This pen lets you own a slice of Canberra’s democratic history

This article was originally published on HerCanberra on the 25th May 2023. Read the article here.


This limited-edition collector’s item celebrates Australian Parliament House’s 35th birthday and holds a lifetime of democratic history.

The History Pen, available as a ballpoint or fountain pen, might have been crafted by expert hands in 2022 just seven kilometres from Australian Parliament House, but its journey started around 1917 when a wool store was constructed from rich red jarrah wood, 3700 kilometres away in Freemantle, Western Australia.

Wood from this site was repurposed and shipped to Canberra to construct a pergola in the Prime Minister’s Courtyard at Australian Parliament House which went on to serve eight Prime Ministers, from 1988 until 2021. Now, that jarrah has a new life as part of Australian Parliament House’s 35th birthday celebrations.

Entrusted to Hiroshi Yamaguchi of Fyshwick’s KOITOYA, a master craftsman who honed his skills in a traditional private school in Takayama, Japan, the jarrah has been crafted into 500 ballpoint and 80 fountain History Pens, available from Parliament Shop, a new online store offering souvenirs of the home of Australian democracy.

Hiroshi Yamaguchi. Photo by Rohan Thomson with 1950s Polaroid Land Camera.


Hiroshi explains that once he knew which wood KOITOYA would be working with, the search was on for a design that best reflected Australian Parliament House.

“We looked through so many designs and eventually found a very simple design. Because Parliament House has been constructed with lots of brass elements, our design uses solid brass, which is quite rare.”

Once the design was chosen, the next challenge was combing through the recycled jarrah to find pieces without any cracks, which Hiroshi says—given the hardy past lives of the timber—was no small feat. Luckily, 580 pieces were able to be crafted, with Hiroshi very happy with the end result.

“I think they’re very simple but beautiful,” he smiles. “The colour of the jarrah came up beautifully and with the brass, it tells the story of Parliament House.”

Hiroshi in his studio at KOITOYA. Photo by Rohan Thomson with 1950s Polaroid Land Camera.


Dr Rachael Coghlan, formerly CEO of Craft ACT and now Assistant Secretary of the Parliamentary Engagement Branch, says the History Pen is just the first of many locally-made, sustainably-sourced products people can look forward to buying from the Parliament Shop.

“Commissioning quality products that are locally designed and made using sustainable and ethical practices will help us to serve 700,000 visitors each year, plus the many people who work in this building,” she explains.

“But I think it’s more than this—I hope that the new products and service will help to nurture enduring confidence in, and appreciation for, Australia’s parliament and democracy.”

Rachael adds that in this modern age, the concept of souvenirs needs to be rethought.

“You may think this is ambitious, but if the last touch point of a visit to Parliament House is a souvenir that is poorly designed and breaks on the way home, then we don’t believe we are playing our part in supporting the parliament and our democracy. We want our visitors to feel a sense of pride and optimism when they leave our building.”

This reimagination will soon have a bricks-and-mortar home too, with the current Parliament Shop closing in June for renovations. In the meantime, all souvenirs are available in the online Parliament Shop, which Rachael says has many highlights.

“New products range from affordable souvenirs like Australian-made magnets and the popular Parlimints (for under $5), our new colourful Chamber socks designed by local artist Estelle Briedis and made in Melbourne by Otto and Spike ($22), and a range of stationery items designed by Canberra creative studio Swell Design and featuring glyphs inspired by the geometry of the building.”

When the new and refreshed Parliament Shop opens later this year, visitors will have a new way to see Australian Parliament House—and a new way to take home a unique piece of our democratic history.