King’s Hall — King’s HallNorth Wing, Main Floor
As a ceremonial space King’s Hall has been the location of important celebrations and receptions associated with Parliament. Some of the significant events associated with King’s Hall are: Prime Minister John Curtin lay in state beneath the statue of King George V, the day after his death on 5 July 1945; the Jubilee Ball held on 14 June 1951 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Federal Parliament, at which Prime Minister Menzies announced the death of Ben Chifley, the former Prime Minister and then Leader of the Opposition; and the first visit to Australia by a reigning British Monarch in 1954 when Queen Elizabeth II visited Canberra and opened Parliament, walking from King’s Hall to the Senate to deliver a speech to a full Chamber.
As the central reception area for the Provisional Parliament House and accessible to all lobbies, the Parliamentary Library, and both Chambers (the House of Representatives and the Senate), King’s Hall served as the central concourse for parliamentarians to meet their constituents or conduct informal discussions with members of the press. A Post Office located at the southern end of the Hall facilitated a constant stream of telegrams. A pneumatic tube ran from the Post Office to the Canberra GPO in nearby East Block for the transmission of the telegrams. The Post Office relocated to the lower floor near the main entrance in 1948.
During the life of the Provisional Parliament House, King’s Hall was the venue for displaying many significant objects including: the desk used by Queen Victoria for signing the Commission by which Royal Assent was given to the Constitution Bill; a copy of the Magna Carta; 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.
The bronze statue of King George V sculpted by Sir Bertram Mackennal has been a feature of King’s Hall since the opening of the building. Mounted on a Carerra marble pedestal base and located towards the rear of the Hall, an unencumbered view is afforded visitors arriving at the top of the entrance staircase. Several of the columns in the Hall were fitted with bas-relief plaques featuring key figures associated with responsible government in Australia, Federation and the first Australian Parliament. The plaques were cast in bronze by Paul Montford and feature: W. C. Wentworth, Sir Henry Parkes, Sir Edmund Barton, Sir George Reid, Sir Samuel Griffith, Sir Richard Baker (the first President of the Senate), Sir Frederick Holder (the first Speaker of the House of Representatives), and the Earl of Hopetoun (Australia’s first Governor-General). The plaques were added at the suggestion of the Speaker at the time of construction, W. A. Watt, and reflect his interest in portraiture as a positive force in transmitting political and social tradition. The statue of George V by Bertram Mackennal, described on the plinth as ‘Rex Imperator’, mirrors the statue of Queen Victoria in Queen’s Hall, Parliament House, Melbourne. It is a second casting of a statue originally commissioned for New Delhi and shows the King in Garter robes.