The Serjeant-at-Arms is a parliamentary officer in the House of Representatives. They are one of the few people, other than members of parliament, who work in the chamber.
The duties of the Serjeant-at-Arms are conducted both within the chamber and the Department of the House of Representatives.
The Serjeant-at-Arms has several responsibilities within the chamber, including:
- escorting the Speaker into and out of the chamber, while carrying the Mace (see Mace)
- assisting the Speaker to maintain order in the chamber and the public galleries of the House of Representatives
- recording the attendance of members
- standing guard during a division vote when all chamber doors 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 chamber at the beginning of each sitting day, during Question Time, divisions and after meal breaks.
When not in the chamber, 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.
The role of the Serjeant-at-Arms dates back to early British history. Originally, serjeants-at-arms were members of the British 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.
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, white lace around the neck (called a jabot) and cuffs, white gloves and a ceremonial sword. In the current Parliament, the Serjeant-at-Arms usually wears a modified version of this costume.
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