FOR the first time in a decade, visitors to Parliament House will be able to enjoy unrestricted access to its roof from the lawns, as the normally strident security is relaxed for this year’s special open day this month.
The fencing has been up since 2003, when extra security was put in place following 9/11, says Carol Mills, secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services.
“It’s the thing I hear most, that it’s such a shame you can’t walk over the building and on to the roof anymore,” she says. “So we wanted to do this in the true spirit of Open Day.”
Parliament House usually hosts an open day every two years, but it’s been three years since the last one, as the plan was to tie in with Canberra’s Centenary and the building’s own silver jubilee.
“It’s a great opportunity to celebrate, as 25 years is the first real milestone in its 200-year framework,” says Carol. “We really want this open day to be a more active participatory event, so we’re doing things like showing the flag up close, so people can see if it’s really the size of a double decker bus, and how heavy it is.
“The building will be open more extensively than previous open days.”
Parliament House Open Day is on August 24, from 9am-5pm, and is a joint effort between the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Department of Parliamentary Services – with the House of Representatives the overall leader this year.
So, this year the public will be able to see the Mace, the symbol of the House of Representatives, up close in the Speaker’s Office for the first time, as well as tour the chamber and the private courtyards.
Andres Lomp, director of international and community relations in the House of Representatives, says the theme of this open day, “Threads of Our Nation”, came about because the building combines art, history and culture all woven together.
“It’s more than a parliament, although that’s the primary reason it’s here,” he says.
Having worked at Parliament House for 25 years, Andres says he feels privileged to be there.
“It’s been a career commitment for me and I have a great respect for the institution,” he says. “We want to share our stories on Open Day so the community understands how it really operates.”
Visitors will also be allowed into the Prime Minister’s office and sitting room, tour the Senate, try on costumes in the Parliamentary Education Office, try broadcasting, hear from the builders and artists who worked on the building, visit the underground carpentry workshop and give Hansard a go.
“It’s been an incredible 25 years of change for Parliament House, in terms of technology, environmental pressures, diversity of the workplace and social media,” says Andres.
“People say, how can you have spent 25 years in the same job, but it’s never the same job. Every time there is a new parliament, it all changes.
“It’s always changing, always exciting.”
For more information on Parliament House Open Day, visit www.25years.aph.gov.au