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Prime Minister’s Desk #1999-0857

Rectangular black bean veneer desk with mitre corners and dark brown vinyl veneer sides and back; two drawers on the left hand side with spherical brass handles; an attendant’s button panel on the right hand side with a black plastic draw pull, and a draw underneath.

History

The Prime Minister’s Desk was installed in the Prime Minister’s Office after its remodelling and extension in 1972-73. The desk was used, and is still located, in the Prime Minister’s office in the eastern front section of the building, and was last used by Bob Hawke who served as Australia’s twenty-third Prime Minister from 1983 to 1991. The Prime Minister’s Desk is also associated with Bob Hawke’s predecessors Gough Whitlam, who served as Prime Minister from 1972-1975, and Malcolm Fraser, who served in the role from 1975-1983.

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Statement of values

The Prime Minister’s Desk is a significant item of furniture in the collection through its association with the office of Prime Minister and the significant people who served their term in that role between 1972 and 1988. This includes Gough Whitlam (1972-1975), Malcolm Fraser (1975-1983) and Bob Hawke (1983-1991). The desk is also associated with the House of Representatives Wing, which provides a physical record of the difficult working conditions of parliamentarians, staff and press representatives over the period 1943-1988.

The Prime Minister’s Desk is significant as a component of the furniture collection, which comprises those pieces of furniture which were used in the Provisional Parliament House prior to 1988. The collection includes significant pieces of furniture which were not originally designed with the building, but were later added to accommodate the changing requirements of the building during refurbishments between the 1940’s and 1970’s. The collection has associations with the process of government, the ceremonial, administrative, promotional and recreational functions conducted within the House, and with the individuals who governed Australia between 1927 and 1988.

The building is a primary example of the Inter War Stripped Classical style of architecture prominent in Canberra’s government architecture of the 1920s to 1940s. The characteristic expression of the building’s style is due to the design work of the Commonwealth’s first government architect, John Smith Murdoch. The Old Parliament House building has a richness of internal fabric and collections, which include the purpose designed furniture and furnishings, that convey the way in which parliamentary functions were conducted, the everyday use of the building, and the hierarchical nature of parliamentary staffing practices. This furniture is significant as it has remained within the building for which it was designed.

  • Prime Minister’s Desk - Image from the Old Parliament House CollectionPrime Minister’s Desk - Image from the Old Parliament House Collection

Details

Width 1980mm
Height 740mm
Depth 1210mm
Medium Black bean; timber; brass; vinyl
Creator’s name Unknown
Date created Circa 1972