Point of Interest

Old Parliament House

Australia / The Pacific

Old Parliament House, formerly known as the Provisional Parliament House, was the seat of the Parliament of Australia from 1927 to 1988 and sits in the centre of the Parliamentary Triangle.  It was originally designed by John Smith Murdoch to last 50 years, but in reality, lasted 61.  The building was opened by the Duke of York (later King George VI) on 9 May 1927 after Parliament’s relocation from Melbourne to the newly built capital, Canberra.  In 1988 the Commonwealth Parliament transferred to the new Parliament House on Capital Hill.  The design of this building was extended to include its gardens, décor and furnishings. The building is in the simplified classical style, commonly used for Australian government buildings constructed in Canberra during the 1920s and 1930s.  It does not include such classical architectural elements as columns, entablatures or pediments, but does have the orderliness and symmetry associated with neoclassical architecture.  

It was from the steps of this Parliament Building that David Smith, the Governor-General’s official secretary, read the controversial proclamation dismissing Gough Whitlam’s administration on 11 November 1975.  

The Library and two adjacent wings provided the home of the National Portrait Gallery from 1998 until it moved to its new building in 2008.  Subsequently, it has opened as the Museum of Australian Democracy.  There was some fear that the building might be demolished after the new Parliament House was built, but it was kept as a historic building.

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