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President’s Chair #1999-1437Senate Chamber, North Wing, Main Floor

A maple Presiding Officer’s Chair with an arch crested top rail with a central roundel moulding flanking a pair of triangular mouldings; the moulded side rails with scroll cresting; padded back, elbow rests and seat upholstered in red leather; the arm with scroll terminals; circular moulding on the rear of the chair back; circular cresting on tapering square section legs with block feet.


The President’s Chair was presented to the Senate by the Government of the Dominion of Canada to mark the opening of Provisional Parliament House in 1927, and is one of only two recorded international gifts of ceremonial furniture (the other being the Speaker’s Chair in the House of Representatives). The Chair was made in Canada with the approval of John Smith Murdoch, the architect of Provisional Parliament House and designer of its furniture, who provided preliminary drawings and samples of the blackwood and leather to be used in the Chamber. The President’s Chair was manufactured using Canadian maple and leather. While the full complement of furniture was installed for the opening of Parliament in the new building on 9 May 1927, the President of the Senate’s Chair did not arrive until October 1927, and was used for the first time on 13 October 1927.

In 1935 the Graziers’ Federal Council of Australia petitioned the Prime Minister to replace the leather upholstery on the Chair with wool to emphasise the importance of the Australian wool industry, and in line with the Lord Chancellor’s Chair in the House of Lords in England which was upholstered in wool. The President of the Senate Patrick Lynch denied the request since it would alter a generous gift from the Canadian government and risk diplomatic repercussions, would not be practical in warm weather, and could open the floodgates to lobbying from other industry groups.

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Statement of values

The President’s Chair is a significant item of furniture through its association with the Senate Chamber. The Senate has outstanding significance as a venue for the debates, petitions and votes associated with sixty-one years of Australian legislature, and recognisable by its red upholstery. The chair was used in the Senate between 1927 and 1988, associating it with significant people in Australian political history, while also reflecting the formal and adversarial nature of debate, and the role of the Senate in the parliamentary process. The chair was used in the Senate as the President’s Chair between 1927 and 1988, associating it with significant people in Australian political history. These include John Newlands, the first President of the Senate to preside from the Chair, and Margaret Elizabeth Reid, the first woman President of the Senate. The significance of the President’s Chair is enhanced through its symbolic association with Australia’s role as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

The President’s Chair 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 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.

  • President’s Chair - Image from the Old Parliament House CollectionPresident’s Chair - Image from the Old Parliament House Collection
  • President’s Chair (then) - Image from the Old Parliament House CollectionPresident’s Chair (then) - Image from the Old Parliament House Collection
  • President’s Chair (plans) - Old Parliament House CollectionPresident’s Chair (plans) - Old Parliament House Collection


Width 650mm
Height 1430mm
Depth 640mm
Medium Canadian maple; leather; timber
Creator’s name Unknown
Date created Circa 1927