Special open day as the House turns 30

A Gold Ticket visit to the Parliament House art store.

PARLIAMENT House is busy celebrating its 30th birthday this year so this year’s free open day, planned for Saturday, October 6, is expected to be special.

The anniversary of the building’s opening in 1988 seems to have called for some heavy-duty statistics and staff members rejoice in telling us, for instance, that enough concrete was used to build 25 Sydney Opera Houses and that the turf on the roof would cover the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Improbably, the event will kick off with a refreshing yoga-on-the-lawn session at 8am, then from 9am to 5pm, the doors will be flung open to the public for that rare chance to get behind-the-scenes – on to the chamber floor and into the Cabinet room and the Speaker’s office.

For kids fired up by democratic ideals, there is a chance to wear the robes of a parliamentary officer or give a speech from the prime minister’s lectern.

For children of all ages there’ll be on show a commissioned 3.5m x 2.5m Lego model of the building, unveiled for the first time on the open day.

For music-lovers there’ll be entertainment from the Paverty Bush Band, the Music for Canberra Choir and others, and for political tragics there’ll be the Speaker’s 30th Anniversary Lecture from Paul Kelly, not the singer, but the veteran political journalist.

For craft-lovers, there’ll be a display of commissioned chairs and fabric weaving and, one for the especially curious, the “Integrated Pest Management Display”.

An AFP dog demonstrates its skill at the open day.

And for everybody, there is a chance to get up close and personal to the lovely police dogs in the Australian Federal Police “Capability Display”.

Everything is free, but a novel enticement is the launch of the “Golden Ticket” – 15 double “gold” tickets that will allow a deeper penetration of Parliament House, with a rare visit to the art store.

Aurukun camp dog, by Garry Namponan, from the Parliament House art collection.

Justine van Mourik, director of the Parliament House Art Collection, will be one of the key figures in the celebrations.

Many of the 6500 contemporary and indigenous artworks are integrated into the general circulation areas, but many others are not.

Recent acquisitions include the sought-after “camp dogs”, made in Aurukun on the Cape York Peninsula, and the “Warakurna Superheroes” series made during Tony Albert’s time with the Warakurna Artists and community for the “In Cahoots” project.

Van Mourik tells “CityNews” about the rotational process by which the priceless artworks, when acquired, are first shown to the public and then released to hang in senators’ and members’ suites. After election changes they gather up the artworks and re-allocate them to newcomers.

“We have 4900 works to choose from,” she says of the works available  to parliamentarians. “We like to keep it nice and fresh.”

Parliament House open day, 9am-5pm, Saturday, October 6, free. Information at aph.gov.au

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