‘House of Representatives Visitors’ Gallery Upstairs…’ Sign #1999-1098
Blackwood sign; two rectangular faces with ‘HOUSE of REPRESENTATIVES VISITORS’ GALLERY UPSTAIRS / TO ENABLE AS MANY VISITORS AS POSSIBLE TO SEE THE HOUSE IN SESSION DURING THE PRESENT SCHOOL HOLIDAY PERIOD VISITORS ARE REQUESTED TO STAY IN THE GALLERIED NO LONGER THAN HALF AN HOUR THE CO-OPERATION OF VISITORS WOULD BE APPRECIATED / SERJEANT-AT-ARMS’ in gilt lettering, surrounded by rectangular frame with moulded edge and shaped top; on a square section pole with four curved brackets attached to a stepped round base on four feet.
This ‘House of Representatives Visitors’ Gallery Upstairs…’ sign was used in the Provisional Parliament House. The term ‘Members’ refers to parliamentarians elected to either the House of Representatives or the Senate. This sign would have been used mainly to indicate to visitors, or ‘strangers’, where they could and could not go in the building.
Visitors (which included school groups, other groups and members of the general public) were allowed to access certain areas of the Provisional Parliament House. They could enter King’s Hall, which was the venue for displaying many significant objects and portraits of prominent figures including Queen Elizabeth II, Governors-General, Prime Ministers, Presidents of the Senate and Speakers of the House of Representatives; and numerous official gifts presented to Parliament. Visitors could also sit in the public galleries on the second floor of the two Chambers and watch the proceedings below. Friends of parliamentarians could be invited to sit in the visitor’s area on the floor of the Chamber. Tours were also run for school groups and members of the general public. Much of the building however (such as the Party Rooms, the Parliamentary Library, the Members’ Dining Room and the billiards rooms) was off limits to the general public.
The term ‘visitors’ is a fairly new one in the Australian Parliament. ‘Strangers’ has been used by the British Parliament for centuries to describe people who are not Members, and this term was used in the Provisional Parliament House until 1967. In 1964 Joe Gloster, a visitor to the building, saw signs referring to ‘strangers’ and asked his tour guide who this referred to. He was horrified when he was told he was one and ‘vigorously replied that as a taxpayer he contributed to the upkeep of the building… [and] refused to be a stranger on his own property’ (Sun Herald (29 September 1967) ‘Stranger in House’). He made a complaint which was rejected by the Speaker at the time, Sir John McLeay. He continued to campaign for the removal of this word and finally in 1967 the new Speaker, Sir William Aston, agreed.