No. 16 - Usher of the Black Rod
Senate Brief No. 16 - July 2014
From 1972 until 1996 the Usher of the Black Rod wore a sword, made by Wilkinson Sword, on ceremonial occasions. The sword has solid silver fittings and is modelled on the sword of the British Diplomatic Corps. It is decorated with the Australian coat of arms, the words “Australian Senate”, and a wattle pattern. The sword is now on permanent display at the Old Parliament House, Canberra.
A central figure at openings of parliament, the Usher of the Black Rod announces the arrival of the Governor-General and then escorts the Governor-General and the official party into the Senate chamber. The Governor-General then directs the Usher of the Black Rod to request the members of the House of Representatives to attend in the Senate chamber.
On a normal sitting day the Usher of the Black Rod announces the arrival of the President into the chamber before the President says prayers. As well as ensuring the safe delivery of messages from the Senate chamber to the House of Representatives, the Usher of the Black Rod is also responsible for recording the attendance of senators in the chamber on each sitting day. Whenever a division or quorum is to be determined, the Usher of the Black Rod supervises locking the chamber doors before the beginning of a count.
The position of Usher of the Black Rod is held by an officer of the Department of the Senate. There have been 18 Ushers of the Black Rod since 1901. The first woman to hold this position was Andrea Griffiths who served from 2001 until 2008. The current Usher of the Black Rod is Rachel Callinan.
Silver capping on the Black Rod
Harry Evans and Rosemary Laing (eds.),Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, 13th edn, Department of the Senate, Canberra, 2012
Images provided courtesy of Auspic, Parliament House, Canberra
Senate Briefs may be obtained by:
Internet address: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senate/briefs
Post: Research Section, Department of the Senate, Parliament House, Canberra 2600
Phone: (02) 6277 3074
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