Lonely Planet review
The grand steps of Victoria’s parliament (c 1856) are often dotted with slow-moving tulle-wearing brides smiling for the camera and placard- holding protesters doing the same. Inside, the exuberant use of ornamental plasterwork, stencilling and gilt are full of gold-rush era pride and optimism. Building began with the two main chambers: the lower house (now the legislative assembly) and the upper house (now the legislative council). The library was added in 1860 and Queen’s Hall in 1879. Australia’s first federal parliament sat here from 1901, before moving to Canberra in 1927. Though they’ve never been used, gun slits are visible just below the roof, and a dungeon is now the cleaners’ tearoom.
Free half-hour tours are held when parliament is in recess and take you through both houses and the library. Fascinating design features and the symbolism underlying much of the ornamentation are illuminated by the knowledgeable guides. Ask about the mystery of the stolen ceremonial mace that disappeared from the lower house in 1891 – it’s rumoured to have ended up in a brothel. Alternatively, see the houses when parliament is sitting.