Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House- Canberra

Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House- Canberra


Posted 2019-06-10 by Gypsy Rosefollow

The national icon, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House tells a story of Australian democracy as well as continuing to pay respect to the heritage values of the former home of Federal Parliament. It is the first and only museum dedicated to telling the story of Australian democracy, as well as offering a wide range of innovative exhibitions, tours and activities for all ages to enjoy.

Old Parliament House holds a strong connection to many Australians, and its importance was clearly demonstrated when Australians rallied for its preservation in the 1970s when it was threatened with demolition.

Pressure from various bodies persuaded the Government to restore and return the Old Parliament House to the public realm and it was reopened by former Prime Ministers John Gorton and Gough Whitlam on 15 December 1992.

Today, the much-loved Old Parliament House building houses the living Museum of Democracy and social and political history can be discovered here. The Museum stands as a symbol of our nation's political heritage, where traditions of Australian democracy were formalized by Australia's political founders. It showcases the journey of Australian democracy life presenting past, present and possible futures through a range of innovative exhibitions, and intriguing tours that challenge and inspire.

Experiences include experiencing the charm and character of one of Australia's most iconic heritage buildings, Old Parliament House as you relive Australia's democratic history with the historic spaces that housed Australian's Federal Government from 1927-1988.

Roam through the Prime Minister's Suite, House of Representatives Chamber and Senate, discover the Press Gallery or learn the history behind each room. The Museum is also home to amazing stories of ordinary people who have actively fought to shape today's society. You can also enjoy a 45-minute guided tour.

The Museum of Australian Democracy in conjunction with the National Archives of Australia showcases around 110 key documents that are the foundation of Australia- Australia's 'birth certificates'- telling the story of our democracy.

For 61 years, Old Parliament House served as the seat of national political power- its chambers, offices and corridors witnessed many events that shaped this modern nation. From declarations of war on Germany and Japan (in 1939 and 1942), to constitutional and social reform as well as including those who paved the way for Aboriginal voting and land rights. This can all be seen through the exhibits on display throughout the Museum.

For some, Old Parliament House in Canberra will forever be associated with one of the most extraordinary historic Australian political events- the dismissal of the Whitlam Labour Government by the Governor-General in 1975. Gough Whitlam delivered one of the most famous lines ever uttered by an Australian on the Old Parliament House steps: "Well may we say 'God Save the Queen' because nothing will save the Governor-General". For those who recall that moment in Australia's political history, standing on those steps will certainly bring back a hit of nostalgia!

Highlights at the Museum include:

King's Hall:

The Kings Hall is a large square room and it is not hard to miss the larger-than-life bronze statue of King George V, the monarch at the time the building was completed. The Duke of York also represented his father King Edward VII at the opening of the first Commonwealth Parliament on 9 May 1901 in Melbourne.

The Hall is absolutely stunning with its coffered ceiling, lashings of jarrah and silver ash, bronze reliefs of persons prominent in the formation of the Commonwealth which can be seen on eight of the columns, portraits of Australian Governor-Generals, Prime Ministers, Speakers of the House of Representatives and Presidents of the Senate, as well as pictures of events associated with the building, such as the opening ceremony in 1927. The Kings Hall can be entered from the main central entrance up a flight of stairs.


The Chambers include the Senate and House of Representatives which both feature large internal spaces, ceilings that are higher than King's Hall- both are lined with timber paneling, desks, seats and tables in all Australian black bean wood and Tasmanian blackwood.

The Senate Chamber is characterised by the predominance of the colour red, in both the carpet and the red leather of the seating and desks. It is also home to two thrones, to be used by the monarch and consort or, instead, the Governor-General and spouse, at official occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament.

The House of Representatives Chamber largely corresponds, in terms of design elements, to the Senate. However, the chamber is characterised by the colour green, representing the historic inheritance of the Representatives, as a lower house and the house in which the governments are formed, from the House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster.

You will notice the Speakers Chair under the Royal Coat of Arms (carved from oak from timber originally built into Westminister Hall in 1399) which has been replaced by the original Speakers Chair, due to it being destroyed in an air raid during the Second World War.


There is a heritage collection which includes all objects that were part of or used in the Old Parliament House building prior to its closure in 1988. Collections also include Prime Minister's Office, Ministerial Party Room, Staff Office, Prime Minister's Suite, Communications Room, Anteroom, Cabinet Anteroom, Cabinet Safe, Dining Room, Speaker of the House of Representatives' Suite, Sitting Room, Lobby, Waiting Room, Parliamentary Library, Opposition Party Room, Dressing Room, Members' Bar, Members' Lounge, original Billiards Room, Cocktail Bat, Officer's Dining Room, Senate Government Party Room, Country Party Room, Leader of the Government in the Senate Office, Queen's Room, President of the Senate's Room and more.

The Museum of Australian Democracy in the Old Parliament House is a wonderful way to experience a heritage building that was once the hub of Australian democracy!

Whether you live in Canberra, passing by or visiting be sure to add this Museum to your itinerary.

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