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Parliament House Canberra, 1927


4. The Opening Ceremony, 1927

Image 17: Mounted police riding past troops outside Parliament House during rehearsal for the opening.

Image 17: Mounted police riding past troops outside Parliament House during rehearsal for the opening.
NAA: A3560, 3112
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The planning for the opening ceremony occupied almost twelve months from theannouncement of the event on 26 May 1926. It was to be the high point of the tour of Australia by Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York.

A Commonwealth Director of the Royal Tour (Major-General C B B White CA 1052) was appointed to coordinate all activities of the tour. In Canberra a Royal Visit Section was established within the Federal Capital Commission to arrange the Canberra section of the visit and the opening of Parliament House. The major correspondence is contained in series created by these two agencies. This covers the arrival of the Duke and Duchess in Canberra, the development of the program of events for 9 May, the issuing of official invitations, accommodation and transport for official guests, provision of facilities for the public and the press, construction of outside stands and extra seating in the Senate chamber and all other activities needed to organise the event.

The correspondence directly reflects the problems encountered by the organising committee: the lack of accommodation, transport, food outlets, indeed lack of most facilities needed to mount an event of this scale. Although couched in polite, official terms the frustration of the organisers is evident. The Commonwealth Director and John Butters had cause to use the following wording or something similar many times when confronted with the request to include yet another worthy citizen on the guest list:

... space in the Senate Chamber, and accommodation within the hostels in being at the Federal Capital, have perforce compelled us to withhold invitations from many persons to whom under normal conditions, and in recognition of valued services rendered, we would like to have issued them.31

The correspondence reflects the very strong links Australia had not just with Great Britain but with the British Commonwealth or Empire. The Empire as an entity of mutually supporting countries under the umbrella of Britain is very evident. Great Britain is referred to as the 'Mother Country' and the development of Canberra is regarded as an integral part of 'the development of this great British Commonwealth'.32

Image 18: The Duchess of York receiving a bouquet.

Image 18: The Duchess of York receiving a bouquet.
NAA: A3560, 3052
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L S Amery, Secretary of State for the Colonies, wrote from Britain:

[We] are confident that to-day's ceremony will be prelude to yet greater development of the resources and well-being of Australia for the advantage not only of the Commonwealth but of the Empire as a whole.33

The records convey that the opening of Parliament House and hence the establishment of the Seat of Government in its own home was the real launching of Australia as a new, united country. That this country was to be essentially British was well understood. Prime Minister Bruce in his speech at the opening ceremony said:

Today it is our solemn duty to reaffirm our faith in our country, and our devotion to the Crown and Empire ... In the future, millions of the British race will people this continent. In numbers surpassing the motherland, standing resolutely for those principles of freedom and justice upon which the Empire is based, who can foretell how great may be the part our nation will play in the years to come.34

Although the opening ceremony may have received some criticism and was not as well attended by the public as hoped, it achieved the international recognition desired. Congratulatory messages came from around the world. While interesting for their content, these messages also reflect world politics at the time, including its imperial nature. From the Kingdom of Netherlands came:

an expression of sincere goodwill and the desire that the ties of cordial relationship, existing between Great Britain and Holland will be further cultivated and strengthened between Australia and its nearest foreign neighbour, Netherlands India. The task of developing large tropical territories which is common to both Governments in New Guinea, will – it is hoped – be another factor in cementing the friendship which is characteristic of the mutual relationship.35

CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1903-38

This series was the general filing system of the agencies shown above. The series covers a wide range of subjects and contains thousands of files. Several files have been identified that cover the construction and opening of Parliament House.

Some items are listed on RecordSearch and paper listings are available. Reference staff can help researchers use the lists and other indexes to locate further information.

Series: A1
Opening of Parliament at Canberra File No 2 1927/199
Police Protection Opening of Parliament at Canberra 1927/1256
Catering Arrangements during opening of Parliament Canberra 1927/4412
CANBERRA COMMUNITY NEWS (MASTER SET), 1925-27

This series is 23 volumes from the news magazine issued monthly by the Federal Capital Commission as the publicity organ of the Commission's Social Service Department and its Committees. It mainly deals with the community life of the city. Articles cover schools, playgrounds, infant health, sport, entertainment, the Causeway Hall, the building of residential cottages and the activities in the Bachelors' Quarters and builders' camps. These volumes are a delightful account of the life of the 'ordinary' people in the early years of Canberra.

Series: A429
Quantity: 0.27 metres in Canberra
Recorded by: Federal Capital Commission (CA 226)
Canberra Community News – Volume 2, No. 8 – May 9, 1927 20
Canberra Community News – Volume 2, No. 9 – June 11, 1927 21
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1899-1939

This is a large series covering all subjects which came to the attention of the Prime Minister. Items A120/7 – W120/7 deal with the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra and the opening of Parliament House. Items 748/3 – Z748/3 and AA748/3 – AO748/3 refer to the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1927. Many of these items are relevant to the opening of Parliament House.

Some items are listed on RecordSearch and paper listings are available. Reference staff can help researchers use the lists and other indexes to locate further information.

Series: A458
Quantity: 49.77 metres in Canberra
Recorded by: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Federal Territories Opening of Federal Parliament, Canberra. Invitations to Ceremony, Official J120/7
Opening of Federal Parliament, Canberra. Invitations. General. K120/7
Canberra. Opening of Parliament. Congratulatory messages S120/7
Visits. Duke and Duchess of York 1927. Commemorative Medal of Opening G748/3
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1901-50

The series consists of general correspondence files which cover the wide range of subjects that came to the Prime Minister's attention. This is a very large series. Several files have been identified that cover the construction and opening of Parliament House.

Some items are listed on RecordSearch and paper listings are available. Reference staff can help researchers use the lists and other indexes to locate further information.

Series: A461
Quantity: 144 metres in Canberra
Recorded by: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Federal Parliament House General A4/1/10
Canberra. Opening of Parliament House General C4/1/10
Parliament House, Canberra President's Chair Senate I4/1/10
Parliament Houses. Speaker's Chair Part 1 H4/1/10 part 1
Rangachariar, Dewan B – Indian representative at opening of Parliament, Canberra 5573
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, LETTER PREFIX, SECRET AND CONFIDENTIAL SERIES, 1903-44

The series consists of files of papers covering a wide variety of subjects that came to the Prime Minister's attention.

Series: A1606
Quantity: 5.67 metres in Canberra
Recorded by: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Opening of Parliament – Canberra 1927 A32/1
Canberra opening of Parliament. Official invitations to overseas delegates D32/1 part 1
Canberra opening of Parliament, invitations to Dominions representatives, South African representative D32/1 part 2
Canberra opening of Parliament, invitations to Dominions representatives, New Zealand representative D32/1 part 3
Canberra opening of Parliament, invitations to Dominions representatives, Canadian representative D32/1 part 4
Canberra opening of Parliament, invitations to Prime Minister of Great Britain D32/1 part 5
Canberra opening of Parliament, invitations to Prime Minister of Newfoundland D32/1 part 6
Canberra opening of Parliament, invitations to Prime Minister of Irish Free State D32/1 part 7
Visits – Duke of York 1927 B40/1
Their Royal Highness the Duke and Duchess of York, invitation to perform ceremony of the official opening of Canberra, May 1927 B40/1 attachment
GLASS LANTERN SLIDES OF THE 1927 OPENING OF FEDERAL PARLIAMENT AND OTHER CONTEMPORARY CANBERRA SCENES, 1927

The slides were presented in 1947 to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Hon. Mr John Solomon Rosevear, in whose private vault the slides were housed. Their functional origin and creator are unknown.

Series: A3348
Quantity: 50 slides, 50 negatives and 50 photographic copies in Canberra and 50 photographic copies held by Department of the House of Representatives.
Recorded by: Department of the House of Representatives (CA 692)
TRH Duke and Duchess of York being greeted on the steps of Parliament House 3
View of Kings Hall, Parliament House 12
Royal party on the steps of Parliament House with Prime Minister, Rt Hon. S M Bruce 31
MILDENHALL COLLECTION OF GLASS PLATE NEGATIVES, 1913-45

This series consists of over 7,000 glass plate negatives mainly of Canberra and the surrounding area. Most of them were taken by William James Mildenhall who was employed in the Federal Capital Territory from 1921. His time as Information Officer seems to have included recording photographically the growth of Canberra. Hundreds of photographs of the provisional Parliament House are scattered throughout the series. These include all phases of construction and views of the finished building from all aspects. There are also extensive photographs of the interior of the building and the gardens. The plates have been copied by the National Archives and prints are available for public consultation in the Reading Room of the National Office in Canberra. There is an alphabetical subject index. The photographs relevant to the provisional Parliament House are mainly under 'Parliament House'.

The series contains numerous photographs of the Opening Ceremony at Parliament House and the subsequent review of troops in York Park.

Series: A3560
Photographs covering the Royal Visit and Opening Ceremony and Review 2991–3154
Proceedings in Senate Chamber during Opening Ceremony 3184–3187
FOLDERS OF COPIES OF CABINET PAPERS, 1901-

This series consists of copies of the following types of Cabinet, War Cabinet and Cabinet committee papers: agenda/business lists, submissions, minutes of meetings listing matters considered and related decisions and decisions on individual matters considered with or without submission. The series is an artificial accumulation comprising copies of papers located in the course of access examination, mainly in departmental files and personal archives held in National Archives.

This series has recently been microfilmed and reference copies are now available for public use in all National Archives' reading rooms.

This series is listed on RecordSearch. There is also a guide to Cabinet papers and an alphabetical index to these and other Cabinet papers in the reading room of the National office, Canberra.

Series: A6006
Representatives of Dominions to be invited to opening of Parliament House Canberra 1926/12/31
Opening Ceremony at Canberra 1927/06/01
Royal Visit to Canberra – Holidays 1927/12/31
Cost of Royal Visit to Canberra 1927/12/31
CORRESPONDENCE AND ADMINISTRATIVE FILES, 'DY' (DUKE OF YORK) PREFIX, 1860-1928

This is the principal record series of the Commonwealth Director of the Royal Tour of 1927, being correspondence and administrative files arranged in a multiple number sequence according to general subject headings. This series covers the whole of the Royal Tour with many files relating to the opening ceremony in Canberra. There are many requests for invitations and letters making suggestions for music, dances etc to be included.

Series: A6680
Quantity: 3.66 metres in Canberra
Recorded by: 1926: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12); Director of Royal Tour (CA 1052); 1926: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Offer of Dame Nellie Melba to sing at opening of Parliament DY25/5
Canberra programme file and general arrangements at Canberra (6 files with this title) DY25A–F
Incidence of Cost Canberra Royal Visit DY36/9
Luncheon – Parliament House, Canberra DY44/4
Reports on Royal Visit 1927
This file gives a final report on the whole Royal Visit including the Canberra component. Of particular interest is a full list of invited guests with names and titles and whether they accepted or not.
DY73/1
ADMINISTRATIVE AND GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ROYAL VISIT 1927, 1926-29

This series records the planning and arrangements made by the Federal Capital Commission for the ceremonial opening of Parliament House on 9 May 1927. The files contain correspondence, cables, schedules, maps, plans, financial statements and estimates etc. This includes planning the reception, accommodation, security, catering, transport, parking invitations to functions, presentations, opening of Parliament etc.

Series: A6976
Quantity: 1 metre in Canberra
Recorded by: Federal Capital Commission, Royal Visit Section (CA 226)
Accommodation. Public and motor cars 1 part 1
Public catering RV IIb 11B
Chess match. Commonwealth Parliament v House of Commons 31A
Invitations to functions – public 21
Musical features at opening ceremony 28
Programme. Official opening Parliament House, part 1 39 part 1
Programme. Official opening Parliament House, part 2

These two files contain details of the full development and carrying out of the Opening Ceremony. Part 2 contains a report from the Chief Commissioner Sir John Butters on the ceremony outlining how it was planned, the problems encountered and the actual execution of the ceremony.

39 part 2
Stands. Official (and decorations) 49
UNREGISTERED CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ROYAL VISIT 1927, 1926-27
Series: A6977
Quantity: 0.18 metres in Canberra
Recorded by: Federal Capital Commission, Royal Visit Section (CA 226)
Arrangements for Royal Visit 1
Badges 2
Correspondence Tent Hires 3
Royal Visit 1927 – Data for Brochure 4
Royal Visit Erection of Stands in Parliament House Grounds – for general public 5
Bookings NRMA and RAC (VIC) 6
Royal Visit 1927. Parliament House arrangements 7
Police, traffic and Parking, Camping Committee 8
Sample Tickets etc 9
Stands 10
Receipts for Tickets 11
Suspense Act. (Account) Parking and Camping cars 12
Receipt forms parking areas 13
Ushers 14
Programme of Events 15
Guest and travel lists for opening of Parliament House 16
Catering for the Public at Canberra 17
Transport Arrangements for May 8, 9 and 10 18
ROYAL VISIT 1927, OPENING CEREMONY FILE INDEX, 1926-27

The series consists of multiple copies of an index of files, one card, marked 'File schedule', two cards detailing the extra (A, B, C) files, one card marked 'Marking Register' and two cards with the file lists pasted on to them all, inside a Federal Capital Commission folder. These are the control records for A6976.
Series: A6978
Quantity: 0.01 metres in Canberra
Recorded by: Federal Capital Commission, Royal Visit Section (CA 226)

ROYAL VISIT 1927: ACTION OUTSTANDING REGISTER, 1927

This is a handwritten register of 20 large format sheets attached to a Federal Capital Commission file cover. It is ruled into columns from left to right: Name or Number of file; matters outstanding; date referred; to whom referred; remarks. It appears to have served as a check list to ensure completion of outstanding tasks prior to the arrival of the Royal visitors. Five printed booklets of directions for invited guests are clipped to the register. These are the control records for A6976.

Series: A6979
Quantity: 0.01 metres in Canberra
Recorded by: Federal Capital Commission, Royal Visit Section (CA 226)
FCC RECORDS RELATING TO THE ROYAL VISIT, 1927

This series contains papers of various committees charged by the Federal Capital Commission to oversee different aspects of the Royal Visit and Opening Ceremony

Series: CP325/6
Quantity: 0.30 metres in Canberra
Recorded by: Federal Capital Commission (CA 226)
Royal Visit 1927. Stands and Decorations Committee. bundle 1
Royal Visit 1927. Public Entertainment Committee bundle 1
Royal Visit Newspapers Criticism.
Cuttings from newspapers criticising the treatment of overseas representatives and senior parliamentarians and their wives. Also criticism of the perceived bungling by the over estimation of public attendance and the restrictions placed on car users.
bundle 1
Royal Visit Parliament House. Official Handing over of Goods.
Losses of items from hotels and Parliament House during the Royal Visit. Items include cutlery, glasses, jugs, dishes, bed linen and kitchen towels.
bundle 1
Royal Visit, 1927. Cinematography Committee. bundle 1
Royal Visit, 1927. State Luncheon and Public Reception Committee. bundle 1
Royal Visit, 1927. Housing And Provisioning Committee.
Contains a list of the official guests.
bundle 1
Royal Visit, 1927. Medical and Sanitary Committee. bundle 1
Royal Visit, 1927. Public Reception Committee and Official Luncheon Committee. bundle 1
Royal Visit, 1927. Official Cars Committee bundle 1
Royal Visit, 1927. Trees and Tree Planting (HRH) bundle 1
Royal Visit, 1927. Military Committee. bundle 1
Royal Visit, 1927. School Children Committee. bundle 1
Details of arranging the attendance of school children including letters from schools accepting the invitation. bundle 1
Royal Visit, 1927. Housing Provisioning Committee Proceedings. bundle 1
CORRESPONDENCE FILES OF THE CANBERRA SOCIAL SERVICE ASSOCIATION, 1925-31

The purpose of the Social Service Association was to establish social and sporting networks for the newly arrived Commonwealth employees in the Federal Capital Territory. The Association was also concerned with women and children's welfare. Several files also concern the efforts of the community in organising events to celebrate the Royal Visit to Canberra in 1927 for the opening of Parliament House.

Series: CP698/9
Quantity: 2.24 metre in Canberra
Recorded by: Canberra Social Service Association (CA 226)
Royal Visit – General – Correspondence of the Canberra Social Services Association, 1927–28 53/1
Canberra Social Services Association – correspondence regarding the royal visit by the Duke and Duchess of York to open Parliament House, 1926–27 53/2
Royal Visit – Public Entertainment Committee, 1927 53/3
NEWSPAPER CUTTINGS, PHOTOGRAPHS, LETTERS AND PRINTED MATERIAL RELATING TO THE WORK OF P L SHEAFFE IN CANBERRA, 1902-63

Many of the items, such as photographs and invitations, are related to projects in Canberra such as the original survey of the city and area (1910), the hammering of the first pegs (1913), the laying of the foundations for the Commencement Column (1913), the laying of the foundation stone for the Capital (1920) and the building and opening of Parliament House (1927). The photographs and newspaper cuttings give a good idea of life in early Canberra and how the city and attitudes to it have changed over the years.


Series: M4071
Quantity: 0.54 metres IN Canberra
Recorded by: Percy Lampriere Sheaffe (CP 53)
Newspaper cutting from the Canberra Times, 10 May 1927(?) giving the Official Programme for the opening of Parliament 72
Invitation to Miss Isabel Sheaffe to the establishment of the seat of government at Canberra, 9 May 1927 74
Synopsis of Programme of Official Opening of Parliament House, Canberra by HRH the Duke of York KG, 9 May 1927 75
All notes

31 NAA: A458, J120/7, Federal Territories Opening of Federal Parliament Canberra. Invitations to Ceremony, Official.

33 NAA: A1606, B40/1 Attachment, Their Royal Highness the Duke and Duchess of York. Invitation to perform ceremony of the official opening of Canberra in May 1927.

33 NAA: A1606, S120/7, Canberra Opening of Parliament. Congratulatory Messages.

34 Hansard, 9 May 1927, pp. 1–2.

35 NAA: A1606, S120/7, Canberra Opening of Parliament. Congratulatory Messages.


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