ACT Legislative Assembly


Ethos

  • “Ethos”, Canberra’s first public artwork, is a statue located outside the public entrance (north entry) to the ACT Legislative Assembly Building.
  • The term “ethos” means the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations.
  • “Ethos” was commissioned by the National Capital Development Commission in 1959 and was co-sponsored by the Canberra Chamber of Commerce. It cost 7,580 pounds. The Canberra Chamber of Commerce raised money for “Ethos” through the sale of miniature versions of the statue for 50 pounds, together with other donations from the community.
  • “Ethos” was created by Tom Bass (1916-2010), and unveiled on 15 December 1961. Conceived as "the spirit of the community", the sculpture is a representation of a graceful yet triumphant winged figure with arms raised above her head to receive a descending dove of peace and beauty.
  • “Ethos” is made of copper. The figure is 400 cm high, 76 cm wide, 90 cm deep and the six sided saucer the figure stands in represents the hexagonal Civic Centre and bears a relief map of Canberra. The saucer has a diameter of 170 cm. The sculpture has a circular concrete base of 50 cm and rises from a 204 cm square.
  • The winged female figure is robed in embroidered cloth woven with emblems and figures representing the community. She holds aloft a bursting sun representing the emerging city’s culture and enlightenment.
  • The cement plinth under “Ethos” holds a time capsule containing a copy of The Canberra Times, an annual report of the Canberra Chamber of Commerce, and a list of contributors to the sponsorship by the Canberra Chamber of Commerce.
  • After self-government, responsibility for the sculpture passed from the Department of the Interior to the ACT Government.
  • “Ethos” was placed on the ACT heritage objects register on 10 April 1996.
  • Tom Bass wrote a poem for “Ethos”:

ETHOS SPEAKS

I AM ETHOS Ethos statue infront of the ACT Legislative Assembly building

THOUGH I DO NOT SPEAK WITH WORDS

I SPEAK TO YOU IN OTHER WAYS

I SAY TO YOU THAT I AM THE SPIRIT

OF THIS PLACE AND ITS PEOPLE

I AM THE ORIGINAL SPIRIT

AND THE SPIRIT OF NOW

I RISE FROM THE EARTH

AND REACH FOR THE SUN

I BRING TOGETHER

THE OLD AND NEW

IN ME THERE IS NO

VIOLENCE OR WAR

ONLY PEACE AND

RECONCILIATION

I AM THE LOVE PEACE AND BEAUTY

OF THIS PLACE

I GIVE YOU THESE THINGS

EVERY DAY

AND ALWAYS

Check out our other special Come Alive Festival objects

The Mace

The Bar of the House

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Page last updated on 17 May 2017
2015 Legislative Assembly for the ACT