Our posts last week described many aspects of the opening of Parliament. This ceremonial occasion featured the performance of the most senior protocol officer on the Legislative Council – the Usher of the Black Rod. Those in attendance or viewing the Parliament’s live stream watched the Usher carry the Black Rod to the Legislative Assembly Chamber, and use it to knock on the door before requesting that the Assembly members attend the Governor in the Council Chamber.
The role of the Usher of the Black Rod is to assist the President in maintaining order in the House. The task most commonly associated with this responsibility is removing members who have been called to order by the President three times. This dates back to the establishment of the position in 14th century Britain, where the Usher served as part of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and used the black rod to discipline those who offended the Order.
It may interest readers to know that the original title of the officer in Westminster was ‘The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod’, which has now been updated to reflect a more modern society.
While undertaking a recent review of Legislative Council archives, department staff discovered several uniforms and enjoyed one of the many benefits of working at Australia’s oldest parliament – honouring tradition with a fashion parade!
While our current Usher tends to favour a more modern style, Ushers of the past traditionally wore a long-tailed coat, knee-breeches or kilt, court shoes, gloves and a lace cuff, always accessorised with the gold and ebony rod symbolising the authority of the House.
Having had our fun, the uniforms will now be carefully packaged and stored under the right conditions to ensure that these pieces of our state’s history are preserved.