Sunday 12 September 2010

Playing (Parliament) House

I spent my morning in Canberra at Old Parliament House. This was the seat of Australian government from the 1920s to the 1980s and from the outside looks like a wedding cake.

See? Fondant icing, square tiers, two figures to sit at the top …

When parliament moved to the New Parliament House (I’ve found that Australians have a very Ronseal approach to nomenclature e.g. Great Sandy Desert) the Old Parliament House became a museum.

What I liked about it is that almost all the old fixtures and fittings have been left, so visitors can play at being politicians – or journalists, or reporters, or back-room fixers. It’s like a great big Wendy House.

You can sit in the chamber (very comfortable leather seats), or spend time collecting scurrilous rumours in the press gallery.

You can visit the Prime Minister’s office,

or hang out in one of the party rooms. (Sadly, that’s party as in political, not partay!)

You can dress up as a Roman (this links back to the building’s current incarnation as the Museum of Australian Democracy) or as the Queen of Australia … and not being a girl who often resists trying on a tiara, I didn’t hold back:

We were very amused.

The one thing you can’t do very easily is make believe you’re a female MP. They were conspicuous by their absence for most of the time Parliament sat here – even getting a Ladies’ Toilet was an uphill struggle. The sign says it all.


1 comment:

  1. The mind boggles as to what the Romans were doing in Australia. Also were ladies allowed into the cocktail bar to get their sanitary requirements or did they have to find a man to buy by proxy? The chamber looks quite like its counterpart in Stormont. All in all I'm reminded why I wasn't keen to vist Oz.