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Revealed: staggering cost of Old Parliament House fire repairs

The cost of repairing “extensive” damage to Old Parliament House following an alleged arson attack during protests is expected to cost more than $4 million, it has been revealed.

Daryl Karp, the Director of the Museum of Australian Democracy, which is home to the historic building, revealed the extent of the destruction in an emotional letter on Wednesday.

In it, she wrote the image of police, firefighters and the blackened entry to the iconic building following protest action on December 30 was still “indelibly etched in my mind”.

“Sadly, the damage to Old Parliament House is extensive, due to the thick, acrid smoke that permeated King’s Hall and to a lesser degree, the chambers,” she wrote.

“Most of the rooms on the main floor are tarnished by soot.”

She said everything would need to be hand cleaned, repaired and repainted.

“Mercifully, most of the treasures in our collection and on loan were largely unaffected,” she said.

“Almost everything can be restored, including the doors and entryway, and the original 1927 rubber flooring in the lower gallery.”
But she said that the front entrance to Old Parliament House would “never be the same”.

The repairs would take “many months” with the initial costs to be more than $4 million.

Ms Karp then went on to condemn the actions that led to the fire.

Nicholas Malcolm Reed is currently before the courts after being charged with arson following the blaze.

The court heard that he was shown on social media footage “stoking” the flames and police would be alleging he acted in a “calculated” manner by carrying hot coals to the front doors during the protests.

“The right to participate in citizen activism is an important entitlement,” Ms Karp wrote.

“But, as a museum and a workplace, we cannot tolerate aggressive demonstrations that threaten the safety and rights of others.

“Those who perpetrated these destructive acts do not speak to the democratic values of tolerance and respect.”
She said the museum was known for throwing open doors that were previously locked to give the public the chance to sit in rooms where top-secret conversations took place and explore the office’s of people who shaped the nation.

“We do not wish to cower from undemocratic behaviour, but the challenge now is achieving a balance between safety and openness,” she wrote.

She said that past visitors had reached out to the museum following the fire to express their sadness.

Ms Karp said if anyone wanted to donate to the repairs they could do so by visiting their website.

“We have had tremendous support from our fellow cultural institutions in Canberra, as well as the government during this difficult period. For this we are grateful,” Ms Karp wrote.

“I look forward to announcing a reopening date and welcoming you and the rest of the community back through our doors soon.”


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