“Parliament House is like a mini city. We’ve got incredible teams of caterers, carpenters and everything in between. Visitors are amazed by the scale of it.”
When she was a girl, Catherine Roach and her family used to climb the grassy hill on which Parliament House stands and marvel at the panoramic views of Canberra. “We’d bring a picnic and kick a football around,” she says. “Then we’d roll all the way back down the hill.”
Today, as manager of visitor services at Parliament House, Catherine oversees dozens of staff who in turn look after thousands of visitors. But she still makes time to roll down the hill. “Last year, on the parliament’s open day, we even held a group roll-down with hundreds of people,” she says enthusiastically.
Catherine began working at Parliament House as a full-time tour guide five years ago. Despite her current responsibilities, she still leads the occasional tour, and says seeing people’s reactions “never gets old”. “Many people don’t realise how many areas of the building they can actually access,” she says. “We go into the chambers on non-sitting days and it’s a lovely experience for people knowing that this is where our laws are made. That sort of access is one of the great strengths of the building – and of Australia’s democracy.”
She particularly enjoys the More Than Politics Tour, which takes visitors behind-the-scenes to meet some of the hundreds of staff that keep Parliament House operating. “You become really immersed in the workings of the building,” she says. The tour concludes with an exclusive highlight: an afternoon tea usually reserved for visiting dignitaries.
Check tour availability and find out more about the range of tours and exhibitions available at Australian Parliament House and how to book here.
Credit: Catherine Roach, Manager Visitor Services, Australian Parliament House, Canberra.
Credit: Arthur Boyd (artist, 1920–1999) and Victorian Tapestry Workshop (interpretation and execution, established 1976), Great Hall Tapestry, in four panels, 1984–1988, Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra, ACT.
Credit: More than Politics Tour, Australian Parliament House, Canberra.