The chairs of Old Parliament House

By Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

Senate Chamber Bench Seat (circa 1927) by John Smith MurdochMuseum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

The chairs of Old Parliament House

The Museum of Australian Democracy’s collection of chairs—from the humble bar stool to the ornate and irreplaceable Speaker’s Chair—has unique historical value to Australia, having important associations with the processes of government, the building’s functions and with the people who governed Australia from 1927 to 1988. What do these chairs tell us about Australia’s democracy?

Speaker’s Chair (circa 1927) by Messrs Harry Hems & SonsMuseum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

When the Speaker of the House unveiled this chair in 1926 he thanked Great Britain for this gift and for the gift of parliamentary democracy. There is still evidence of the links between Australia and Great Britain in the elaborate ornamentation on the chair.

President’s Chair, circa 1927, From the collection of: Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
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What could be more Australian than a 'fair go'? The role of the President in the Senate is to keep order so everyone gets a chance to speak. This chair was used from 1927 to 1988, more than 60 years.

Vice Regal Chair, John Smith Murdoch, circa 1927, From the collection of: Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
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The Vice Regal Chair is in exceptional condition, indeed it is one of the least used chairs in the Senate Chamber because it was only ever used by the reigning monarch or their representative when opening Parliament.

House of Representatives Press Chair (circa 1927) by Federal Capital Commission Architects DepartmentMuseum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

The press are an integral part of our open and accountable democracy...or are they? The presence of press in the chambers is a privilege not a right—the Speaker of the House may withdraw permission for the press to be in the Chamber.

Dining Room Chair, Federal Capital Commission Architects Department, circa 1927, From the collection of: Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
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This dining room chair has been used by politicians and visiting dignitaries while seated for silver service at special government occasions or for the everyday meat and three veg. Today this chair is used for wedding or conference guests.

House of Representatives Chamber Reporters Stool (circa 1927) by John Smith MurdochMuseum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

At 200 words per minute with 97 per cent accuracy, Hansard reporters sat on this stool and recorded all discussions in the Chambers. No bias. No flourishes. No agenda.

Senate Chamber Bench Seat, John Smith Murdoch, circa 1927, From the collection of: Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
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A bit too comfortable? The deep, soft leather bench seats in the chambers may have made it hard for parliamentarians to stay awake during important but late night debates.

Stool, circa 1940s, From the collection of: Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
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The bar—the classically Australian place to socialise, debate, discuss and recover from another long day spent in the democracy factory.

Barbers Chair (circa 1920) by Koken Barber Supply Co.Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

A haircut is a great leveller. This barber’s chair reminds us that this was once a town within a building, providing essential services for the politicians and staff who worked here.

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