The House

History

Government House, in its various forms, has been the principal Vice Regal residence in Western Australia since 1829. The location for the first Governor’s residence was originally a tent camp set up on Garden Island, before a temporary wooden building was established in what is now Stirling Gardens. The first permanent Government House was built in the current Gardens on a site closer to the existing Lodge, but was replaced by the current building in 1863, which has been the residence of every Governor of Western Australia since.

The style of the building is described as ‘Fonthill Gothic’. The bricks came from clay pits that were located near where Queen’s Gardens in East Perth are today. A Foundation Stone for the current Government House was laid on March 17, 1859, and you can still see it today on the exterior wall of the Governor’s Office on the Forecourt façade.

Government House, Ballroom and Gardens were listed on the WA Register of Heritage Places and classified by the National Trust in the early 1990’s.

Government House serves as both the residence of the Governor and as a working entity known as the Governor’s Establishment with a small workforce which supports the Governor and his role.

Entrance

The Entrance Hall is the first point of contact for visitors to Government House. The chequerboard floor of white sandstone and black slate was designed to emulate a baronial manor, whilst the grand jarrah staircase and iron balustrade that features small gilt crowns are designed to draw a visitor’s eye to the magnificent stained glass window.

The window bears the coat of arms of Queen Victoria, as well as the Royal Cypher VR, and the white and red roses of the Houses of York and Lancaster.
Under the Royal motto ‘Dieu et Mon Droit’ (God and my Right) you’ll find the crosses of St George (England), St Andrew (Scotland) and St Patrick (Ireland).
Tiny shields of the Kings and Queens of England from William I to Queen Victoria decorate the ceiling cornices.

In the Entrance Hall you’ll find the framed Proclamation of Accession of Charles III as King of Australia that was announced by the Governor and signed at Government House on September 11, 2022.

The Hall also features changing floral installations designed to reflect the six seasons of the Noongar calendar, with most plants and flowers sourced from the Government House Gardens and local suppliers.

Drawing Room and Music Room

The Drawing Room is most often used to welcome ‘callers’ and visitors to Government House, including ambassadors, dignitaries, business and community leaders, and representatives of the more than 100 WA organisations of which the Governor is Patron.

The ribbed and panelled ceiling in the Drawing Room was prefabricated and sent from England in the 1890’s. It was designed by London decorator J.G. Crace who also designed the alabaster and marble mantelpieces.

Adjacent to the Drawing Room is the Music Room, which formed part of the original Government House completed in 1864. The room was originally designed as a separate library, but in 1897 then Governor Hampton had the wall removed. The 19th century Bechstein grand piano that was once in the Music Room is now located in the Entrance Hall and is still in use today.

Royal Room and Terrace

The largest of the House’s representational areas, the Royal Room is so named after the collection of Royal Family portraits which adorn the walls.

As part of the Governor’s Establishment’s Reconciliation Action Plan, the Royal Room and all other main rooms in Government House will be dual named to also reflect the historical and cultural connection of Government House and the Noongar Whadjuk land on which the House, Ballroom and Gardens are located.

The room is used for a variety of official functions including larger State Dinners, swearings-in and smaller award ceremonies, receptions, roundtables, and community events.

Official portraits on the walls of the Royal Room include Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, flanked on either side by her father King George VI and the Queen Mother.

On the opposite wall are the Late Queen’s grandparents George V and Queen Mary, and on either side of the fireplace hang the portraits of her Great Grandparents Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

Executive Council Room

One of the Governor’s main constitutional duties is to preside over Executive Council (ExCo). ExCo is where all bills, laws and regulations passed by Parliament are officially signed. Every fortnight the Governor is joined at ExCo by two Government Cabinet Minister’s and an Executive Council Clerk for the official progression of Government business.

The ExCo room is also used for official lunches and dinners, and for significant meetings and events.

The artworks on display in the ExCo room are on loan through the Art Gallery of WA and its entities and feature work by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists from the Great Sandy Desert, Western Desert, Noongar Wardandi (Bunbury) and Noongar Whadjuk (Perth).

Ballroom

The original Government House Ballroom was completed in 1899 as a major extension to Government House and refurbished in early 2000’s to add a new porch and entry steps. It is used for key events such as investiture ceremonies, the swearing-in of Governor’s, and State Government Ministers, as well as concerts and large community events.

It features a large 30m x 12m dance floor and was often used in the past for local dances, as well as hosting Balls during Royal visits.

The Ballroom Foyer was added in 1926 and houses some magnificent antique mirrors, as well as chandeliers and banquet seats provided by the Government House Foundation.

The Foyer was the location for the September 11, 2022 reading of the Proclamation of King Charles III by the WA Governor the Hon Chris Dawson AC APM, and WA Premier the Hon Mark McGowan MLA. It was also temporarily transformed as a place for Western Australians to sign condolence books following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

Governor’s Study

The Governor’s Study began life as the Dining Room with the original study located next door. The fireplace displaying the Sovereign’s Coat of Arms always follows the Governor wherever his office is located and was moved into the current office, from the adjoining room in 1898.

The high back mahogany and leather chairs facing the Governor’s desk are thought to be the first chairs ever made in the Swan River colony and are the oldest items of furniture in Government House. Look underneath the chairs and you’ll see some rails. The rails are for boot spurs so visitors who would arrive on horseback could enter and sit without having to remove their boots.

The Governor’s jarrah desk dates back to 1869 and was made locally.

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