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Desk #1999-1334Clerk of the Senate’s Office, President of the Senate’s Suite, North Wing, Main Floor

Queensland maple pedestal desk; plain top with raised circles on the apron, resting on two pedestals; each pedestal has a lockable cupboard on one end and three drawers on the other, with incised square columns on each corner; on block feet.


This desk was used by the President of the Senate until the 1972 extensions, and the Clerk of the Senate from 1972 to 1988. It was designed in 1926 by the Federal Capital Commission Architects Department, led by principal architect John Smith Murdoch, specifically for Provisional Parliament House. This piece was built by one of the six firms (Myer Emporium Pty Ltd, Melbourne; Anthony Hordern and Sons, Sydney; A Pengelly and Co, Adelaide; W H Rocke and Co, Melbourne; Beard Watson & Co Ltd, Sydney; Bebarfalds Ltd, Sydney) that were contracted to construct Murdoch’s designs. It is made of Queensland maple.

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This desk is significant as one of four pieces of this design to have survived from the period, all provided for the four corner suites of the Provisional Parliament House. Although in keeping with the Stripped Classical style of the building, its ornamentation with both the roundels and the crossed squares with which Murdoch denoted important sites and axes in the buildings inscribes it with the importance of the functions it is associated with.

This desk is significant as an item of furniture in the Heritage Collection through its association with the President of the Senate’s suite. This desk was used by the Presidents of the Senate between 1927 and 1972, and the Clerks of the Senate between 1972 and 1988, associating it with important political people in Australian history.

This desk is significant as a component of the Heritage Collection, which comprises those pieces of furniture which were used in the Provisional Parliament House between 1924 and 1988. The collection has associations with the process of government, the ceremonial, administrative, promotional and recreational functions conducted within the building, 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.


Width 1950mm
Height 745mm
Depth 1200mm
Medium Queensland maple; timber; metal
Creator’s name Federal Capital Commission Architects Department
Date created 1926