Under the Dome at the Exhibition, an illustration of the opening of Federal Parliament, 1901.
Source: Museum Victoria
Opening of the First Commonwealth Parliament of Australia
The atmosphere was radiant and illuminated the vast spaces of the building and the great sea of faces with a bright Australian glow. A sight never to be forgotten was the assemblage which, in perfect order but with exalted feeling, awaited the arrival of the Duke and Duchess in the great avenues which branch out from beneath the vast dome of the Exhibition Building. (Argus 10 May 1901)
On 9 May 1901, the Royal Exhibition Building hosted the opening of the first Federal Parliament. Prime Minister Barton wanted it to be as inclusive as possible. No other public building could accommodate such a large group of people, and the organisers were eager to make the occasion spectacular and memorable. The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York visited Melbourne for the event, creating great excitement as they attended receptions, processions and other functions held in their honour. Melbourne's streets and buildings were elaborately decorated, and people from all over Australia visited for the celebrations surrounding the opening.
The Duke and the Governor-General, Lord Hopetoun, read speeches and prayers, including a message from the King, and then the federal parliamentarians were sworn in before an audience of 12 000 dignitaries and their families. After the long process of negotiation, drafting the constitution and referendums leading up to Federation, the Commonwealth of Australia had its first elected Federal Government.