Visit Australia's Beacons of Democracy

6 September 2013
Read Time: 1.9 mins

As Australians go to the polls tomorrow, here at Flight Centre we thought we'd put a spotlight on the attractions around the country that are related to our parliamentary process. From the early days as a colony through to today's democratic system, here are the most important buildings relating to Federal Government in Australia.


Old Government House, Sydney

 Old Government House. Image courtesy of the National Trust.

Governor Phillip lived and governed in a timber structure brought from England that was constructed on the corner of what is now Bridge Street and Phillip Street in Sydney. After numerous extensions, this building was demolished in 1845. However, Governor Lachlan Macquarie followed the example set by the second Governor, John Hunter to establish a base in Parramatta - at the time this was considered a rural residence. This Second Government House, which was developed by Macquarie in 1815, stands as one of Australia's oldest public buildings. Now managed by the National Trust, this historic structure that's known as Old Government House is open to visitors.


Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne

 Royal Exhibition Building in the Carlton Gardens. Image courtesy of Tourism Victoria. Photographer Emily Fitzgerald.

On May 9 1901 the first Commonwealth Parliament of Australia was opened in the Royal Exhibition Building by Prince George, Duke of Cornwall and York, who was later crowned as King George V. The venue was selected because Prime Minister Edmund Barton wanted to be as inclusive as possible and no other public building could accommodate the 12,000 invited guests. Following the official ceremony, the federal Parliament then met in the Melbourne Parliament House before moving to Canberra in 1927. During this time the Victorian Parliament governed from the Royal Exhibition Building.


Parliament House, Melbourne

 The Victorian Parliament House, Spring Street. Image courtesy of Tourism Victoria, Photographer Jeff Busby.

Construction on Melbourne's Parliament House began in 1855 and was completed in stages between 1856 and 1929. The classical colonnade and portico facing Spring Street was completed in 1892 and the impressive Queen's Hall was opened in 1879. Travellers are welcome to take a public tour of the building when Parliament isn't sitting and can watch the Victorian Politicians debate bills during the sitting days.


Old Parliament House, Canberra

 Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. Image courtesy of Australian Capital Tourism. Photographer Stefan Postles.

When the nation's capital was ready, the federal parliament moved from Melbourne to Canberra, where they met in the Provisional Parliament House. This temporary structure, which was opened by the Duke and Duchess of York, who later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, served as the seat of Government from May 9 1927 until 1988. Today the three storey brick building is known as the Old Parliament House and features interesting museum exhibits relating to Australia's political history.


Parliament House, Canberra

 Parliament House. Image courtesy of Australian Capital Tourism. Photographer Chris Holly.

The nation's first permanent Parliament House was opened on May 9 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II after seven years in construction. This date serves as the anniversary of the opening of the three buildings that have served as the official seat of Australia's federal government. Around one million visitors explore Parliament House each year – curious travellers are welcome to wander through the public areas unaccompanied or you're welcome to sign up for a guided tour. To watch democracy in action, question time tickets for the House of Representatives can be arranged in advance.

Lyndon Barnett

Guided by curiosity and a sense of adventure, Lyndon travelled independently to 69 countries on six continents. As such, travel is Lyndon's only addiction. He enjoys with equal measure - scaling the peaks of a South American mountain at altitude, attending opera in a European Opera House or hunting for a bargain in an Asian market.