Crawford, MC & Keast, RL 2009, '21st Century politics: new faces/new spaces', paper presented to Australian Political Studies Association Annual Conference, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, 28-30 September.
Politics has been described as a man’s game and a man’s place. Further, the design of houses of politics also embeds this dominant masculine ethos. Traditional Chambers have been large with only limited seating arrangements ensuring that only privileged elite can participate and both officials and the public are located at some distance and separate from the elected officials. Such a Chamber ensures that Members need to face each other and the dominant interaction is adversarial. Within this system however, women have been able to carve out new spaces, or use existing ones in different ways, to become more involved with the mechanisms of parliament and provide alternative routes to leadership. In doing so, they have introduced elements of the private domain (nurturing, dialogue and inclusion) to the public domain. The way in which space is used is fundamental and its treatment has consequences for individuals, organizations and societies (Clegg and Kornberger 2006). Dale’s (2005) work emphasises the social character of architecture which recognises the impact which it has on the behaviours of individuals and nowhere is this more pertinent than the way the Australian Parliament House operates. This paper draws on the experiences of Australian parliamentarians to examine the way in which the new Australian Parliament House shapes the way in which the Australian political cultural norms and practices are shaped and maintained. It also seeks to explore the way the Members of Parliament (MPs) experience these spaces and how some MPs have been able to bring new ways of utilising the space to ensure it is more accommodating to the men and women who inhabit this building at the apex of Australia’s political life. In doing so, such MPs are seeking to ensure that the practices and processes of Australia’s political system are reflective of the men and women who inhabit this national institution in the beginning of the 21st century.