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Emergency services attend fire at Old Parliament House

Chaotic scenes outside Old Parliament House continue after the front door of the building was consumed by flames.
Chaotic scenes outside Old Parliament House continue after the front door of the building was consumed by flames. Emergency services were called to the fire at Old Parliament House about 11.36am on Thursday. An ESA spokesperson said upon arrival crews found the front doors of the building "well alight". The building was evacuated as a precaution and the fire extinguished. Old Parliament House remains closed. About 200 protesters are still on the scene and were reportedly combative with media crews. The crowd of protesters were reportedly heard chanting "let it burn". An ACT Policing spokesperson said there had been "ongoing protest activity at the front of Old Parliament House throughout the past fortnight". Police have launched an investigation into the cause of the fire. About 12.10pm, a fire alarm could be heard from Old Parliament House, while police had formed a line blockading access to the building. ACT police, firefighters and paramedics were at the scene. From December 18, First Nations people and allies have met daily at the Tent Embassy for a historical and cultural ceremony which included the deliverance of an eviction notice to the Australian Government Corporation. A man involved with the protest said members of the First Nations community had earlier been occupying the front steps of the building. He said they lit a ceremonial fire and when police arrived they began pushing those gathered. He said the Inspector on the scene had stopped police interference before it escalated further. He and another man involved said police had used pepper spray on protesters. The Canberra Times understands the type of pepper spray used by ACT Policing is water based and not a fire accelerant. The man said the protesters had been taking peaceful action on and off for two weeks. He said the area before Old Parliament House, where the Aboriginal Tent Embassy stands, was off limits to the media and that they had "no jurisdiction". Not long before, protesters moved back members of the media with cameras from this area, chanting "tell the truth". However Albert Hartnett, an activist involved with the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, said protesters did not create the fire. "They were doing a smoking ceremony. The police [came out] from inside the building, and they came across where the smoking ceremony was taking place, and they sprayed pepper spray onto the flames of the fire," he said. "What they did exacerbated the flames. "It started to burn the top of the roof which now caught on fire." First-time visitor to Canberra Cameron Duschka was walking by about 11.30am. He said when he first arrived there was a group of protesters on the stairs out the front of Old Parliament House. "A group of policemen were walking towards them, and forced them back into the building and then I noticed a small fire on the stairs," he said. Mr Duschka said the fire then "got bigger and bigger and bigger" and then "there was a lot of commotion [with] police kind of forcing people back". Old Parliament House was used as the seat of parliament from 1927 until 1988. It is now used as the Museum of Australian Democracy. ACT Heritage Council chair Kenneth Heffernan said the building is both an ACT heritage and federal heritage site. He said he hoped the damage from the fire was minor, considering the historical importance of the site. "[I hope] that the damage is found to be minimal and that good restoration is possible in the near future," he said. "It's associated with an enormous number of really important events in Australian history. It served as the Parliament House during the Second World War. "It was probably most famously the location of the ... speech by the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam at the dismissal." Mr Heffernan said that, because of the embassy, Old Parliament House remained a site of democracy and protest. "[It is a] continuing place of protest. It's really a place of democracy," he said. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy sits outside Old Parliament House. The 50th anniversary of the tent embassy will happen in January next year. Videos shared on Twitter appear to show protesters outside the building with smoke billowing out of Old Parliament House. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Hundreds of protesters at scene of Old Parliament House fire
/images/transform/v1/crop/frm/DaHt57RjVSvtvCBUgFzTWj/b1f3bf82-baa7-490b-a425-8e24c6903b4a.jpg/r1033_658_5000_2899_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg
Chaotic scenes outside Old Parliament House continue after the front door of the building was consumed by flames.
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2021-12-30T14:30:00+11:00
https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=6289233469001
https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=6289233469001

Chaotic scenes outside Old Parliament House continue after the front door of the building was consumed by flames.

Emergency services were called to the fire at Old Parliament House about 11.36am on Thursday.

An ESA spokesperson said upon arrival crews found the front doors of the building "well alight".

The building was evacuated as a precaution and the fire extinguished. Old Parliament House remains closed.

About 200 protesters are still on the scene and were reportedly combative with media crews. The crowd of protesters were reportedly heard chanting "let it burn".

An ACT Policing spokesperson said there had been "ongoing protest activity at the front of Old Parliament House throughout the past fortnight".

Police have launched an investigation into the cause of the fire.

First Nations people protest out the front of Old Parliament House on Thursday, December 30, 2021. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
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About 12.10pm, a fire alarm could be heard from Old Parliament House, while police had formed a line blockading access to the building.

ACT police, firefighters and paramedics were at the scene.

From December 18, First Nations people and allies have met daily at the Tent Embassy for a historical and cultural ceremony which included the deliverance of an eviction notice to the Australian Government Corporation.

A man involved with the protest said members of the First Nations community had earlier been occupying the front steps of the building.

He said they lit a ceremonial fire and when police arrived they began pushing those gathered.

Hundreds of protesters at scene of Old Parliament House fire
/images/transform/v1/crop/frm/DaHt57RjVSvtvCBUgFzTWj/b1f3bf82-baa7-490b-a425-8e24c6903b4a.jpg/r1033_658_5000_2899_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg
Chaotic scenes outside Old Parliament House continue after the front door of the building was consumed by flames.
news, latest-news,
2021-12-30T14:30:00+11:00
https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=6289226119001
https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=6289226119001

He said the Inspector on the scene had stopped police interference before it escalated further.

He and another man involved said police had used pepper spray on protesters.

TheCanberra Times understands the type of pepper spray used by ACT Policing is water based and not a fire accelerant.

The man said the protesters had been taking peaceful action on and off for two weeks. He said the area before Old Parliament House, where the Aboriginal Tent Embassy stands, was off limits to the media and that they had "no jurisdiction".

Not long before, protesters moved back members of the media with cameras from this area, chanting "tell the truth".

However Albert Hartnett, an activist involved with the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, said protesters did not create the fire.

"They were doing a smoking ceremony. The police [came out] from inside the building, and they came across where the smoking ceremony was taking place, and they sprayed pepper spray onto the flames of the fire," he said.

"What they did exacerbated the flames.

"It started to burn the top of the roof which now caught on fire."

First-time visitor to Canberra Cameron Duschka was walking by about 11.30am.

He said when he first arrived there was a group of protesters on the stairs out the front of Old Parliament House.

"A group of policemen were walking towards them, and forced them back into the building and then I noticed a small fire on the stairs," he said.

Mr Duschka said the fire then "got bigger and bigger and bigger" and then "there was a lot of commotion [with] police kind of forcing people back".

Old Parliament House was used as the seat of parliament from 1927 until 1988. It is now used as the Museum of Australian Democracy.

ACT Heritage Council chair Kenneth Heffernan said the building is both an ACT heritage and federal heritage site.

He said he hoped the damage from the fire was minor, considering the historical importance of the site.

"[I hope] that the damage is found to be minimal and that good restoration is possible in the near future," he said.

"It's associated with an enormous number of really important events in Australian history. It served as the Parliament House during the Second World War.

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam under the portico of Parliament House after his dismissal on November 11, 1975. Picture: Graham Thompson

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam under the portico of Parliament House after his dismissal on November 11, 1975. Picture: Graham Thompson

"It was probably most famously the location of the ... speech by the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam at the dismissal."

Mr Heffernan said that, because of the embassy, Old Parliament House remained a site of democracy and protest.

"[It is a] continuing place of protest. It's really a place of democracy," he said.

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy sits outside Old Parliament House. The 50th anniversary of the tent embassy will happen in January next year.

Videos shared on Twitter appear to show protesters outside the building with smoke billowing out of Old Parliament House.

Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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