Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Opening of Parliament

It is a very beautiful building.
Yesterday my choir was involved in a very impressive ceremony to mark the opening of the Legislative Assembly here in Darwin. We have recently had elections and a different party won. So there were many reasons to pull out all stops and celebrate with pomp and grandeur.

Here is a brief history of the building and the site. Most of the information is directly from this website.

The site of the Northern Territory's Parliament House has a long history of occupation and development not only in terms relating to the Territory, but also to Australia as a whole.
Before 1863, the Northern Territory was part of the Colony of New South Wales, but in the 1850s when the South Australian Government realised that there was an urgent requirement to identify addition arable land, it was annexed to that colony.
In February 1869, George Goyder, Surveyor-General of the Colony of South Australia, landed at what is now Darwin Harbour close to the present site of Parliament House. His assignment from the South Australian administration was to establish a settlement to facilitate pastoral expansion for that colony. The group arrived in a coastal barque, the Moonta, and comprised 140 people. Mr Goyder named the new settlement "Palmerston", a name that remained until 1911.
The area on which Parliament House is now located was then occupied by approximately 500 Larrakia Aboriginal people.
During the latter part of the 19th Century, all the Australian colonies agreed that the establishment of a communications system that would connect Australia and London should be accorded high priority. It was envisaged that the communications link would comprise an overland telegraph line from Adelaide which would then be joined to a submarine cable at Palmerston and connected to London.
This is the chamber.
The picture is from Wikipedia.
In November 1871, the 1100 mile submarine cable between Darwin and Banjoewangie in Java was laid. This in turn was connected through Batavia (now Jakarta), Singapore, Europe and London.
At that time, colonial administrators also envisaged that the northern coast of the Northern Territory would be an ideal site to develop a trading point, which would later be connected to southern centres by rail.
The first substantive building in the new settlement of Palmerston was the Port Darwin Post and Telegraphic Office, which was built on this site from locally-quarried porcellanite stone.
Around this time, the Government Residence was also constructed and the original section of that building now forms part of the Administrator's Residence, or Government House.
Parliament House is the first permanent residence of the Northern Territory Legislature. It forms part of State Square, which also includes the Supreme Court and Liberty Square, a turfed area that adjoins the Office of the Administrator and Government House.
The former Legislative Council, which was established in 1948, was housed in various temporary buildings around Darwin until 1955 when it moved to part of the bombed Post Office on the site of the present Parliament House.
The Legislative Assembly continued to occupy those buildings and adjacent Government office blocks until early 1990 when they were vacated to allow commencement of the construction of Parliament House. From 1990 to the end of 1994, the Assembly again occupied temporary accommodation in the Chan Building, which is adjacent to the ceremonial forecourt of the present building.
The foundation stone was laid by the then Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the Honourable Nick Dondas, MLA, on 2 August 1990 and the building was officially opened by the then Governor-General of Australia, the Honourable Bill Hayden, AC, on 18 August 1994.
It is intended that Parliament House will serve the Northern Territory Legislature for 100 years and it was designed to address changing and increasing usage. It is a fully-occupied building and houses the offices of the Executive, the Department of the Legislative Assembly, offices for all Members, the Northern Territory Library and Parliamentary Counsel.
My photo. Taken later. Our choir wears turquoise shirts.
Can you make out the red carpet for the dignitaries?
And the podium for the outside ceremonies?
There were ceremonies outside the building before the official part inside. 
Some dancers performed. Very impressive. Traditional dance, fully painted. Lots of cameras. 
The Army brought along its mascot, a wedge tailed eagle. Then there was a parade of about two hundred soldiers. Fabulous. Flags and banners. Military ceremony at its finest.
Red carpet to the inside chamber.
A large contingent in the galleries. 
Some ladies wearing hats. 
Welcome speech from the Administrator.
We sang the national anthem.
Every member was sworn in. 
A new speaker was elected.
Then a short break, and we had to leave.
Political brawling started soon after, in the grand tradition of democracy.

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