The Black Rod is a ceremonial object carried by the Usher of the Black Rod while doing Senate work. Learn about the design, function and history of the Black Rod with this fact sheet.
The Black Rod is 1.44 metres long and made of ebony wood. It has a silver crown on the end above the Australian Coat of Arms.
The Usher of the Black Rod carries the Black Rod while undertaking Senate work such as:
- escorting the President of the Senate into and out of the chamber to start and finish each sitting day
- standing guard during a division when all chamber doors are locked
- delivering messages or bills from the Senate to the House of Representatives.
The Black Rod is also used on formal occasions such as the opening of a new Parliament. At this time the Usher of the Black Rod uses the Black Rod to knock 3 times on the door of the House of Representatives to invite members of the House to the opening ceremony conducted in the Senate.
When the Senate is in session and the Black Rod is not in use, it stands upright beside the Usher of the Black Rod's chair on the government side of the chamber.
The role of the Usher of the Black Rod dates back to the fourteenth century in Britain. The Usher was appointed to serve the monarch in the British House of Lords and was originally an officer of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, a British order of knighthood. The Black Rod was used to discipline anyone who offended the Order.
From 1901 to 1927, the Senate used the Black Rod from the Victorian Legislative Council. In 1927, a new Black Rod was made for the opening of Old Parliament House in Canberra. It was made from pine wood and silver and was modelled on the Black Rod used in the New South Wales Legislative Council. In 1988, the pine was replaced with ebony for the opening of Parliament House on Capital Hill.
The Black Rod
This photograph shows the Black Rod, a long, black, stick with silver sections and a silver crown on one end.
The Black Rod in the Senate
In the foreground of this image is a silver crown on the end of a black stick. In the background is the red seats of the Senate chamber arranged in a horse-shoe shape around a large central table.
The Usher of the Black Rod in the Senate.
David Foote/DPS Auspic
A man wearing suit and holding a long black staff with a silver crown at its top is standing in a red room. Another man in a suit is walking into the room behind him.