Report by Trevor Connell
These days Canberra’s Old Parliament House is known as the location of the Museum of Australian Democracy and as a venue for corporate, political, private and association functions. It has also become well known as a watering hole for public servants on Fridays.
OPH was the seat of the Australian Government until 1988 and it was in this building that Gough Whitlam served as Labor member, Opposition Leader and Prime Minister. So it was appropriate that this building would be chosen by the ALP to hold a wake when EGW passed away.
The news of Gough’s passing come through on the morning of Tuesday 21st October and around 10 AM Bill Shorten’s office contacted the OPH team to line up the function.
Sean Buttrose is Key Account Manager for Restaurant Associates at Old Parliament House and he spoke to ASE about putting this event together.
“We met with representatives of the ALP at 11:00. The sales team sent the first proposal to the client by 11:53. The sales process was escalated within ALP and final agreement was approved by 13:00. We had already started gathering staff and stock by this time in anticipation of approval”.
All was in place by around 5:30 PM when Bill Shorten led the ALP members and Senators from Parliament House down the Hill to OPH.
Then at 6:00 pm over 280 guests were ushered into the Kings Hall of OPH for the wake.
According to Sean “We ran with a 20:1 FOH ratio for a full tray service event for two hours”.
Reflecting on the event Sean said “I have never before pulled together an event of this size within six hours, you wouldn’t want to do it every week but it was with great pride that I watched my team flip into overdrive and just pull it together without any complaints. Even more impressive given we had already two other events occurring on that same evening. Note the chef still hasn’t fully forgiven me – no really he was fine and very professional about it all”.
Feedback – sent to Daryl Karp Director of the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
Thank you for your assistance in organising the Gough Whitlam memorial event at Old Parliament House on Tuesday.
Please also convey my thanks to James Pearson and Sean Buttrose. I was most impressed with their capacity to organise such a large event at such short notice.
The feedback that I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. The evening was a great success.
It would not have been possible without your generosity, sensitivity and astute sense of the significance of the occasion.
Senator Gavin Marshall
Deputy President of the Senate
Restaurant Associates has been operating at OPH since August 2013 and Sean has been in that role (Key Account Manager) with them since September 2013.
And those Friday night drinks? This is something of a Canberra institution as office workers end the week with drinks in the courtyard of OPH during the warmer months. This year Sean has also opened up the Members Bar for drinks from 5:00 PM on Wednesday evenings when Parliament is sitting. Drop in – you never know who you might bump into.