Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House is a regular stop for Canberra sightseers – and you might think that this heritage building isn’t really interesting for little kids. But did you know that inside is an incredible indoor children’s play space ‘Play Up’?

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

Play Up is a large and thoughtfully curated play space for kids which celebrates the role of children in the community. The current theme for the exhibition is PLAY UP—The Right to Shelter, which looks at Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN, 1995).

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

The information and artworks on the walls aim to encourage children to think about their own rights and those of other children. Kids can stand up, dress up, make up, think up and step up! There’s a particularly affecting gallery of children’s photographs from their ‘homes’ in refugee camps. 

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

The play space is split into four main rooms. One room, the dress up area, is outside the entrance and features racks of historical costumes.

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

Inside the main play area there is a room with building blocks, vehicles, dollhouse furniture and colouring-in.

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

Lady AB and Baby 2.0 spend most of their time in this room creating imaginative stories and zooming and parking cars.

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

The second room has a teepee and cushions, cuddly toys and lots of good quality picture books.

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

I’m heartened to see that the stuffed dolls and wooden toys show people of different genders, ethnicities and abilities. A small gesture but so important that all children see themselves reflected in their play.

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

The third room currently has a fibreglass cubby that children helped to decorate as part of Enlighten Festival 2015.

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

I like the activist artwork on the walls and the puppet show featuring famous pollies!

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

We spend several hours inside Play Up and could happily have been there for more time except that the museum was closing. For $2 per adult and $1 per child it’s a bargain! Plus of course with your entry fee you can visit the rest of the galleries and exhibitions inside Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

Play Up is an evolving space curated for, with and by children. Not only is it a fun place for kids to hang out, they also have the opportunity learn.


HOT Tips:

  • General access to the building is via sixteen steps to the Main entry. If you can’t get a pram up the stairs then enter via the Lower entries which are located to either side of the front stairs;
  • Strollers and wheelchairs are available, free of charge, for use in the museum;
  • If you are visiting the rest of the museum free outdoor and indoor family action packs give you a chance to explore a unique trail through the museum. Certain exhibitions also have family friendly activities;
  • Baby change facilities are available behind the visitor’s service booth in Kings Hall and on the first floor Senate (red) side of the building opposite the children’s “Dress-Up” room;
  • Paid parking is in operation throughout Parkes from 8.30am – 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays);
  • Eat at The Terrace Café or Hoi Polloi which is housed in the Non-Members Bar; and
  • The Old Parliament House Gardens are located on both sides of the building are delightful places to picnic.

Play Up, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra

Daily 9am–5pm (closed Christmas Day).

Free after admission

$2 adults, $1 children and concessions, $5 family.

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