I recently returned from living in London so I am re-discovering Perth and its hidden nooks and crannies.
Published January 31st 2015
Sometimes a surprise tour guest is included
If you would like a fascinating insight into where your local pollies work and run the state, then this tour is for you. The tour happens every Monday and Thursday at 10.30am with participants assembling in the foyer of Parliament House on Harvest Terrace, West Perth.
The initial parliament building was completed in 1904 with extensions added later. Amazingly, to make way for the freeway below, the side of the hill was dug out and obliterated the inside of the barracks which contained the government building. These days they probably would have strived to save as much of this WA history as possible but you can still view the Barracks Arch as it stands guard at the beginning of St George's Terrace.
As our tour group assembled in the foyer, we were given security passes and Michael the tour guide ushered us towards a large picture of a black swan inlaid in the floor. After explaining the swan was made up of native woods and materials found in WA including a pearl shell inlay for the eye we headed upstairs to view the painting of the first Council of WA of 1832.
As the tour progressed a few familiar suburb and road names cropped up mirroring some of the names of the early landowners in Perth. And on the walls hung various pictures of Perth, art pieces and past and present Premiers with a wall of notable parliamentarians including Edith Cowan, the first female MP in Australia.
We also visited the meeting room called the Aboriginal People's Gallery which contained various pieces of Aboriginal art and had a representation of the six Nyoongar seasons. The room also afforded a nice view to the Swan River (albeit through a maze of roads).
View of Swan River from Parliament of Western Australia
Being based on the British Westminster system we visited the Legislative Council (equivalent to the House of Lords) and the Legislative Assembly (equivalent to the House of Commons).
While seated in each room I remembered my tour of the Houses of Parliament in London where nobody was allowed to sit down in either house, no clear was reason given but I'm assuming for security reasons.
The Council (Lords) is red to represent nobility and the Assembly (Commons) while meant to be green to represent common folk in the fields, is actually blue. I like to think this is to represent Perth's neverending blue skies but in fact it was due to budget restraints, all they had were blue chairs at the time and the colour stuck.
Michael explained where the Speaker (for the Assembly) and President (for the Council) sat and why certain elements had been incorporated into the room including the carved crest above their chair and the crest on the carpet. He also showed us our version of the Black Rod used to knock on the Assembly / Commons door by the Council / Lords for permission to enter during the Opening of Parliament.
We also had a surprise visitor, the MP for Darling Range Tony Simpson who was off duty showing some guests around. He did help Michael answer a query about bills and how they become law so it was a highlight to have an MP there in the Assembly room with us.
This tour is for locals and tourists alike who want to know what goes on inside local parliament and if you are lucky you may get a passing MP joining your tour. Probably not suitable for very young children but those studying government at school or indeed any concerned citizen may be inspired to become a politician and work in the big house on the hill at the top of St George's Terrace.