The 30th anniversary of Australia’s Parliament House

Dr Joy McCann, Anna Hough
Politics and Public Administration Section

with Dr Dianne Heriot, Parliamentary Librarian

Australian Parliament House during the Enlighten Festival


Australia's Parliament House turns 30 on 9 May 2018. This chronology celebrates milestones in the Parliament, as well as significant events in the evolution of the building and its landscape setting. Originally issued in 2013 to mark the 25th anniversary of Parliament House, this chronology is now updated and reissued to mark the 30th anniversary, with additional content from subsequent chronologies that have continued the story over 2014–2018.

Since 1988, Parliament House has been the meeting place of the Parliament of Australia and the symbolic heart of parliamentary democracy in Australia. It provides the setting for ceremonial functions, for hosting state and visiting dignitaries, and for a variety of political, community and social events, many of which are broadcast Australia-wide. It also houses historic documents and artworks of significance to the nation, and it has welcomed more than 30 million Australian and international visitors since it opened on 9 May 1988. It is one of the most visited and visible buildings in Australia, and its integration of art and architecture is internationally recognised. Parliament House has also become a symbolically significant location for Australians and their elected representatives to promote their views on matters of importance to the nation. According to the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories in 1997:

By protesting in the national capital in front of the national Parliament, people symbolically are delivering the message directly to their elected representatives.[1]

Parliament House is also a workplace where over 5,000 people are accommodated during parliamentary sittings. The Parliamentary departments, under the direction of the Presiding Officers, have stewardship of Parliament House, its precincts, artworks and crafts, and most of its furniture on behalf of the Parliament and Australian people. A noticeable aspect of this stewardship of Parliament House has been the progressive upgrading of security measures since 1988, with the most obvious changes being those on the outside of the building such as the construction of perimeter fencing.

At its opening in 1988, the Prime Minister the Hon. Bob Hawke described Parliament House as 'an enduring statement of our nation's profound commitment to the principles and practices of democratic government':

It is a building for the entire Australian community, a workplace for the community's elected representatives and a free and open forum for resolving the community's concerns….the symbolic and practical importance of the building, as well as the very high standard of excellence of its construction and finish will be a great source of pride to all Australians now and in the future. [2]

Over the last 30 years Parliament House has seen: eleven parliaments; seven prime ministers (including Australia’s first female Prime Minister); three changes of government; and the first Indigenous Member of the House of Representatives, the first female Indigenous parliamentarian, and the first Indigenous minister. The building has also seen numerous visits and addresses by foreign leaders from around the world including Norway, Vietnam, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, India, France, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, New Zealand, Malaysia, the United States, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Lebanon, Jordan, Zimbabwe, the Solomon Islands, Singapore, and Timor-Leste.

The following milestones represent defining events and turning points in this history. They are necessarily selective, and make no claim to being comprehensive or complete. They provide the historical context for the selection of the site and the design of the building, including the ongoing significance of Parliament House and its landscape setting for Indigenous Australians. They examine the history of the planning and building of Parliament House. They illustrate the national implications of events taking place in the Parliament since 1988, as well as the heritage significance of the arts and crafts and the various collections that are housed in the building. They depict the relationship between Parliament House and the people of Australia, the ways in which parliamentarians, staff, and visitors perceive it, and how it continues to evolve in response to changing needs and circumstances.

This chronology has been compiled from published sources and archival records held by the Department of Parliamentary Services, as well as from national collecting institutions, organisations and individuals. This publication includes links to a range of key documents and other sources, and is designed to be a 'living' document that will be regularly updated by the Parliamentary Library.


  1. The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories , A right to protest, AGPS, Canberra, 1997, pp. xx, 13.

  2. Prime Minister the Hon. Bob Hawke, Speech at the opening of the new Parliament House, Canberra, 9 May 1988, viewed 2 October 2012,