Australia: Old Parliament House’s front door catches fire during protests in Canberra

The front entrance of Australia’s Old Parliament House was set on fire for the second consecutive week as protests continue outside the building.

A line of police officers moved the demonstrators away from the building after the doors began to burn.

After the blaze was put out, several dozen protesters continued to confront police officers and the media.

Crowds began gathering last week ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, which was established on Australia Day in 1972.

Old Parliament House now houses the Museum of Australian Democracy, which was forced to close last week due to the previous fire.

It remains unclear how today’s fire started, though last week’s blaze began when a group of people lit a ceremonial fire next to the doors.

Flames from today’s fire had reached the building’s roof line when emergency crews arrived about 11:30am.

“On arrival the front facade of the building well alight, fire control was achieved within 15 to 20 minutes,” Superintendent Sam Evans from ACT Fire and Rescue said.

“There has been no fire extension inside the structure, although the installation sprinkler system within the building did activate.

“There is water and smoke damage inside the structure, but no fire damage within the structure. It has been confined to the front facade of the building.”

Commander Linda Champion from the Australian Federal Police said the fire likely began during a smoking ceremony performed by protesters, which police were aware of and had approved to occur.

“There was a small smoking ceremony and that is something that we had agreed with a lot of the members who were attending each day as part of a peaceful protest,” she said.

“It then became a little bit out of hand and then when ACT police went to respond, that’s when it was greatly exacerbated.”