The new Parliament House (reached by way of Kings Avenue or Commonwealth Avenue) nestles into Capital Hill rather than dominate it. It was designed as the final fulfillment of Burley Griffin's vision of 1912. In order to fit it into its site the top of Capital Hill was leveled off. An international competition for the design of the new building was won by a New York architect, the foundation stone was laid in 1979 and Parliament House was formally opened by the Queen on May 9th 1988, the 200th anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet.
(The first Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia had met in Melbourne on May 9th 1901, and Parliament had first met in Old Parliament House on May 9th 1927.)
Parliament House is impressive both in size and in general effect. From the grassed walkway which forms the roof there are fine views of Canberra. The circular form of the hill is reflected in two huge circular walls and the building is topped by an elegant four-legged stainless steel structure (weight 220 metric tons) supporting a flagpole 81 m high; the flag measures 12 3 6 m.
Steps lead up to the Ceremonial Pool, in the centre of which is a large mosaic (196 sq m) in the style of traditional Aboriginal sand painting representing a gathering of Aboriginal tribes. The curving walls are of granite from Eugowra (NSW). The Great Verandah is used for the reception of guests on official occasions. In the centre of its façade is a coat of arms in the X-ray style of the rock paintings of Arnhem Land. In the foyer are 48 columns of greenish-gray marble illuminated in such a way as to create the impression of a eucalyptus forest. In the foyer are cases displaying important documents, and to the left of the entrance is a bookshop. From the foyer two staircases lead up to the public terrace (view of forecourt), lounges and a large public cafeteria. The Great Hall, used for major functions, is not open to the public, but visitors can look into it from balconies on the first floor and a gallery. Adjoining the Great Hall is the Members' Hall, which can be entered only by members of Parliament. From the gallery running round the first floor visitors can gain admission to the public galleries of the two houses. The chamber of the House of Representatives (240 members), to the east, has galleries on the first and second floors. The predominant color in the chamber is the broken green of a eucalyptus forest. The Senate chamber to the west, in the traditional red, has seating for 120 senators, but can be enlarged by means of movable walls to seat 360 for joint sittings of both houses.
Members' rooms and ministers' offices are not open to the public. A lift below the flagstaff gives access to the grassed walkway on the roof, from which it can be seen how Parliament is the focal point of the capital's street layout - the hub of a wheel whose spokes are the avenues named after the Australian state capitals.
Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia
Always closed on: Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Useful tips: Open on sitting days from 8:30am to 5pm.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.