Skip to main content
Home

History of the grounds

The grounds of Parliament House are a venue for important ceremonies and civic functions, as well as for public rallies about issues that are important to the community.

Since the construction of Parliament House in 1904, the grounds have evolved considerably, principally due to the excision of land for road widening, the extension of the Mitchell Freeway, building developments and due to a focus on native vegetation, heritage, conservation and security.

The initial development of the Parliament House grounds reflects an emerging interest in the early part of this century in the beautification of the city and the image of Perth as a garden city. Between 1904 and 1914 the focus was on tree planting with about 1 950 trees planted, concentrated on the north and east sides of Parliament House.

Impressive hedges, thought to be cypress, were also planted along the fence line bordering Harvest Terrace, Hay Street and Malcolm Street.

In the late 1920s, cypress pines were removed as a consequence of the widening of Malcom Street and the impending construction of the circus at the entrance to Kings Park. The land was graded to form the bank that is now evident within the Parliament House grounds adjacent to Malcolm Street and the Council planted Moreton Bay figs at the top of the bank. Poplars were also planted at the foot of the hill to screen what was viewed as the unsightly Barracks buildings. 

The late 1950s and early 1960s, specifically the construction of the eastern facade of Parliament House, produced the built form and landscaping that is now visible from the City of Perth and approaches to the city. Lawns, trees, flowerbeds and rose beds were concentrated on the north and east sides of the building.

This period also saw the incorporation of native Western Australian plants that were largely unknown as horticultural plants at that time. The planting scheme of the 1960s was seen to be highly innovative.

The construction of the eastern facade in the 1960s and new roads and a carpark significantly reduced the area available for garden development. A number of mature trees, hedges and flowerbeds were removed from the eastern part of the grounds and the whole southern section was redeveloped. Planting plans prepared in the late 1950s focus on plants for the new carpark and the sunken garden on the south side of the building. The scheme included an informal massing of trees, an avenue of eucalypts on both sides of the driveway and a continuous border of mixed hibiscus shrubs along the Harvest Terrace boundary replacing the tall hedge of old cypress pines.

Further planting designs in the 1960s were prepared for other areas affected by the works, including tree planting on the northern driveway and continuation of the hibiscus hedge on Harvest Terrace along the Malcolm Street bank. The focus of these plantings was an appreciation of local flora and its uniqueness, as well as conservation.

Establishing plants based on water wise principles has been a significant focus since the 1990s. The 2000s saw landscaping at the western side of Parliament House with removal of pencil pines, and replacement with grass and flowerbeds. The streetscape was also upgraded by the City of Perth with the planting of tuart trees.

In recent years, extensive planning has gone into the gardens at Parliament House to ensure that plants from the different regions of the state, such as the South West, goldfields, midwest, Gascoyne, Pilbara and Kimberley are represented. The regions that frame the main (eastern) entrance demonstrate a deliberate intention by the Parliament to show the community that Parliament House is the people’s house and that it represents every person living in the state of Western Australia.

Parliament House has prepared a Guide to the Building and Gardens at Parliament House, which will enable visitors to take a self-guided tour of the external architectural features of the building, and the Parliament House gardens.

Spring is the best time to walk through the gardens when they are alive with flowering natives and other flowering plants.

You are welcome to take photographs in the grounds of Parliament House, although please note that as Parliament House is a working building, restrictions apply to photography within the building and its internal courtyard.

You may also wish to participate in a free scheduled tour of the inside of Parliament House. Public tours are held three times weekly and leave from the main (eastern) entrance. Other tours which require a booking, are also available.