Backpacking in Australia: Australian Parliament House, Canberra

Backpacking in Australia: Australian Parliament House, Canberra

A trip to Australia’s Parliament House was in order when I was backpacking in Canberra in January 2010. I have never been inside my own Parliament! Neither Belfast’s Stormont nor London’s House of Commons or House of Lords. Yet I’ve done Canberra, Australia.
There are two Parliament buildings. There’s an old one at the forecourt and in front of the new one. The new Parliament is a stunning building. Just as exciting as Stormont in Belfast, and possibly Washington DC’s Whitehouse. You can’t miss it. From 3 high metal pillars gaping in to form a pyramid, a huge Australian flag flies over the city of Canberra. It is true that you can see this flag from nearly every corner of the capital city centre. The style of Parliament House is a work of art. As is the artificial design of Canberra.
You can get a free guided tour, entrance is free. You can go into Parliament, even when they are meeting and sit and watch and listen. The gardens are well landscaped. The building is well designed and pretty. There’s a symmetry with Canberra. Everything fits. From the front of Parliament House you gaze down at the old Parliament House, past Lake Burley Griffin and onto Anzac Parade.
We parked in the basement car park. For free. We walked into Parliament House. For free. They just did a routine search of bags on the way in. It was more reassuring than annoying actually. 
From there the first thing you see is a shop! Australian Commercialism at its best. No complaints though – we got into the building for free, so its fair play for them to have a shop there, selling an excellent range of Australian souvenirs and gifts. From Boomerangs to fluffy Wallabies to Aboriginal Flags they had it all. The main entrance hall was huge but quiet. Not many people around Parliament on a Saturday.
First up we went into the front hall, which looked a bit like a badminton court, or a small concert hall. I assume they hold minor meetings in there, or have public exhibitions and conferences there. A few photos were took, including of the art on display on the back wall. From there it was upstairs. 
Where they have paintings lining the walls. The one which struck my eye was an old painting of my current monarch – Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second. I got a photo beside it of course, spotted a few other celebrities, and then we cast our eyes on a recent “agreement” in Australian Parliament, rather “an apology” to the indigenous people in Australia – i.e. the Aboriginals. 
This was an apology by Kevin Rudd’s government for all the suffering through the years caused to Aboriginals by their fellow countrymen and land residents. The apology was very detailed, but the gist of it, as far as I could tell was that the government was sorry about the history and promised equal rights from here on in. A nice gesture, and years overdue. Be nice of the IRA or Sinn Fein to have a similar apology to the people of my country who have suffered (and still do) all these years.
We got a lift to the top of Parliament House. It was just on the 4th level, and there we were out into a clean, modern open courtyard, where hoisted above us was the blue Australian flag, with it’s British top corner and the Southern Cross in cartoon shaped stars. This is the proud centrepiece of Canberra and Australia’s Governing Capital. 
From the top there was an excellent view both ways. Firstly you could see directly down past Federation Mall and the Old Parliament House, secondly you could look behind at excellent forest and countryside.
We went inside the actual Parliament itself – on a Saturday so there was no conference on. I sat down on the balcony overlooking the Parliament. Everything was so tidy, clean and neat. Canberra is a clean city in general. I got some photos and videos from inside the Parliament, with my Northern Ireland fleg as usual. This is Australia – everything here is fairly relaxed so you can actually attend Parliament and watch while proceedings are taking place. Pulling a mooner or kranking up an Oasis track during a Kevin Rudd speech would surely be hilarious…
The forecourt also has a pretty water and fountain area, and overlooks directly across to the Australian War Memorial. It’s a custom built city and you can easily see the symmetric structure to the buildings and road system. It’s almost too perfect.
What I have found so far is that Canberra is my favourite city in Australia. It kicks Sydney and Melbourne into touch, and there’s no point in mentioning Devonport or Hobart in the same breath. Though Parramatta is definitely my second favourite.
What Is It? – Australian National Parliment, Parliament House, Capital Hill
Catchphrase – Parliament House – A House For The People
Who Went? – Jonny Blair, Neil Macey, Daniel Evans, Evan Tattam
Website –
What The Flier Says – Australia’s Parliament House is one of the world’s most acclaimed, yet accessible parliament buildings in the world. Come and experience the impressive architecture, landscaped gardens and Australian art collection. Visitors are welcome to wander the public areas or to join a free guided tour. Proceedings on parliamentary sitting days are open for viewing.
Key Song – The Lightning Seeds – Perfect

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