Drab interiors, lousy audio and crummy catering are, thankfully, so last century at most Australian conference centres. If you’re o to a convention at one of our nalists’ venues – nominated for attributes and o erings that elevate events held there – prepare to have a next-level experience. Major refurbishments, artistic touches, bespoke menus, thoughtful services for delegates and corporate social responsibility schemes with real impact combine to create a convention to remember.

Adelaide Convention Centre

After nine years, the final stage of the Adelaide Convention Centre’s $397 million redevelopment opened last year and, as they say in showbiz, you can see the money on the stage. The completion was just in time for the 68th International Astronautical Congress, hosting delegates well qualified to enjoy the new Plenary Hall’s “Starry Night” aerial backdrop. With 35,000 fibre-optic lights, it’s one of the centre’s many innovative, flexible features. The exteriors of the new East and West buildings are designed to echo two of South Australia’s dramatic landscapes – see if you can pick what they are.

ICC Sydney

Sydney’s International Convention Centre (pictured at top) picked up more than two dozen gongs in its debut year, including awards for sustainability and culinary services. Its grand design is underpinned by heart. Where possible, food is sourced from NSW producers who practise sustainable farming. And we salute its water policy; the ICC partnered with Sydney Water
to provide re-usable glass bottles for delegates, with refill stations 
spouting chilled tap H2O – an initiative that’s already spared the world about 775,000 plastic bottles or 10 tonnes of plastic. Cheers to this becoming a trend.

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

Loved for its pillar-free spaces, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre will unveil a $200 million expansion in July to make the centre even more adaptable and open. A 1000- seat retractable theatre, courtyard meeting rooms with floor-to- ceiling windows, six new exhibition bays and an outdoor area with a rooftop-bar vibe are among the new spaces. The buildings are fully integrated, linked by concourses and large foyer spaces, creating a massive 70,000-square-metre footprint. Digital technology is in full force with myMCEC, an online portal purpose-built for event organisers, and an in-house production studio to build 3D lighting and staging concepts, enabling virtual event rehearsals without lifting a single piece of equipment.

National Convention Centre Canberra

If there’d been a plebiscite asking whether our national capital’s 29-year-old convention centre National Convention Centre Canberra needed a makeover, the “yes” vote would have romped it in. Much of the $5.4 million refurbishment was finished last year, mostly using Canberra-based businesses for the work. A local flooring company took on the backbreaking task of laying 7000 square metres of new carpet and a joinery and timber yard situated across the lake used recycled ash and blackbutt to create feature walls in the foyer. The event spaces are flexible enough to take on everything from small meetings to gatherings of thousands and, with the exception of the theatres, are designed to let sunlight flood in.

Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

The multi-award-winning Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre keeps on finding fresh ways to step up its game. A complete review of the centre’s menus by chefs and a consultant nutritionist led to the opening of a dedicated Dietary Kitchen to cater for special meal requests and food allergies, the first such endeavour by an Australian convention centre. From the main kitchen, more than 80 per cent of the entrées and main dishes on the banquet menu are now gluten- free and all menus feature more Queensland produce. It’s not just about the nosh – $1.7 million was spent on audiovisual technology, enabling live streaming, and an IT upgrade boosted the wi-fi. 

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