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The Parliament House Art Collection also charts the history and traditions of the Australian Parliament.

The Collection includes landmarks in the evolution of the Australian Parliament, including the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of 1900 and the Australia Act of 1986, as well as significant objects relating to women’s suffrage and rights for Indigenous Australians.

 

Women's suffrage banner

Dora Meeson (1869–1955)
The Women's Suffrage Banner: Trust the women…(1908)
Oil paint on green hessian ground
Reproduced by permission of Lt Col. Simon Hearder
on behalf of the heirs in copyright
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

On 17 June 1911, 40,000 people marched in the Women’s Suffrage Coronation Procession in London. This banner was made and carried by artist Dora Meeson and her husband George Coates at the head of the Australian and New Zealand contingents. The Australian contingent included Mrs Margaret Fisher, wife of the Australian Prime Minister, Mrs Emily McGowen, wife of the New South Wales’ Premier, and Australia’s leading feminist and suffragist Vida Goldstein. Women were granted the vote in Australia long before their British sisters, and the image on the Banner shows Australia appealing to England, the mother country, to accept a young country’s advice on the wisdom of adopting women’s suffrage.

 

The Banner was purchased in England by the Australian Bicentennial Authority and presented in 1988 to Senator Margaret Reynolds, then Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, by the Australian Council of Women. Senator Reynolds accepted the Banner on behalf of the women of Australia, and in 2002 it was donated to the Parliament House Gifts Collection for permanent display in celebration of the Centenary of the Commonwealth Franchise Act (1902).

Queen Victoria desk

Various, Table, ink stand and pen used by Queen Victoria when signing the Royal Assent to the Australian Commonwealth in 1900
Wooden three-drawer table with leather top and gilded metal mouldings; silver casket with four lidded compartments,
quill pen and two ink bottles; metalwork
Presented to the Commonwealth of Australia by Her Majesty Queen Victoria
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

In 1900 a delegation of leaders of the Federation movement lobbied for and witnessed the passage of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK) through the British Parliament. The delegation was led by Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin, Australia’s first two Prime Ministers.

 

Queen Victoria signed the Commission declaring her assent to the Act on this table on 9 July 1900 at a ceremony at Windsor Castle, near London. The Queen also presented the document, the table, and the pen and ink stand to Edmund Barton at the ceremony. The table and ink stand was then used at the Commonwealth Inauguration Ceremony at Sydney’s Centennial Park on 1 January 1901.

 

The writing table is made in the French style of Louis XV from English oak, veneered in brass and ebony with gilded brass decoration and a Moroccan leather top. The table had been acquired by Queen Victoria in 1866, and was part of a collection of French furniture then considered some of the finest in Windsor Castle. At each corner of the table a goats-head is incorporated in the brass work and a goat's hoof forms the foot of each leg.

 

The table is generally reserved for use by the British Royal family and was more recently used during a 2014 visit by their Royal Highnesses Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge to sign the Parliament House Visitors’ book.


Royal Assent of Queen Victoria to Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of 1900

Royal Assent of Queen Victoria to Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of 1900, 1900 [recto]
Pen and various inks on parchment, wax seal, velvet, silver, tassels, cord
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

When Queen Victoria signed this document on 9 July 1900 she gave her assent to the Australian Constitution Act that had been passed by the British Parliament, thereby enacting the Australian Constitution and the founding of the Commonwealth. Together with the Australian Constitution Act, it is one of the founding documents of the country, and was brought back to Australia by Edmund Barton, who became Australia's first prime minister when the Commonwealth was inaugurated on 1 January 1901. Two original copies of the document were signed by the Queen; the other is stored in the archives of the House of Lords in Westminster, London.

Royal Assent of Queen Victoria to Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of 1900

Royal Assent of Queen Victoria to Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of 1900, 1900 [verso]
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900

Her Majesty’s Stationery Office
Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900: Original Public Record Copy (detail)
Letterpress, pen and ink on vellum, hand bound with silk ribbon and string book
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

The Constitution is the legal framework for how Australia is governed and can only be changed by referendum. The Australian Constitution was drafted at a series of conventions held in the 1890s by representatives from each of the colonies. The final draft of the Constitution was approved by a vote of the people in referendums held in each colony between June 1899 and July 1900.

 

An Australian delegation travelled to London to present the Constitution, which was part of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Bill, to the British Parliament. It was passed by the British Parliament as part of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 and approved by Queen Victoria on 9 July 1900 when she signed the Royal Commission of Assent.

 

The Act took effect on 1 January 1901. Section 9 of the Act contained the Constitution, which stated that the colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania would be united and known as the Commonwealth of Australia. The Constitution Act also made provision for Western Australia to join the Commonwealth. Western Australia agreed to federate in a referendum held on 31 July 1900, two weeks after the Act was passed.

Proclamation, Opening of Parliament House, Canberra 1927

Waterlow & Sons Limited (1810–c.1960)
Proclamation, Opening of Parliament House, Canberra 1927, 1927
Pen, inks, gouache, metallic ink, on vellum
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

This is an illuminated manuscript of the address delivered by H.R.H the Duke of York (later King George VI) on the occasion of the opening of Parliament House, Canberra, on 9 May 1927.

 

Watch footage of the opening

Learn more about the opening of Parliament

 

Commission to Duke of York to open First Australian Parliament

Commission to Duke of York to open First Australian Parliament, 1901
Pen and black, red and gold inks, gouache, on parchment, wax seal, silver cord and two tassels, red leatherette, gold tooling
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

This commission from King George V, 28 December 1926, is for the Duke of York (later King George VI) to open Federal Parliament at its inaugural sitting in Canberra on 9 May 1927. The Commission was presented by the Duke of York at the opening ceremony, and was read in the Senate chamber by the Clerk of the Senate.

William Lister Lister (1859–1943) Federal Capital Site, 1913

William Lister Lister (1859–1943)
Federal Capital Site, 1913
Oil on canvas
Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

In the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 80, Saturday 21 December 1912, a notice was published issued from the Prime Minister’s Department on Thursday 19 December. The notice was an invitation from the Historic Memorials Committee to “Australian artists resident in the various States of the Commonwealth to submit paintings illustrative of the site upon which it is proposed to erect the Federal Capital of the Commonwealth.”

The painting considered by the Committee to be “the best...of sufficient artistic merit and… executed in compliance with the conditions” was to be purchased for the sum of two hundred and fifty pounds. The competition attracted ten submissions.

The winning artist was William Lister Lister (1859–1943). Although the competition attracted only 10 artists, interest in the winning painting was considerable. A national tour of the works was organised and they were shown in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart between November 1913 and January 1916.

See the original newspaper announcement of the winning painting

Theodore Penleigh Boyd (1890–1923) The Federal Capital Site, Canberra, 1913

Theodore Penleigh Boyd (1890–1923)
The Federal Capital Site, Canberra, 1913
Oil on canvas
Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

(Theodore) Penleigh Boyd’s The federal capital site, Canberra was the runner-up to Lister Lister in the competition to depict the site for the new capital and it too was purchased for the Historic Memorials Collection by the Historic Memorials Committee as it was much admired by the Committee members.

In this painting Boyd adopts a more poetic style than Lister Lister, electing to depict the site from an open viewpoint, drawing the viewer in to a light-suffused interpretation of the Canberra landscape.

Harold Septimus Power (1878–1951) The Arrival of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York at the Opening of Federal Parliament House Building, Canberra, 9 May 1927

Harold Septimus Power (1878–1951)
The Arrival of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York at the Opening of
Federal Parliament House Building, Canberra, 9 May 1927
, 1928
Oil on canvas
Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

In 1927 artists (Harold) Septimus Power and W.B. McInnes were commissioned by the Historic Memorials Committee to paint scenes associated with the opening of the Federal Parliament in Canberra on 9 May 1927. 

 

Power was commissioned to capture the events external to the building, an appropriate commission given his considerable skill as an animal painter (particularly horses). In this work he captures the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of York at the Provisional Parliament House and their formal procession toward the front doors.

 

The Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) were greeted with a fanfare of bugles by eight Royal Marines - who had accompanied the Royal Party in the HMS Renown - and a 21-gun salute. The Duke reviewed the Guard of Honour and four-year-old Gwen Pinner presented a bouquet to Her Royal Highness. Dame Nellie Melba sang the National Anthem and the crowd and the Canberra Philharmonic Society joined in a spirited repeat of the first verse.

Robert Hannaford (born 1944) Centenary of Federation Commemorative Sitting of Federal Parliament, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, 9 May 2001

Robert Hannaford (born 1944)
Centenary of Federation Commemorative Sitting of Federal Parliament, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, 9 May 2001, 2003
Oil on canvas
Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

On 9 May 2001, one hundred years to the day after the first Commonwealth Parliament met in 1901, a joint sitting of Parliament was held in Melbourne’s Exhibition Building. To commemorate the event, the Historic Memorials Committee commissioned a second ‘Big Picture’ by South Australian artist Robert Hannaford.

 

This monumental work, which took almost three years to complete, involved many individual sittings. The finished painting contains 151 individual portraits of dignitaries, parliamentarians and parliamentary officials.

Mallet and casket used by Prince of Wales when laying foundation stone on Capital Hill in 1920

Walter Burley Griffin (designer, 1871–1937), N. Redding and H. Goldman Manufacturing (makers)
Mallet and casket used by Prince of Wales when laying foundation stone on Capital Hill in 1920, c.1920
Myrtle beech, blackbean and other Australian timbers, gold, velvet
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

On 21 June 1920, HRH Prince of Wales—later King Edward VII—laid the foundation stone for the Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937) designed Capitol Building atop its namesake hill, what is now the site for Australian Parliament House. The Capitol Building (which was never realised) was originally designed to house the Commonwealth archives and the foundation stone positioned to mark the centre of Canberra. In one of his last official projects for Canberra, Burley Griffin designed this ornate casket and mallet for the ceremony.

 

The Prince, seeing the foundation stone for the unfinished commencement column nearby, remarked that ‘Canberra consists chiefly of foundation stones’. Today, the foundation stone for the Capitol Building can be found set within the pavement of Queen’s Terrace at Australian Parliament House.

 

The ornate casket features the Australian coat of arms and is made from myrtle beech, blackbean and other Australian timbers. The end of the mallet has a gold plate with an inscription describing the occasion and the handle is surrounded by a carved banksia design.

 

Gemma Black (born 1956) Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples, 2008.

Gemma Black (born 1956)
Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples, 2008
Sumi ink, walnut ink, designer gouache, shell gold, shell silver, watercolour and gold leaf on vellum
Gift commissioned by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

 

In 1995 a National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families commenced, headed by the President of the Human Rights and Equality Commission, Sir Roland Wilson. By the end of 1996 nearly 800 submissions had been heard and in May 1997 the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Parliament concluding that:

For individuals, their removal as children and the abuse they experienced at the hands of the authorities or their delegates have permanently scarred their lives. The harm continues in later generations, affecting their children and grandchildren.

After winning the 2007 election, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered an official apology on 13 February 2008. He expressed regret for past government policies that resulted in the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families.

I move:

That today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations—this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia

Watch the video of the Apology to Australia's Stolen Generations.

Facsimile of National Apology for Forced Adoptions

Gemma Black (born 1956)
Facsimile of National Apology for Forced Adoptions, 2014
Parliament House Art Collection

 

We offer this apology in the hope it will assist your healing and in order to shine a light on a dark period of our nation's history.

To those who have fought for the truth to be heard, we hear you now. We acknowledge that many of you have suffered in silence for far too long.

On 21 March 2013, former Prime Minister Hon. Julia Gillard offered an apology, on behalf of the Australian people, to those Australians affected by forced adoption between 1950 and 1975. More than 800 people gathered in The Great Hall to hear the apology from the Prime Minister and the then Leader of the Opposition Hon. Tony Abbott on behalf of the nation.

The Apology was one of the key recommendations of the Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry into the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices. The Apology was offered as a significant step in the healing process for those affected.

The Apology increased community understanding of the lifelong pain and suffering that many adoptees continue to endure.  A facsimile copy is on display in Members’ Hall as the original document is held by the National Archives of Australia.

Watch the video of the National Apology for Forced Adoptions

Learn more about the Forced Adoptions History Project

Gemma Black (born 1956) Apology to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants, 2012

Gemma Black (born 1956)
Apology to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants, 2012
Sumi ink, walnut ink, designer gouache, shell gold, shell silver, watercolour and gold leaf on vellum
Gift commissioned by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

So let us therefore, together, as a nation, allow this apology to begin healing this pain. Healing the pain felt by so many of the half a million of our fellow Australians and those as children who were in our care.

On 16 November 2009 former Prime Minister Hon. Kevin Rudd and the then Leader of the Opposition Hon. Malcolm Turnbull delivered the national apology to the thousands of the people who grew up or spent time in orphanages, children’s Homes, foster care and institutions run by churches, charities and governments in Australia. Around 7,000 of these people came as child migrants from the United Kingdom and Malta, losing their families, identities and countries.

The Apology said sorry for what had happened to many of these children who were frightened, abused and neglected at the hands of the people who were responsible for looking after them and keeping them safe. It ensured that a largely invisible part of Australia’s history was put firmly on the record for future generations to see and make sure it would never happen again. The Apology is on display in Members’ Hall.

Learn more about the Apology here

Women's suffrage banner
Queen Victoria desk
Royal Assent of Queen Victoria to Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of 1900
Royal Assent of Queen Victoria to Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of 1900
Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900
Proclamation, Opening of Parliament House, Canberra 1927
Commission to Duke of York to open First Australian Parliament
William Lister Lister (1859–1943) Federal Capital Site, 1913
Theodore Penleigh Boyd (1890–1923) The Federal Capital Site, Canberra, 1913
Harold Septimus Power (1878–1951) The Arrival of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York at the Opening of Federal Parliament House Building, Canberra, 9 May 1927
Robert Hannaford (born 1944) Centenary of Federation Commemorative Sitting of Federal Parliament, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, 9 May 2001
Mallet and casket used by Prince of Wales when laying foundation stone on Capital Hill in 1920
Gemma Black (born 1956) Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples, 2008.
Facsimile of National Apology for Forced Adoptions
Gemma Black (born 1956) Apology to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants, 2012
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