The Old Parliament House at Canberra
The Old Parliament House (OPH) at Canberra, was the centre of the
nation’s political life from 1927 to 1988 when it was functioning. It
is where the elected politicians pass laws, or legislation, where
members discuss urgent motions or matters of public importance.
Members can move motions of censure against the government or against
individual ministers. During Question Time Members and Senators
address questions to ministers and they can also present petitions
from their constituents.
The World War I postponed the move of Australia’s parliament from
Melbourne. After the war, the Government decided that it would erect a
provisional Parliament building. The OPH (then Parliament House) was
opened by the Duke of York. He unveiled a statue of his father, King
George V in the King’s Hall. The Duke then opened the first federal
parliamentary session in Canberra. Britain was then very much the
mother country of Australia. History records that only two indigenous
Australians were present.
The OPH was replaced by a new Parliament House in 1988 as the old one
could not accommodate the politicians, press etc comfortably. When
built it was meant to serve Australian politics up to 1977. The OPH
is now conserved. It tells the story of Australian nationhood,
democracy and achievement. It symbolises Australia’s constitutional,
political and cultural heritage. It bears witness to Australia’s
growth from an Imperial Dominion to a nation in its own right. In
1992 the building was re-opened. Various spaces in the building are
currently used for exhibitions. There are daily tours of the ‘living
museum of political history’.
For the construction of the OPH, workers and building materials were
drawn from all over Australia to reflect the federal nature of the
building. Also timber from each State was used in the interior
The three storey House is an example of the Inter-War stripped
classical style of architecture with symmetrical façade and features.
The major axis through the building, aligns with the land axis of the
Parliamentary Triangle. The cross-axis features the House of
Representatives and Senate Chambers which are placed symmetrically
either side of King’s Hall. It contains also the Parliamentary Library
and the dining rooms at the back, smaller meeting rooms, and offices.
The upper floor consists mainly of offices used by the press and the
basement consists of offices and kitchens.
Over the years changes to the original building include: enclosure of
the 1927 courtyards; wings added to the south-east, south-west,
north-east and north-west corners; construction of an office annexe in
the House of Representatives garden and loss of original interiors
such as the original Prime Minister's Office and Cabinet Room; and