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Parliament House

Early Parliament Houses

Early Parliament House
Picture courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

The first Council of Government held its meeting in a sitting room at Government House  from 1836 to 1843, a convenient arrangement as the Council was presided over by the Governor and consisted of only five members. With the enlargement of the Council and the proposed admission of strangers to witness the proceedings, a larger meeting place became necessary. The location chosen for the new building was on North Terrace, immediately west of the present day Parliament House site.

The new Chamber erected was a brick structure with a slate roof and consisted of a single room complete with a gallery capable of holding fifty people and reserved seats for reporters.

The new Council Chamber was opened on 10 October 1843, when non-official Members (as distinct from the appointed Official Members) took their seats for the first time. This was the meeting place of the Council for the next twelve years.

With the increase in the membership to twenty-four, the building became too small. A new two-storey stone and brick extension of the first chamber was completed in about July, 1855, at a total cost of £17 000. The Legislative Council met in the new building (upstairs) for the first time on 1 November 1855; this building has been restored and still stands. From 1857 the Legislative Council shared this Parliament House with the newly created House of Assembly.


Current Parliament house - West Wing


Parliament House - West Wing
Picture courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

In 1874 a Commission was appointed by the Governor to inquire into and report on the designs submitted in competition for the new Parliament Houses and a successful design was chosen. It was decided to use local material - marble from Kapunda and granite from West Island (near Victor Harbor) - for the building. Work began on the current site, immediately east of the then existing House, and was completed in 1889.

The total cost of the new House of Assembly Chamber, including furniture and fittings, amounted to £165 404.

On 5 June 1889, 1 200 guests attended the formal opening of the new building by the Speaker of the House of Assembly (Hon. J. C. Bray) and the first meeting was held in the new Chamber on the following day. The former Assembly Chamber in the old building was converted into a Parliamentary Library.

Current Parliament house - East Wing

The question of the completion of the eastern wing of the new Parliament House was raised on a number of occasions over the years, but it was not until 1913 that sketch plans were prepared by the Architect-in-Chief's Department for this project. These sketches were approved by a Joint Committee of both Houses, but the work was delayed following the outbreak of World War I.

Parliament House as it stands today was eventually completed to commemorate the centenary of the State. The project also functioned to provide hundreds of people with work during the Depression. Towards this end, the Hon. Sir J. Langdon Bonython, K.C.M.G., one of the State's greatest benefactors, made the gift of £100,000. Plans for the completion of the building were drawn up in 1934, altered slightly from the scheme which had been approved by the Joint Committee in 1913.

Work on the new wing commenced in March of the State's centenary year, 1936. To harmonise with the 1889 wing, West Island granite and Kapunda marble were again used. The total cost of the new wing was £241887. 

The current Parliament House

The completed building, including the new Legislative Council Chambers, was opened by the Governor-General of Australia and former Governor of South Australia, Lord Gowrie, V.C., on 5 June 1939, precisely fifty years after the opening of the west wing.