Serjeant-at-Arms

This fact sheet explores the role of the Serjeant-at-Arms, one of the parliamentary officers in the House of Representatives. It looks at their role in the House and in the department, and the history of the position.

The Serjeant-at-Arms is one of the few people, other than members of the House of Representatives, who work in the House of Representatives.

House of Representatives role

The Serjeant-at-Arms has several responsibilities within the House of Representatives, including:

  • escorting the Speaker of the House of Representatives into and out of the House, while carrying the Mace
  • assisting the Speaker to maintain order
  • recording the attendance of members
  • standing guard during a division vote when all doors to the floor of the House are locked
  • delivering formal messages from the House of Representatives to the Senate
  • playing an important role in ceremonial occasions, such as the opening of Parliament.

The Serjeant-at-Arms is required to be in the House of Representatives at the beginning of each sitting day, during Question Time, divisions and after meal breaks.

Department role

When not in the House, the Serjeant-at-Arms works from an office in the Department of the House of Representatives and has several responsibilities, including:

  • organising office accommodation and supplies for members and staff
  • maintaining security in the House of Representatives areas of Parliament House
  • advising the Speaker on broadcasting House proceedings
  • organising bookings for visitors to the House of Representatives.

History

The role of the Serjeant-at-Arms dates back to early British history. Originally, serjeants-at-arms were members of the English royal bodyguard. In the fourteenth century, a royal Serjeant-at-Arms was appointed to serve in the British House of Commons. From its beginning, the Australian Parliament adopted the practice of appointing a Serjeant-at-Arms to serve in the House of Representatives.

Dress

Traditionally, the Serjeant-at-Arms wore silver-buckled shoes, stockings, knee-breeches, black coat with a large rosette on the back, waistcoat, stiff shirt front, jabot—white lace around the neck—lace cuffs, white gloves and a ceremonial sword. In the current Parliament, the Serjeant-at-Arms usually wears a modified version of this costume.

The Serjeant-at-Arms carrying the Mace.

The Serjeant-at-Arms carrying the Mace in the House of Representatives.

David Foote/DPS Auspic

Description

A man wearing a black suit with a white tie and white gloves is walking into a green room. He carries a large gold mace with the crown over his right shoulder. People are walking in behind him.