“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.
The statue 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. It 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. It was placed on the ACT heritage objects register on 10 April 1996.