National Heritage Places - Old Parliament House and Curtilage
Australian Capital Territory
Steeped in history, significance and drama, Old Parliament House in Canberra was the seat of national political power for 61 years. This Australian landmark in Australia's capital is an important symbol of the nation's political heritage. Thousands of tourists explore this important time capsule every year. Old Parliament House was included in the National Heritage List on 20 June 2006.
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Old Parliament House is the symbol of the nation's political heritage, where traditions of Australian democracy were formalised by the country's political founders.
Its walls housed the debates that have shaped our nation, on reforms such as constitutional change, welfare and Aboriginal rights.
A provisional parliament
Old Parliament House was opened as the provisional parliament in Canberra, on 9 May 1927 by the Duke and Duchess of York.
Occupying just 2.5 hectares, Old Parliament House sits in the cultural landscape known as the Parliamentary Triangle, reflecting the design for Canberra by Walter Burley Griffin in which Kurrajong Hill (now Capital Hill) was the focal point.
Designing a house for parliament
The central positioning of Old Parliament House symbolises the primacy of the parliament over the executive. Built in the 'Inter War Stripped Classical' architectural style, it is symmetrical and graceful with a modest but dignified presence.
The King's Hall, Senate and House of Representatives chambers reflect the austerity of the time. The interior is formal in details such as decorative skylights, elegant pendant lights, parquet flooring, high ceilings, raked galleries and timber wall panelling.
The making of political history
One of the defining events in Australian political history took place on the front steps, when former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam made his address after his dismissal by the Governor-General Sir John Kerr on 11 November 1975.
Old Parliament House was the site of seven changes of government, the place that national legislation for the advancement of social processes was passed, and where the 1967 referendum to remove discriminatory measures against Australia's Indigenous population was developed.
The entrance portico and nearby lawns of Parkes Place have been the settings for countless gatherings, protests, celebrations and demonstrations, including the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, which was established in January 1972.
It is the place where Sir Robert Menzies served his record term as Prime Minister and where Prime Ministers John Curtin and Ben Chifley lay in state.
Outgrowing Australia's first parliament house
As the number of politicians, their staff and media increased so too did demand for space within Old Parliament House. Alterations and additions helped to improve the physical functioning of parliament but by 1988 it was vacated for the new House.
A public space
Pressure from various bodies persuaded the government to restore and return it to the public realm and it was reopened by former Prime Ministers, John Gorton and Gough Whitlam, on 15 December 1992.
Its rich collection of original furniture, art, signs and equipment help illustrate the story of Australia's political customs and functions.