Record crowds flock to Canberra’s Government House open day

Updated October 07, 2017 17:10:06

The long queues stretching from the grand doors of Government House for its annual open day would have made any real estate agent proud.

But the owners are not selling — and one peek inside reveals why.

Today thousands of Canberrans seized a rare opportunity to gain that peek, walking the spectacular hallways that are home to the Queen’s vice-regal representative.

This year’s open day boasted bigger crowds than ever, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove confirmed as he greeted visitors at the entrance to the Yarralumla residence.

“It’s a fantastic day – the weather is perfect of course,” Sir Peter said.

“What has really thrilled me is two things — the response by Canberrans and tourists coming out today.

“This is a record-breaking crowd.”

By lunchtime 4,500 people had admired the home’s lakeside views and walked through the impressive main hallway, dining halls and drawing rooms.

Queues were banked up almost to the opening of Dunrossil Drive. Those at the front had autographs signed, took selfies and even engaged in some friendly banter with Sir Peter.

“What happened to your team?” Sir Peter playfully asked some Geelong fans, referring to their AFL grand final loss.

History-lovers enjoyed viewing the many special medals and portraits hung on the walls.

Some families preferred to play sports, eat ice-cream and relax on the vast, soft lawns.

The 1970 Rolls Royce parked outside the back entrance was a crowd favourite (and no, it is not used for grocery shopping).

Official driver William Kelly said even the boss only rode in it a few times a year, including for the ADFA Parade and on the Queen’s Birthday.

“It’s been here since the 70s,” Mr Kelly said.

“It’s used for ceremonial purposes. New ambassadors come here, get sworn in by the Governor General, get a police escort and a ceremonial parade.”

The car weighs 2.5 tonnes and is 6 metres long, but Mr Kelly would not reveal the price tag.

“It’s priceless though, because of the people who have been in it,” he said

Many Canberrans left the property in awe of its origins and architecture, which are unlike Government Houses of the state capitals.

Most State Government Houses were built in Queen Victoria’s reign as her vice-regal representatives’ homes, whereas the first 80 years of the Yarralumla building were wholly pastoral; the only traces of its first owners are the choice of the site and name, a deodar tree and a sketch.

But not everyone walked out the doors wishing they could call the prominent property home.

“I loved all of the spectacular photographs,” Gungahlin resident Maureen McDonald said.

“But I wouldn’t to live in it. It’s a little bit over the top for us.”

Topics: government-and-politics, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted October 07, 2017 16:58:07