The Black Rod is the official symbol of the Usher of the Black Rod (see Usher of the Black Rod). It is a ceremonial object used in the Australian Senate.
The Black Rod is approximately 1.3 metres long and made of ebony wood. It has a silver crown on the end above the Australian Coat of Arms.
The Usher carries the Black Rod while conducting Senate business 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 federal Parliament. For example, the Usher of the Black Rod uses the Black Rod to knock three 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.