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Speaker’s Suite

The Speaker’s Suite celebrates the life and work of Joan Child, the first woman to become Speaker of the House of Representatives.


Main floor

Joan Child was the last Speaker to occupy this suite, before parliament moved up the hill. Explore the dining room where she hosted international delegations and VIPs, the desk she worked at, her bathroom (complete with Cedel hairspray and 4711 Eau de Cologne) and the office of her hardworking staff, just as it would’ve been in the mid-1980s.

A dinner table set up with china, white linens, silverware and white candles ready for a dinner party

Be transported back to one of Joan’s dinner parties.

A replica of the mace that was securely housed in Joan’s office

See a replica of the mace that was securely housed in the Speaker's office (the real one is at Australian Parliament House). Parliamentary proceedings can’t start until the Speaker is in the Chamber and the mace is placed in its cradles on the central table.

In the late 1960s, Joan Child was a young widow raising five sons on a pension. In 1974, at 53, she became the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives for the Australian Labor Party.

This professional colour photograph shows a busy and crowded open plan office in the Speaker’s Suite in 1988 – just a few months before parliament moved to Australian Parliament House. All five desks are occupied with Private Secretary Koula Alexiadis, Principal Private Secretary John Porter, Attendant Doug Mitchell, Assistant Private Secretary Wendy Barnes and Bookings Officer Marie Donnelly. Koula, John and Marie are all on the telephone while Doug and Wendy smile at the camera. Two desks cluttered with books, pens, staplers, old fashioned 80s computers, and a pinboard covered in papers.

Members of the Speaker’s staff - Koula Alexiadis, John Porter, Doug Mitchell, Wendy Barnes and Marie Donnelly - hard at work in the Speaker’s Suite, 1988. 

Photograph by Robert McFarlane, Department of the House of Representatives 

Plan your visit

There are small rooms and some narrow spaces.