House of Representatives Practice, 6th edition – HTML version

8 - Order of business and the sitting day

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Acknowledgement of country and Prayers

Upon taking the Chair of the House each day, and a quorum of Members being present (see page 270), the Speaker makes an acknowledgement of country[103] in the following terms:

I acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples who are the traditional custodians of the Canberra area and pay respect to the elders, past and present, of all Australia’s Indigenous peoples.

The Speaker then reads the following prayers:

Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee to vouch safe Thy blessing upon this Parliament. Direct and prosper our deliberations to the advancement of Thy glory, and the true welfare of the people of Australia.

Our Father, which art in Heaven: Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.[104]

Prayers have not been read on the first day of a new Parliament or on other occasions when, because of death or resignation, the first item of business is the election of a new Speaker.[105] Prayers have not been read at the second sitting on a day when two sittings have been held[106] or when the Chair has been resumed on another day following a suspension of a sitting.[107]

On 7 June 1901 the House agreed to a motion ‘That the Standing Orders should provide that, upon Mr Speaker taking the Chair, he shall read a prayer’. An amendment providing for the appointment of a chaplain for the purpose was withdrawn, as it was agreed that the Speaker was the most appropriate person to read prayers in the House.[108] The standing order was amended in 1918 when the initial prayer or preface was amended and an additional prayer was added before the Lord’s Prayer for the duration of the war.[109] In its report of 21 March 1972 the Standing Orders Committee considered a submission from a Member which suggested a different form of prayer, and that prayers once a week would suffice. The committee agreed that there should be no change either in the frequency of offering prayers or in their content.[110] When the Procedure Committee reviewed the standing orders in 2002–2003, partly with a view to modernising their language, the committee made no recommendation in relation to the prayers, and the revised standing orders adopted in November 2004 retained the original wording.

Prayers are not read at the start of proceedings in the Federation Chamber, which is a subsidiary body. However, the timing of its meetings allows sufficient time for Members to attend prayers in the House.

103. The acknowledgement of country was introduced in 2010 (43rd Parliament).
104. S.O. 38. At the direction of Speaker Makin the Votes and Proceedings entry was altered from ‘read Prayers’ to ‘offered Prayers’ in 1930, VP 1929–31/109, but reverted to the former style at the direction of Speaker Mackay in 1932, VP 1932–34/11.
105. VP 1956–57/259; VP 1985–86/665; VP 1987–89/1417; VP 1996–98/2753.
106. VP 1934–37/257; VP 1940–43/379.
107. VP 1905/169; H.R. Deb. (16.11.1905) 5425; VP 1993–95/1717; H.R. Deb. (8.12.1994) 4449; VP 1996–98/355, 2655; VP 2008–10/981; but see case of 17 August 1923 when Speaker Watt read prayers even though the House had not adjourned the previous evening, VP 1923–24/159; H.R. Deb. (17.8.1923) 2964–5.
108. VP 1901–02/41, 59; H.R. Deb. (7.6.1901) 815–21.
109. VP 1917–19/241.
110. Standing Orders Committee, Report, PP 20 (1972) 13.