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In a changing world, freedom needs more than a fence to defend it

Romaldo Giurgola, the architect who designed Parliament House, designed a building that speaks to us more powerfully than any civics lesson. Unlike other capitals, ours has no steps leading to its entrance because the Parliament is not above the people. Understanding Australia’s informal and egalitarian ethos Giurgola, designed a building which allowed the people to walk over the top of it.

However, this masterpiece is changing before our eyes. New fences and guard houses have been placed at the back of the building and a big pool fence has been erected along the front lawns that lead to the Parliament’s apex.

The temporary pool fence and the expected permanent fence change the way we see the building and in turn, the parliament it shelters.

When I first worked in Parliament House in the early 1990s, the building was mostly called “new parliament house”. It didn’t quite have the new paint smell, but the gardens were still taking shape and the building had the feel of a suit that was one size too big. Like most young and inexperienced staffers who have worked in that building, I strode through it feeling like a colossus.

When I returned as a staffer 20 years later, the building was different and so was I. This time the building seemed permanent and I felt temporary. My steps were softer as I savoured the weight of history that was accumulating in every part of the building and its precincts.

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