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A first home for Parliament in Canberra

Explore the history of Australia’s Provisional Parliament House (Old Parliament House) through a new exhibition, A first home for Parliament in Canberra. This exhibition celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Parliament’s decision to build a provisional Parliament House in Canberra.

In 1914, an international competition was launched for the design of a building for the Federal Parliament in the new national capital. However, the design competition was soon put on hold due to the outbreak of World War 1 and was ultimately abandoned.

Grappling with a large war debt and the need to move the Seat of Government to Canberra, the Australian Parliament debated whether to build the ‘nucleus of a permanent building’ or a ‘provisional’ structure. Both proposals had passionate supporters but the idea of a temporary structure won the day. One hundred years ago in August 1923, legislation was passed to build a provisional Parliament House on a site just below today’s Parliament of Australia.

Commonwealth Chief Architect John Murdoch and his colleagues threw themselves into devising plans for the building. Four years later, on 9 May 1927 the building was opened. Provisional Parliament House was originally intended to serve as the Seat of Government for 50 years. Instead the building served this function for 61 years until the new and permanent Parliament House was opened in 1988.

Image: Theodore Penleigh BOYD (1890-1923) The Federal Site, Canberra, 1913, Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

Dates: 22 August 2023 to 28 February 2024

Cost: Free

Venue: Parliament House, Level 1

Parking: Free for 1 hour, then parking rates apply

Find out what events are coming up at Parliament House


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