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Members’ Dining Room — M513Main Floor

The Members Dining Room (M513) constitutes the central section of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms of Provisional Parliament House and was an integral part of the building’s early design and development. Located in the South wing of the building, it provided dining and recreation facilities for both Members and Senators and played an important role in the Commonwealth Parliament, Government and nation hosting Royal visits, official State receptions and formal dinners for important guests. The various separate dining and bar facilities of the Refreshment Rooms were essential in ensuring the building was fully self-contained as originally intended and reflect the stratification of various classes of occupants of the building. This arrangement was especially relevant in its early life when women, kitchen and waiting staff, and senior officers such as the Clerks of the House of Representatives and the Senate, all had separate dining rooms.

Room M513 is one of the early surviving interiors of the building and reflects the austerity associated with the Inter War Stripped Classical style. The dining rooms tend to be simple spaces with little and subtle decoration. Classical references, such as the use of Greek decorative elements and patterning, are found in these interiors and the Members Dining Room is furnished in Queensland Maple with carpets of Australian wool. The north and south walls are divided into bays by pilasters, and this structural system is reflected in the spacing of boxed ceiling beams. The use of timber for wall or ceiling panelling, or moulded/coffered plaster ceilings also distinguishes the room from other spaces in the building.

Of the rooms that make up the Commonwealth Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms, M513’s high ceiling and clerestory windows, relatively large size, and finely detailed decorations suggest it was designed with the intent to host significant occasions. One such event was the 1954 Royal visit, when Prime Minister Menzies and his wife Pattie gave a Royal Banquet for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. In May 1980, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser held his 50th Birthday celebration in the Members Dining Room.

The facilities were also intended to provide some comfort and compensation for long sitting hours in the House and extended periods away from home and many casual meals and social events were held here. Crisp white tablecloths and sparkling silver cutlery welcomed members and senators to their party’s particular tables. Unlike in most Australian homes, waiters, and later waitresses, provided silver service. They dished up the politicians’ food from elegant silver platters directly onto their plates at the table. Together, chefs and dining room staff prepared hundreds of meals a day.

Room M513 is aligned with the Land Axis of the Parliamentary Triangle which constitutes the major axis through the building and reflects the strong symmetrical planning the building is based on. The Members’ Dining Room is one of several large and important interiors in the Old Parliament House building, and shares similarities with King’s Hall, the two Chambers and the main part of the former Library.

Read more about conservation work in the Members’ Dining Room