) (2000) The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Oxford University Press.
 
Griffiths, M. (1995) Aboriginal Affairs - A Short History 1788 – 1995, Kangaroo Press.
 
Gillespie, L. (1984) Aborigines of the Canberra Region, Canberra, CBR publishing and printing co.
 
Hansard House of Representatives, Monday, 8 February (1999) Mr. John Howard (2.45 pm).
 
Moss, H. P. (1939) ‘Evidences of stone age occupation of the Australian Capital Territory’, Report of the 24th meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, Canberra.  Vol. 24.
 
Yunupingu. G. (1997) Land Rights – Past Present and Future, University of Queensland Press.

Report Produced  Mon Jul 14 19:03:01 2014