Coloured invitation printed on card to a Conversazione, an evening event held in the Exhibition Building on the evening of Tuesday 7 May 1901 as part of the Australian Commonwealth Celebrations. The invitation was sent to Professor Walter Baldwin Spencer MA and Mrs Spencer.

The invitation was designed by GBH Austin and was printed by Sands & McDougall Ltd. Austin's original design is in the Watson papers at the National Library of Australia.

George Brougham Hubert Austin (1859 -1921) was a Melbourne architect and artist who was employed for many years by the Victorian Department of Public Works where he designed the La Trobe Street Courts. He also designed many of the public decorations that festooned Melbourne during the Federation celebrations in 1901.

Physical Description

The invitation shows an etching of the Exhibition Building, surrounded by an ornate border of heraldic shields, portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, views of Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Hobart, native flora (including wattle, waratah, pink heath, Sturt's desert pea, and flannel flower), and native fauna (kookaburra, possum, lyre bird, cockatoo and koala). The royal crest 'Dieu et mon droit' and the Australian crest 'Advance Australia' are also included.


On 9 May 1901 the Exhibition Building hosted the opening of the first Federal Parliament, where the new federal parliamentarians were sworn in, before an audience of 12,000 dignitaries and their families. Prime Minister Barton wanted the event to be as inclusive as possible and no other public building in Australia could accommodate such a large group of people.

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 Exhibition Building was the venue for many of the events during the week of celebrations which included the opening, a conversazione, evening reception and state schools fete.

Following the opening, the new Federal Parliament sat in Victorian Parliament House until 1927 when Parliament House (now old Parliament House) in Canberra was completed. During this time Victoria's State Parliament sat in a specially designed chamber in the Western Annex of the Exhibition Building.

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