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14 Oct 2023

The Best Of Canberra: The Provisional Parliament House

Tucked away in a quiet corner near the Australian Houses of Parliament in Canberra, the Provisional Parliament House, now known as the Museum of Democracy, holds within its walls a treasure trove of history, intrigue, and political significance. 

This iconic building has witnessed and played a pivotal role in shaping Australia’s political landscape. Join our owner, operator and tour guide Neil Hermes as he embarks on a journey through time to uncover the stories hidden within the hallowed halls of the Provisional Parliament House.

The Provisional Parliament House’s Historical Journey Through Time

The Provisional Parliament House has a storied history that dates back to its construction in the early 20th century. It was built as a temporary home for Australia’s federal government, serving as the seat of Parliament from 1927 until 1988 when the new Parliament House was inaugurated atop Capital Hill. 

During those six decades, this building witnessed a lot of important ideologies, debates, discussions, and decisions that little did we know, would later on, evolve and shape the course of the nation forever.

Among its long list of significant historical events, the Provisional Parliament House was the stage for several watershed moments in Australia’s political evolution. Each of these events has left an indelible mark on Australia’s socio-political canvas and echoes through the corridors of the museum, offering visitors a tangible connection to the country’s past.

Architectural And Design Significance Of The Provisional Parliament House

While the Provisional Parliament House may have been initially conceived only as a functional structure to house the Parliament, it turned out to be much more than that. Design professionals from both the past and present consider it to be one of Canberra’s best architectural gems. 

Its plans were prepared by the Department of Works and Railways, and the structure was designed by the chief architect of the time, John Murdoch. The provisional parliament building boasts a unique blend of architectural styles, including elements of the Romanesque revival and Gothic revival styles. Its grand façade, characterised by elegant columns and intricate detailing, stands as a testament to the grandeur of Australia’s democratic ideals.

One of the provisional parliament building’s most iconic features is the coat of arms that adorns its façade. On one side, we find the Australian coat of arms, featuring the iconic emu and kangaroo. On the other side, we see the coat of arms of the Australian head of state, King Charles. This juxtaposition of symbols signifies the complex interplay between Australia’s identity as a sovereign nation, its historical ties to the British monarchy, and the importance of wildlife to the country. 

Political Milestones and Famous Speeches Held In The Provisional Parliament House

Throughout its tenure as the seat of Australian democracy, the Provisional Parliament House bore witness to several historic milestones and famous speeches. Perhaps one of the most well-known events was the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam by Governor-General Sir John Kerr in 1975. This controversial constitutional crisis unfolded right on the steps of the Provisional Parliament House, forever etching the building into the annals of Australian political history.

The very spot where Gough Whitlam made his impassioned speech criticising the Governor-General remains a place of significance and reflection. The Australian flag flies at half-mast on sombre occasions, such as the recent funeral of former Minister Peter Reith, as a mark of respect and recognition of the building’s historical significance.

The Provisional Parliament House As A Hub for Public Engagement

One of the remarkable features of the provisional Parliament House was its accessibility to the public, politicians, and the media. Unlike some modern parliamentary structures that prefer to keep it separate, this building encouraged direct interaction. 

It was a place where everyday Australians could engage with their elected representatives a space where journalists could freely and safely report on the momentous happenings of the day, and where public discourse thrived. There was more transparency and less propaganda or “fake news” back then.

Your Journey of Discovery

Today, the Provisional Parliament House has transformed into the Museum of Democracy, a place where the rich tapestry of Australia’s political history is on full display. Visitors can explore its many exhibits, which delve into the stories of democracy, human rights, and the evolution of Australian politics. It’s a journey through time, offering a deeper understanding of the principles and ideals that have shaped the nation.

As you plan your visit to Canberra, include a stop at the Museum of Democracy within the Provisional Parliament House. It’s an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of politicians, witness history firsthand, and gain insights into the foundations of Australian democracy.

The Provisional Parliament House in Canberra is not just a building; it’s a living testament to the democratic values that define Australia. So, step back in time, explore the architectural marvel, and immerse yourself in the stories that have unfolded within these historic walls. 

Canberra Guided Tours welcomes you to join us on several tour offerings filled with discovery and adventure, where the past and present converge, nature and wildlife thrive and where the echoes of history still resonate in the heart of Australia’s capital city. Book a slot for our upcoming tours today through our website. We do bespoke tours and step-on tour guide services.