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Have Your Say at Old Parliament House

Molly McLaughlin

Free Speech Floats is a collaborative art project and installation that will take place in King’s Hall at Old Parliament House during Enlighten 2016.

Nanette Louchart-Fletcher, the Community Learning Officer at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, says that the installation will create a visual representation of the importance of free speech in contemporary society.

“Free Speech Floats is an all ages activity, so bring the young ones, teenagers, grandparents and friends,” Nanette says.

“As a collaborative art project we’re encouraging visitors to come into Kings Hall, which in itself is a centrepiece of Australian democracy. There will be 10,000 pieces of string hanging from above and speech bubbles provided where people can write or draw their thoughts about free speech, hang them up and become part of something big.”


There will also be quotes from prominent figures with different perspectives displayed around the museum to encourage the sharing of ideas.

“We really love that we can ask visitors for their perspectives rather than directing them,” Nanette says.

“Free speech is really important for a democratic country like Australia. We put a lot of emphasis on notions of a fair go and being able to speak frankly and clearly so we wanted to celebrate that in a really beautiful, playful and provocative way.”

The quotes that will be displayed include this one from the artist Ai Wei Wei: “The only way to avoid misunderstanding, war and bloodshed is to defend freedom of expression and to communicate with sincerity, concern and good intentions.”


The installation with its 10,000 pieces of string.

This idea emphasises the way democracy and free speech are essential to all aspects of our lives.

“I anticipate that the installation will be a comment on this current period of time and will have ongoing significance,” Nanette says. “We’ve also incorporated the soap box into the installation, which is a place that historically people would use to make speeches. There will be some in Kings Hall so people can use them to stand up and express themselves, whether they want to speak in a stream of consciousness style, rap or just take a photo.”

During Enlighten 2016 public institutions across Canberra will come to life after dark and shed new light on our culture, including through the stunning architectural projections across the parliamentary triangle.

“I get very excited about Enlighten because we get a different audience coming through the door and realising how amazing Old Parliament House is,” Nanette says. “There are so many things to do here that are really fun and quite surprising for a lot of people.”

the essentials

What: Free Speech Floats
Where: King’s Hall at Old Parliament House
When: 6 pm onwards on 4, 5, 11 & 12 March
Cost: Free

Feature image: Nanette Louchart-Fletcher hanging a speech bubble. 

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Molly McLaughlin

Molly McLaughlin was less than thrilled to move to Canberra a couple of years ago to study Arts and Economics at ANU, but she can confirm the city has grown on her since then. Along with writing for HerCanberra, she spends her time reading, eating noodles and planning her next adventure. More about the Author

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