CANBERRA’S grandest residence, Government House, is letting the public see what the corridors of power look like with an open day this Sunday at the Governor-General’s residence.
The iconic property, which dates back to 1828, will hold a free Open House from 10:00am – 4:00pm, with visitors able to explore public areas of the house and the extensive gardens.
“Government House, Canberra might be the main residence of the Governor-General but it belongs to the Australian people and this is a unique opportunity to see one of the most historic and prominent houses in the country,” Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove said.
“Lynne and I invite all Canberrans and visitors alike to come through the house on 5 October and enjoy the heritage furniture and fine art on loan, and the beautiful gardens.”
About Government House, Canberra
Government House, Canberra, in its origins and architecture, is quite unlike Government Houses of the State capitals. Most State Government Houses were built in Queen Victoria’s reign as residences for her vice-regal representatives, whereas Yarralumla’s first 80 years were wholly pastoral.
The first grant of 1035 hectares (2560 acres) to Henry Donnison in 1828 was later sold to Francis Mowatt in 1831. Mowatt built a long low stone house described as a hunting lodge on the site.
In 1837, Yarralumla was bought by Terence Aubrey Murray. When Murray’s wife, Mary (nee Gibbes) died in 1858, control of Yarralumla passed from Murray to his father-in-law, Colonel Augustus Gibbes. By curious coincidence, it was the same Colonel Gibbes who had bought 2 hectares (5 acres) on Kirribilli Point from Robert Campbell in 1842 and there built a house, now Admiralty House, the Sydney residence of the Governor-General. To complete the coincidence, in 1881, Colonel Gibbes sold the Yarralumla property to Frederick Campbell, grandson of Robert Campbell.
Frederick Campbell went on to grow the then 10,500 hectare (26,000 acres) property to 16,000 hectares (40,000 acres), grazing 40,000 sheep. He pulled down most of the old stone house and, in 1891, built a red brick three-storey double-gabled house, which forms part of the present Government House.
In 1909, Canberra was chosen as the site for the Federal capital. At the time the Government had no clear plans for the homestead at Yarralumla. However, the suggestion to use Yarralumla as a temporary residence for the Governor-General was first made as early as 1911.
During World War I, the priorities of the new federal government shifted to the war effort and the grounds at Yarralumla were utilised to train cadets from the Royal Military College at nearby Duntroon.
In 1921, the Federal Capital Advisory Committee proposed that Yarralumla be refurbished to provide temporary accommodation for the Governor-General pending the construction of a new permanent residence. It was not until January 1925 that Federal Cabinet finally agreed to fit out Yarralumla for its new vice-regal function.
Nothing remains of either the old stone hunting lodge or the brick bungalow, except some foundations; but the 1891 three-storey structure remains the core of the House, and the Campbell family crest decorates one of the eaves. The remainder of the House represents countless changes and additions to that core over the years.
A complete history of Government House, Canberra is available at
Discover Government House
Sunday, 5 October, 10:00am – 4:00pm (AEDT)
Dunrossil Drive, Yarralumla
Parking available on Dunrossil Drive