The Parliamentary Zone, a key-hole shaped area of land bounded by State Circle, Commonwealth and Kings Avenues and Lake Burley Griffin, has a pre-eminent role in the National Capital as, arguably, Australia's most significant and symbolic public space.

In 1998, the Australian Government announced that the National Capital Authority would undertake a strategic review of the Parliamentary Zone and initiate the development of a master plan. This master plan would revitalise the Parliamentary Zone and enhance its cultural, social and political significance.

The objective of the Review was to refresh and promulgate the historical vision for the Parliamentary Zone and to provide an innovative and practical procedure for translating that vision into reality. It provided scope for an expanded set of opportunities to emerge in relation to the National Capital and its prime symbolic area.

The Review considered a range of issues including:

  • interpretation of the Parliamentary Zone for all Australians and visitors to the capital, as well as promotion of a positive profile for the Parliamentary Zone
  • integration of existing programs such as the cultural programs of commemorations, conservation of heritage landscapes, signage on buildings and the Central National Area lighting strategy
  • the significance of heritage issues, including indigenous culture
  • research and analysis related to the site and its context
  • awareness of the needs of all existing building users
  • traffic and parking
  • potential funding and implementation strategies.

Advisory panel

The Parliamentary Zone review was guided by an Advisory Panel comprised of people from a variety of backgrounds, including architecture and landscape architecture, planning, public relations and marketing, the media and environment and academia. The Panel provided a sounding board for the development of ideas and programs as well as allow access by the Authority to an increased field of expertise and high calibre experience.
The Panel was Chaired by James Birrell. Other members of the Panel were:

  • Professor James Weirick
  • Romaldo Giurgola
  • Geraldine O'Brien
  • Michael Ball.

Parliamentary Zone Review Outcomes report

In 2000, the Parliamentary Zone Review Advisory Panel concluded their work and published the Parliamentary Zone Review Outcomes report.
The Statement of Principles for the Parliamentary Zone established by the report stated that:

The Parliamentary Zone will be given meaning as:

The place of the people, accessible to all Australians so that they can more fully understand and appreciate the collective experience and rich diversity of this country.

To do this, the place of the people must reflect:

  • the political and cultural role of Australia's Capital
  • federation and Australian democracy
  • the achievements of individual Australians in all areas of endeavour
  • the diversity of Australia, its peoples, natural environments, cultures and heritage
  • the unique qualities of Australian creativity and craftsmanship.

The place of the people must have:

  • a sense of scale, dignity and openness
  • a cohesive and comprehensible layout
  • a large forum for public ceremony and debate
  • intimate, enjoyable spaces for individuals and groups
  • a dynamic program of national, state and regional events
  • public facilities that are accessible and affordable.

This statement underpinned the subsequent objectives, intentions and initiatives for the Parliamentary Zone. The Statement of Objectives stated that in order to realise the Parliamentary Zone as the 'place of the people' it would be important to:

  • balance politics and culture
  • welcome people
  • celebrate Australian history and society
  • represent Australian excellence
  • emphasise the importance of the public realm
  • make access easy and open
  • reinforce the integrity of the visual structure
  • strengthen the relationship between buildings and landscape
  • create a variety of urban spaces
  • establish comprehensive design management polices for the future.

For each objective, a series of intentions were stated which would guide all developmental and cultural and physical planning and management. The initiatives associated with each of these intentions were the major works, plans, policies and other projects that addressed the intentions.

The recommended initiatives arising from the review evolved from an appreciation of the role and significance of the Parliamentary Zone, a critical appraisal of previous schemes for the area, an assessment of its present and future needs, an understanding of Australia's perceptions of their National Capital, and wide consultation. The initiatives responded to the needs of the national institutions located in the Zone, and the aspirations of Australians for their National Capital.

The initiatives were considered robust, achievable and vital to the National Capital. Chief amongst these were a new major lakeside public space, several new pedestrian spaces, the development of a 'campus' planning system, a cultural policy and a walking track to interpret Australian history and achievements.

A Statement of Implementation set targets for key works to mark the Centenary of Federation in 2001 and for Canberra's centenary in 2013, as well as outlining the staging of works until 2050.

The Statements of Principles, Objectives and Intentions, along with policy statements and an indicative development plan were incorporated into the National Capital Plan through Amendment 33 (gazetted in 2001).

Further information

For further information regarding the Parliamentary Zone Review, amendments to the National Capital Plan or if you are experiencing problems accessing any of the content, contact Rebecca Sorensen on (02) 6271 2888.