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  • Fiona

A frosty welcome on a hot summers day

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

The new Parliament House is Australia's national parliament building; it was designed to be both a functional building and a major national symbol.

The designer, Italian architect Romaldo Giurgola, included approximately 4,500 rooms, and a flagpole in the centre that is 81metres high and weighs 2220 tonnes.

Outside the building's entrance is a 196-square-metre mosaic by artist Michael Tjakamarra Nelson.

Nelson described his mosaic and its importance at Parliament House:

"it....stands for this place where all people come and meet together…These Dreamings are part of this country that we live in…We've been trying to explain what the land means to us for the sake

all Australians"

The Australian landscape is also represented in the Marble Foyer at Parliament House where it features 48 marble columns that evoke the muted pinks and greens of the Australian landscape. The large number of columns are designed to represent a eucalyptus forest.

This landscape theme continues into the Great Hall, a room designed for state banquets, where the hall is dominated by a tapestry of wool covering the front wall. The tapestry depicts the essence of the Australian landscape—the textures and colours of life under the canopy of a eucalypt forest.

The website for the Australian Parliament House states that visitors are "welcome to explore all of the public areas at ... leisure, including the most significant features of the building such as the roof, the Marble Foyer and the Great Hall..."

However, when we visited we were made to feel less than welcome and we didn't get to see very much of this grand building.

Our visit started positively.....

When we arrived we stood outside the entrance to Parliament House in the midday heat and viewed the large area of mosaic paving - it is impressive in its size and I loved the muted colours; we then turned to take in the vastness of the building itself.

Upon entering the building we went through security with the usual rigmarole of scanners and X-ray machines that we accept as the norm these days when going into public buildings.

After security we entered the foyer with the 48 marble columns and were discussing how striking they were when a security person came rushing over to us.

As we had left the security area the security personnel had seen the back of Alan's T-shirt and decided that what was printed on the T-shirt was 'protest material'. They told him that he would have to turn his T-shirt inside out if he wanted to stay in the building. He was then accompanied by one security person over to the men's toilets where he complied with the T-shirt request. Upon returning to the main area, he was told in quite a threatening manner not to turn it back until he had left the complex. Definitely not a warm welcome!

BJ left straight away as he was offended by the message the security personnel's actions conveyed by insisting that we conceal a positive and compassionate message. Alan and I had a very quick look around the entrance hall and the great hall but as we thought more about the message their actions conveyed we too felt very uncomfortable and unwelcome and so we also left.

On his T-shirt was...

I Stand

#With Refugees

A statement that means that he stands in solidarity with refugees

  • By wearing the T-shirt he was saying that he believes that everyone deserves to live in safety and that he is committed to embrace and assist those in need.

  • It means that we all stand united, not in hate and fear, but in love and compassion, to work together to end human suffering around the world.

We know that Refugees are people that have been forced to flee their homes in order to survive. They are individuals and families who have had their lives destroyed by circumstances beyond their control and have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country.

As citizens of relatively wealthy (and fortunate) countries we believe that it is our moral responsibility to save and protect the lives of these vulnerable people.

By Insisting that Alan's T-shirt was 'protest material' seemed incongruent with the fact that Australia is a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

The requirement to hide the t-shirt’s wording appeared to be an overreaction. We were simply tourists looking around a prominent national site on a Tuesday afternoon. We didn’t have placards or loudspeakers and we weren’t there on any form of protest

Unfortunately, the actions of those security personnel showed a lack of understanding of the message conveyed on the T-shirt and therefore a lack of compassion for our fellow human beings.


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