The land the building sits on was bought in 1972 at a price of A$19 million by the government of the Republic of Nauru as an international investment. Nauru, which had become incredibly wealthy thanks to the selling of phosphate, began the Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust (NPRT) to re-invest profits in international real-estate.
Controversy was stirred when construction began in 1972, as the government of Nauru decided to raze two buildings with "high heritage value" in order to have the building face the desirable Collins Street, and thus, a Collins Street address. Even amid public outcry, the historic buildings were torn down to make way for construction.
When completed in 1977 it became the tallest building in Melbourne however it was not tall enough to take the mantle as Australia's tallest building, with the strikingly similar MLC Centre in Sydney retaining that honour from when it was completed just a few months earlier in the same year. In 1981, Nauru House was surpassed in height by the Regent Hotel (now Sofitel Melbourne) to no longer be the tallest building in Melbourne.
Following decades of mismanagement, corruption, and spiralling loans to General Electric, estimated to amount to approximately A$227 million, the NPRT was forced to sell off its international assets to pay loans. Nauru House is now owned by QIC after purchasing the building for A$140 million in December 2004.