Australia’s Parliament House - more than 25 years in the making!

14 Mar 2013

Australia's Parliament House turns 25 in this, Canberra’s centenary year. This chronology celebrates milestones in the Parliament, as well as significant events in the evolution of the building and its landscape setting.  

Since 1988, Parliament House has been the meeting place of the Parliament of Australia and the symbolic heart of parliamentary democracy in Australia. It provides the setting for ceremonial functions, for hosting state and visiting dignitaries, and for a variety of political, community and social events, many of which are broadcast Australia-wide. It also houses historic documents and artworks of significance to the nation, and it has welcomed more than 25 million Australian and international visitors since it opened on 9 May 1988. It is one of the most visited and visible buildings in Australia, and has become a symbolically significant location for Australians and their elected representatives to promote their views on matters of importance to the nation. According to the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories in 1997:

  • By protesting in the national capital in front of the national Parliament, people symbolically are delivering the message directly to their elected representatives.

Parliament House is also a workplace where over 5000 people are accommodated during parliamentary sittings. The Parliamentary departments, under the direction of the Presiding Officers, have stewardship of Parliament House, its precincts, artworks and crafts, and most of its furniture on behalf of the Parliament and Australian people.

At its opening in 1988, the Prime Minister the Hon. Bob Hawke described Parliament House as 'an enduring statement of our nation's profound commitment to the principles and practices of democratic government':

  • It is a building for the entire Australian community, a workplace for the community's elected representatives and a free and open forum for resolving the community's concerns….the symbolic and practical importance of the building, as well as the very high standard of excellence of itsconstruction and finish will be a great source of pride to all Australians now and in the future.

The following milestones represent defining events and turning points in this history. They are necessarily selective, and make no claim to being comprehensive or complete. They provide the historical context for the selection of the site and the design of the building, including the ongoing significance of Parliament House and its landscape setting for Indigenous Australians. They examine the history of the planning and building of Parliament House. They illustrate the national implications of events taking place in the Parliament since 1988, as well as the heritage significance of the arts and crafts and the various collections that are housed in the building. They depict the relationship between Parliament House and the people of Australia, the ways in which parliamentarians, staff, and visitors perceive it, and how it continues to evolve in response to changing needs and circumstances.

This chronology has been compiled from published sources and archival records held by the Department of Parliamentary Services, as well as from national collecting institutions, organisations and individuals. This publication includes links to a range of key documents and other sources, and is designed to be a 'living' document that will be regularly updated by the Parliamentary Library.

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