Stories

Life of the Party – Part 1
History

Life of the Party – Part 1

Why do we have political parties?

Remembering Elizabeth II in the halls of Old Parliament House Remembering Elizabeth II in the halls of Old Parliament House
Heritage

Remembering Elizabeth II in the halls of Old Parliament House

The life and reign of Elizabeth II is closely connected to the history of Old Parliament House.

Just add unicorns: celebratory coronation arches from London to Canberra Just add unicorns: celebratory coronation arches from London to Canberra
Heritage

Just add unicorns: celebratory coronation arches from London to Canberra

A royal tour is filled with grandeur and glamour; there’s gowns, tiaras, fancy state balls, and sometimes, even unicorns. Read on to discover how Canberra welcomed not only the Queen, but also mystical beasts from another land.

7 people you (maybe) didn’t know ran for parliament 7 people you (maybe) didn’t know ran for parliament
History

7 people you (maybe) didn’t know ran for parliament

Numerous actors, musicians and sporting stars have a 'political career' subheading on their Wikipedia page, but some have been more successful than others.

Westminster Abbey to Old Parliament House: A Queen is crowned
Heritage

Westminster Abbey to Old Parliament House: A Queen is crowned

Can you imagine working in the same job for 70 years?

A seat at the table
Your voice

A seat at the table

History

Celebrating Neville Bonner, the first Indigenous federal parliamentarian

Jagera man Neville Bonner AO was sworn into the Federal Senate 50 years ago, in August 1971,  the first Indigenous federal parliamentarian in Australia.


The rise of bee activism – how these humble insects have inspired a mass movement The rise of bee activism – how these humble insects have inspired a mass movement
Your voice

The rise of bee activism – how these humble insects have inspired a mass movement

In recent years, concern for the health of honeybees has sparked a rise in bee activism, helping to shine a spotlight on the challenges facing the world's bee population.

What bees can teach us about democracy What bees can teach us about democracy
Your voice

What bees can teach us about democracy

What do honeybees and a House of Parliament have in common?

How are party leaders chosen? How are party leaders chosen?
Democracy

How are party leaders chosen?

In June 2021, the National Party replaced its leader Michael McCormack with former leader Barnaby Joyce, an unexpected change in Deputy Prime Minister.

Zines from the Refugee Art Project
Your voice

Zines from the Refugee Art Project

Sydney-based artist, musician and academic Safdar Ahmed has been involved with the Refugee Art Project since 2011, facilitating the making of zines that share the art and stories of people incarcerated in the Villawood detention centre.  

Democracy

Is it compulsory to like compulsory voting?

There are good arguments, sound, solid, democratic arguments, both for and against compulsory voting.


Political football Political football
History

Political football

There are connection between footy and federal parliament stretching back over 100 years.

Reflections of Bob Hawke in Old Parliament House Reflections of Bob Hawke in Old Parliament House
Heritage

Reflections of Bob Hawke in Old Parliament House

As Prime Minister, Bob Hawke served five years in the Old Parliament House and three in the new.

Curly conversations: haircuts at Old Parliament House Curly conversations: haircuts at Old Parliament House
Heritage

Curly conversations: haircuts at Old Parliament House

Have you ever tried a haircut at home? Or do you prefer to leave it to the professionals?

The families from number 18
Heritage

The families from number 18

18 King George Terrace, Parkes, ACT, may not seem like a familiar address, but you would probably recognise the house and some of the families who grew up there.

History

A Doctor in the House? Five doctors who served in the Commonwealth Parliament

Today, Dr Kerryn Phelps was officially sworn in as the Member for Wentworth in the House of Representatives.


Leadership spills plague Australian politics, but what does our system protect us from? Leadership spills plague Australian politics, but what does our system protect us from?
Democracy

Leadership spills plague Australian politics, but what does our system protect us from?

Political leadership in Australia has been characterised by instability and rapid change since the Howard government fell in 2007.

Australia vs America – midterm elections and their influence Australia vs America – midterm elections and their influence
Democracy

Australia vs America – midterm elections and their influence

Halfway through a presidential term in the United States, voters go to the polls for a ‘midterm elections’. How is this different from Australia?

Women in Parliament: A global perspective on Australia's lazy lateness Women in Parliament: A global perspective on Australia's lazy lateness
History

Women in Parliament: A global perspective on Australia's lazy lateness

When Enid Lyons and Dorothy Tangney stepped over the threshold into Parliament House in 1943 they were late.

Indigenous women artists: Leah King-Smith and Andrea Fisher
Your voice

Indigenous women artists: Leah King-Smith and Andrea Fisher

This NAIDOC week we honour the theme of ‘Because of her, we can!’ by recognising the work of two contemporary Indigenous artists.

Moving House
Heritage

Moving House

History

Agitators, suffragettes and spies: 7 women you should know

Seven Australian women outside politics


Lionel Rose's world championship 50 years on Lionel Rose's world championship 50 years on
History

Lionel Rose's world championship 50 years on

Fifty years ago, Lionel Rose became the first Aboriginal Australian to win a world championship.

The Apology 10 years on The Apology 10 years on
History

The Apology 10 years on

Writer Paul Daley shares his views on the legacy of the Apology.

In the running: the Liberals’ choice in 1968 In the running: the Liberals’ choice in 1968
History

In the running: the Liberals’ choice in 1968

The ninth of January marks the 50th anniversary of John Gorton’s election as leader of the Liberal Party, making him Australia’s 19th prime minister. Gorton got the top job under unusual circumstances. 

A plebiscite milestone: 100 years on from the 1917 conscription debates
History

A plebiscite milestone: 100 years on from the 1917 conscription debates

Today, 20 December, marks the centenary of Australia’s second plebiscite on conscription.

History

A voice from the past

This speech by Stanley Melbourne Bruce has recently come into the Museum’s collection.


Free votes: a quick explainer Free votes: a quick explainer
Democracy

Free votes: a quick explainer

It’s tough to be a politician. On the one hand, you are called upon to represent the community that elected you, but on the other, you are called upon to follow a party line, and support whoever your party’s leader is.

How often should we have an election – every three years or every four? How often should we have an election – every three years or every four?
Democracy

How often should we have an election – every three years or every four?

Does it ever feel like we’ve just got over the last election before the next one looms?

Dual citizenship and other no nos that will give you the boot Dual citizenship and other no nos that will give you the boot
Democracy

Dual citizenship and other no nos that will give you the boot

The question of dual citizenship and eligibility to sit in parliament was a hot topic in 2017.

Tosspot to Bodgie: Seven Prime Ministerial nicknames
History

Tosspot to Bodgie: Seven Prime Ministerial nicknames

In a couple of recent social media posts, when referring to Sir Robert Menzies, some readers have remarked that his nickname was ‘Pig Iron Bob’.

History

Young People and the Right to Vote: Some exceptions to the rule

On 16 March 1973 the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1973 gave all Australians aged 18 years or older the right to vote. The first federal election at which all 18-year-olds could vote was held in May 1974.


On Hansard On Hansard
History

On Hansard

Hansard is testimony, in black and white, to our functioning federal parliamentary democracy - for all its strengths and weaknesses, its brilliance and tawdriness and its immense unending drama.

Hansard: a quick primer Hansard: a quick primer
Democracy

Hansard: a quick primer

What is Hansard? Here's a rundown of everything you need to know.

Charley’s Choice: The breastplate of Charley, King of Burran Charley’s Choice: The breastplate of Charley, King of Burran
History

Charley’s Choice: The breastplate of Charley, King of Burran

William Ridley was a Presbyterian minister with an epic beard and an ear for languages. 

The day the Australian Labor Party changed itself, and its leader
History

The day the Australian Labor Party changed itself, and its leader

Today, 8 February, marks the 50th anniversary of the election of Gough Whitlam as leader of the Australian Labor Party.

History

The Denmans in British Australia: cultured and courteous with nothing to do

Australia today is not a republic but its culture is in many respects republican.


On This Day: a plot to kill Harold Holt? On This Day: a plot to kill Harold Holt?
History

On This Day: a plot to kill Harold Holt?

After waiting six days outside Parliament House for Prime Minister Harold Holt to get back from Melbourne, Nedeljko Gajic decided to return to Sydney to look for work.

An Australian guide to American elections An Australian guide to American elections
Democracy

An Australian guide to American elections

In a speech to the National Press Club, the outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Australia, John Berry, outlined some of the differences of democracy in both countries.

How Billy Hughes lost the 1916 conscription referendum How Billy Hughes lost the 1916 conscription referendum
History

How Billy Hughes lost the 1916 conscription referendum

Australia was one of the very few countries within the British Empire that failed to adopt conscription during World War I.

Conscription 1916: Who were the Maltese ‘children of Billy Hughes’?
History

Conscription 1916: Who were the Maltese ‘children of Billy Hughes’?

The Maltese ‘children of Billy Hughes’ were a group of 214 Maltese migrants who arrived during Australia’s conscription plebiscite campaign a century ago.

Democracy

How does an election work? Part Three – Rock the Vote

Polling day has become an Australian democratic institution.


On Paper: some election ephemera On Paper: some election ephemera
History

On Paper: some election ephemera

As the election campaign draws to a close, most Australians can look forward to being handed dozens of pieces of paper while queuing to vote. 

On this day: a Catholic forgives On this day: a Catholic forgives
History

On this day: a Catholic forgives

But I say to you: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. And pray for those who persecute and slander you.   Matthew 5:44

How does an election work? Part 2 – Run for your life How does an election work? Part 2 – Run for your life
Democracy

How does an election work? Part 2 – Run for your life

During elections in Australia, we are bombarded with advertising and see politicians hitting the campaign trail. The handshakes, corflutes and baby kissing are all part of the democratic process. 

Wearing your politics
History

Wearing your politics

In a robust democracy, you can walk down the street wearing the colours and symbols of any candidate or organisation you desire.

History

On This Day: William McMahon becomes Prime Minister

He had been around for a long time. He knew what was significant and what was not.


Time’s Up: When Parliament expired Time’s Up: When Parliament expired
History

Time’s Up: When Parliament expired

On this day in 1910, the term of the Commonwealth Parliament ran out.

Love letters at the heart of politics Love letters at the heart of politics
History

Love letters at the heart of politics

While democracy isn’t usually synonymous with romance, we have a few gems in our collection that get right to the heart of politics…. 

The Father of the House
History

The Father of the House

This week the Hon. Philip Ruddock MP, Father of the House, announced his retirement after what will be forty-three years in the federal Parliament.

Democracy

Royal Commissions: what are they and how do they work?

In 2015, Australia had two Royal Commissions under way: the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.


Estimates Committees: two words that strike fear in a Public Servant’s heart Estimates Committees: two words that strike fear in a Public Servant’s heart
Democracy

Estimates Committees: two words that strike fear in a Public Servant’s heart

On television, we occasionally see Ministers or Heads of Departments and other senior officials in the bureaucracy being grilled over the way they have spent – or plan to spend – government moneys.

Forty years since the Dismissal Forty years since the Dismissal
History

Forty years since the Dismissal

I thought I knew all about the Dismissal.

What does one do after leaving the top job? What does one do after leaving the top job?
History

What does one do after leaving the top job?

One characteristic shared by almost all 28 former prime ministers is a marked reluctance to relinquish the office.

Democracy

By-elections in Australia

By-elections are called when there is a need to replace a Member of the House of Representatives who has resigned or died.

Democracy

Let’s get this party started: starting your own political party in Australia

April 2015 saw the launch of a new political party in Australia, John Madigan’s Manufacturing and Farming Party, by Senator Madigan of Victoria. 


Reflections on Malcolm Fraser Reflections on Malcolm Fraser
History

Reflections on Malcolm Fraser

In recent years Malcolm Fraser has generally been seen as the politician who moved most spectacularly from the right to the left of the political spectrum.

Who knew that toilets would have such a complicated history? Who knew that toilets would have such a complicated history?
Heritage

Who knew that toilets would have such a complicated history?

The history of the lavatories of Old Parliament House has inspired more scrutiny and newspaper ink than you might think. Especially for the women in the building.

United Nations – 70 years United Nations – 70 years
History

United Nations – 70 years

The 24th October is commemorated each year as United Nations Day.

Vale Faith Bandler
History

Vale Faith Bandler

On Friday 13 February, Faith Bandler AC passed away at the age of 96.

History

Alfred Deakin and the Divine

Remember the days when people wrote with their bare hands? When there was a direct physical and mental connection between brain, body, ink and paper? 


George Reid: not another boring politician George Reid: not another boring politician
History

George Reid: not another boring politician

‘Bores are in a class of infinite variety. But the worst are those who occupy public time.’ So declared Sir George Reid (1845-1918), Australia’s fourth prime minister, who regarded politics as a battle of wits in more ways than one.

Party Games Party Games
History

Party Games

In a series of blog posts, the museum’s curatorial team will take visitors on a journey through many of its collection treasures that have not been seen before. 

A 'follitical' liability? A 'follitical' liability?
History

A 'follitical' liability?

To those unfamiliar with the luminaries of the first two decades of Australian federal politics, even a casual glance at the photographs of the era’s protagonists reveals an obvious and unmistakable distinction from later generations of politicians.

Butting Out a Ciggie in Old Parliament House
Heritage

Butting Out a Ciggie in Old Parliament House

Were you a smoker when Old Parliament House was the federal parliament? If so, then you were in good company as smoking was common.

Democracy

Below the Line: How Australia’s voting system has changed

Australia’s democracy is not static. Over the years, the way Australians have chosen their elected leaders has been constantly evolving. 


The King George V memorial The King George V memorial
Heritage

The King George V memorial

In 1936, the Commonwealth government approved a memorial to the recently deceased King George V. 

70th Anniversary of Australia’s entry into the Second World War 70th Anniversary of Australia’s entry into the Second World War
History

70th Anniversary of Australia’s entry into the Second World War

As Australia went onto a war footing, seventy years ago the Australian Parliament readied itself for action.