Last week we popped over to Canberra for a quick shopping trip in Australia’s capital city. Canberra is only a couple of hours away from where we are staying in the Bega Valley and as it is nestled so close to Australia’s Snowy Mountains it is home to many great outdoor clothing stores. Since we’ll be heading to cold, wet Ireland in less than a month, a trip to Canberra was on the cards to deck the kids out with some cool Gortex and Fleece jackets in the end of winter sales. After a couple of hours shopping and a quick bite to eat for lunch, we found ourselves with an afternoon free in the capital to visit one of the many sites.
In Canberra, all roads lead to Capital Hill. Canberra, much like our home city Adelaide, has been completely planned from the beginning. The hexagonal web of roads all converge on the most important building in the Territory, and the reason for this city’s existence, Parliament House. So we couldn’t look down the Commonwealth Avenue toward the perfectly aligned old and new Parliament Houses without cruising down for a closer look.
The ‘new’ Parliament House was opened in 1988, the year of Australia’s bi-centenary anniversary. At the time, the ‘old’ Parliament House was only 60 years old and many criticized the decision to build the new one. These days however, all those earlier concerns seem long forgotten, and Australia’s Parliament House is visited by thousands every year.
Visitors moving through the building experience a journey symbolic of Australia’s history. The Forecourt, with its featured mosaic dot painting, recognises the long history of Aboriginal culture in Australia.
The use of marble and timber in the main Foyer provides a link to the arrival of Europeans to Australia. In the Great Hall, the rich Australian timbers, the Great Hall Tapestry and the Embroidery make subtle reference to the settlement and cultivation of the land. (http://www.aph.gov.au)
The houses were not sitting the day that we visited, so we were unable to witness politicians behaving badly from the gallery, but all of us, children included found it an interesting building to wander around. Free guided tours are available at regular intervals, but as they take about 45 minutes we weren’t sure if our youngest, Oscar would be interested that long. Instead, we decided to go it alone, with Mum acting as tour guide with what I remember from year 11 & 12 Legal Studies at school! Incidentally, Lucy, our oldest, would have visited Canberra and Parliament House next year if she was still at school in Australia, as all year 7’s are supposed to make the trip as part of the National Curriculum. Woohoo! Look at us Unschooling and a year ahead 🙂
We learnt about how bills are introduced and passed through the two houses from the educational displays, and enjoyed the many artworks on the walls and in the foyers. Even seven year Oscar maintained an interest for the couple of hours that we were there!
In all honesty, I wouldn’t consider Canberra a ‘must see’ on an Australian holiday itinerary if you are pressed for time. but if you’re in the area like we are, it’s worth poking about in the capital’s many galleries and museums, parks and community spaces. The Parliament House can easily be fit into a morning or afternoon, but some of Canberra’s other attractions like the Australian War Memorial, and Questacon, which we have been to on other visits, deserve a whole day.