Australian Parliament buildings

As a federated country Australia has rather a lot of parliament buildings, one for each of the six states (New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia), two territories (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory), and a national parliament in Canberra (which has both the current, and old parliament buildings).

Over the space of six years I’ve visited all these parliaments, exploring the insides of three of them, and seeing the rest from outside. Those familiar with Westminster will recognise the green and red chambers for the two houses of government. Thought it’d be interesting to compare and contrast the different approaches to the parliament buildings.

Australian Parliament, Canberra
Understandably the largest parliament building, completed in 1988, this epic building was literally built into the top of a hill. Home to 4,700 rooms, it may be brutally functional in places, but is also quite wonderful in others, including the grass covered roof, intricate mosaic out front, expansive atrium, interior artwork, and the stunning views out from various places across the designed capital city.

Old Parliament House, Canberra
The former home of Australia’s parliament for 61 years, this stately building expanded greatly over the years, with ever more wings and extensions. Before being turned into the Museum of Australian Democracy they downsized it to something more manageable, though is it still a warren of rooms. It’s a fascinating place to explore, and nicely positioned down the hillside from the Australian Parliament.

Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra
A presence since 1972 in the grounds in front of Old Parliament House for greater representation and consideration of the original inhabitants of Australia, poorly treated for so long by British and Australian governments.

Parliament of New South Wales, Sydney
The oldest parliament building in Australia (actually the oldest public building Sydney) it is not particularly easy to visit unfortunately (free tours on Mondays and Fridays only), but it’s heritage is clear from the street, particularly when lit up at night.

Parliament of Victoria, Melbourne
Far easier to visit than the NSW parliament and no doubt more elaborate inside thanks to the gold rush, though the money ran out before they were able to complete the interior, requiring planned gold leaf ceilings to be substituted with gold paint. The green and red chambers are very Westminster.

Parliament of South Australia, Adelaide
Probably the most ornate parliament building from the outside, taking 65 years to build in stages between 1874 and 1939. I hope to return someday with time to see inside.

Parliament of Tasmania, Hobart
Grand in size and location, close to the waterfront, but unfortunately closed when I visited at the weekend. It dates from 1841, making it the second oldest parliament in Australia, after Sydney. It was originally built as a customs house (which says something about priorities in those days) and served both functions until 1904.

Parliament of Western Australian, Perth
The least distinguished (to my eyes) parliament building, a pretty underwhelming bland and predictable building at the end of St George’s Terrace, though thanks to Wikipedia turns out this is the extension, and the original facade on the other side is far more attractive.

Parliament of the Northern Territory, Darwin
The newest parliament building, and one of my favourites for it’s modern grandeur, set up on the hillside looking out over the water, and surrounded by well maintained grounds.

Parliament of the Australia Capital Territory, Canberra
The last place to get it’s own parliament, housed in an attractive modernist building from 1994.

Parliament of Central Australia, Alice Springs
A bonus parliament building, The Residency, from the short five year period from 1927 when Alice Springs was the capital of the no longer existing territory of Central Australia.

Author: jontycrane

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