Old Parliament House marked its 94th birthday on 9 May, and while the building is beautifully maintained on the surface, it has been allocated $11.3 million in the 2021-22 Budget to repair its aging infrastructure.
The majority of the allocation will be to upgrade the internal sections of the building such as hydraulics, replacing switchboards, asbestos remediation and rectifying water damage.
Almost $1.9 million will go towards refurbishing the House of Representatives chamber.
Now a significant tourist attraction, the national heritage-listed building is also home to the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD), which remains at the forefront of telling our national stories and hosting regular exhibitions such as the popular Behind The Lines political cartoon exhibition.
MoAD director Daryl Karp said the board had lobbied Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ben Morton to receive the funding to upgrade much of the building’s infrastructure.
“One of the challenges of running a cultural national institution such as this is that you’re ambition is always greater than the available funds, so we’re very grateful that we have a minister who truly values and appreciates the building,” Ms Karp said.
“This funding allows us to address some of the unseen components such as stormwater and sewage pipes that are close on 100 years old, but also to do some work in the House of Reps chamber which Canberrans will know is an exquisite part of the building, and keep it in a way that all Australians would want it to be.”
A further $1.4 million will also be provided over two years for ongoing maintenance, while the latest funding will be spread over the next four years.
It also builds on $12.9 million of funding announcements for upgrades such as replacement and waterproofing of the roof membrane and the design and installation of a permanent public exhibition to demonstrate the diverse role the APS plays to support the Australian community. The Australian Public Service Careers Inspiration Centre will also be located in the senate undercroft at Old Parliament House.
Mr Morton said the funding would continue to preserve one of Australia’s most culturally significant buildings.
“Old Parliament House is over 90 years old, and maintaining it is a priority for the government. It is essential that the national heritage-listed building is maintained so that the building is accessible to all Australians and visitors for generations to come,” he said.
“This funding demonstrates the Government’s ongoing commitment to ensure the national cultural institutions remain at the forefront of telling our national stories.
“MoAD plays a vital role enriching understanding and appreciation of Australia’s democracy, and it’s important that the OPH building is maintained to tell the story of Australia’s democracy.”
Ms Karp said the funding comes ahead of MoAD’s latest exhibition on how bees and democracy go hand-in-hand. The exhibition will be launched on 18 May, International Bee Day.
“This new exhibition is on bees and democracy because, believe it or not, bees have an extraordinary democratic process in how they make key decisions,” she said.
“We always build a sense of fun into our exhibitions, and this makes Old Parliament House a place you can visit many times to get a sense of how things of old are still very relevant to us today.”