Canberra – Old and New

canberra old and new banner copyAustralia’s capital is a specially chosen capital where the Prime Minister, government and politicians run the country from. It was decided to make it Canberra when Australia became federated, although there was no Canberra back then. The Australian Government officially moved from Melbourne to this new town in 1927.

Parliament House.

Parliament House.

For many years the country was governed from a grand building today known as ‘Old’ Parliament House. In the late eighties work on a new, modern parliament house a little way away up a hill was completed and the government packed its bags and moved there.

A portrait of the first opening of parliament.

A portrait of the first opening of parliament.

As you enter past security this is the first view of the inside of Parliament House.

As you enter past security this is the first view of the inside of Parliament House.

Today it is possible to visit both parliament houses, as I did a couple of weeks ago when I was in Canberra. I started with the ‘new’ parliament house, built into a hill with a spire at the top. It was a Saturday so there was no parliament in session.

House of Representatives (New) Parliament House.

House of Representatives (New) Parliament House.

Senate in (new) Parliament House.

Senate in (new) Parliament House.

It’s certainly a very spacious building. You’ll find official portraits of all Australian Prime Ministers bar the last four who have yet to be completed (the current one won’t get a portrait until he’s no longer current I was told). There are some impressive halls to see, and we were able to see the two houses of parliament – the green House of Representatives, and the red Senate.

Unfortunately you can’t get on the floor, we could only see them from the viewing galleries. One thing that is special in Australia is that we are one of the few countries where visitors are allowed into viewing galleries to watch parliament when in session. I haven’t had taken that chance, but I did in Ottawa, Canada when I was there.

Panorama from the roof of Parliament House.

Panorama from the roof of Parliament House.

Canberra has several wide avenues where the lanes are separated and from Parliament House, the roof of Parliament House which is accessed via a lift. The views were good, grand in their own way, but with the Autumn browns in vogue, I imagined they would be a lot better in Spring time.

Old Parliament House.

Old Parliament House.

In contrast, although the white building that is Old Parliament House looks quite big from the outside, it is far smaller on the inside from its newer counterpart. The two houses of parliament were great to visit as you can get on the floor and sit in the chairs that MPs sat in before they outgrew the place.

House of Representatives, Old Parliament House.

House of Representatives, Old Parliament House.

Senate, Old Parliament House.

Senate, Old Parliament House.

I was lucky enough to be there whilst a tour was going on and heard a little history of the place. I learnt that the head of state is only allowed in the Senate, not the House of Representatives (where the Prime Minister and most of the ministers sit). This dates back a couple of centuries to England – remembering that the Australian Head of State is actually the Queen of England – and an incident involving the King when he overstepped his authority.

Prime Minister's Office in the Old Parliament House.

Prime Minister’s Office in the Old Parliament House.

The place is rather special. You can feel a little history there. There was a small exhibition on Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, and visitors could visit what used to be the Prime Minister’s office, press rooms, quite a few rooms are open to the public. There was also a great little exhibition of political comics to see.

Political Cartoon exhibition.

Political Cartoon exhibition.

It’s a beautiful, historic (by Australian standards) and personally, I preferred my visit there as compared to my visit to the current/new Parliament House. But both are well worth visiting if you are in Canberra.

So – any thoughts? If you visited either, please do comment! Thanks for reading and May the Journey Never End!

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