Hotel Kurrajong Canberra first opened in 1926 at the birth of the nation’s capital. It was designed by the Commonwealth Chief Architect, John Smith Murdoch, who is also famous for designing Old Parliament House. It first housed staff transferred from Melbourne to set up the new Parliament and it continued as a residence for Members of Parliament and public servants for years to come.
Hotel Kurrajong Canberra’s corridors are steeped in the capital’s political history. The hotel staff consider themselves proud custodians of its heritage, passionately sharing stories of its early days during guided tours. Its roots are reflected in the hotel’s beautiful Art Deco décor, nostalgic ambient lighting, jazz music and a lounge filled with books and artworks on the city’s political history and leaders.
Prime Minister Ben Chifley lived at the hotel throughout his parliamentary career, including his term as Prime Minister from 1945-1949 and up until his death in 1951. He preferred the Kurrajong’s comfortable, down-to-earth confines to The Lodge, enjoying the 700m walk each morning to Parliament House.
Chifley is remembered for establishing the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, Trans-Australian Airlines and Australian National University.
In Chifley’s most famous speech in 1949 he described the ‘light on the hill’ – the objective towards which he said the Australian labour movement must continually strive.
“I try to think of the Labour movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody’s pocket, or making somebody Prime Minister or Premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people. We have a great objective – the light on the hill – which we aim to reach by working for the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand.”
Hotel Kurrajong Canberra shares a similar vision to bring something better to the people of Canberra, locals and visitors. The light on the hill has been relit.