New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Deputy Director Visits and Ceremonial Sandra McKie made history at the State Opening of Parliament today, as the first female Usher of the Black Rod in the 128-year history of the role in this country.
The Usher of the Black Rod is the Governor-General’s messenger for ceremonial communications with the House and is appointed by warrant by the Governor-General.
At the State Opening, the Black Rod enters the debating chamber on behalf of the Governor-General to summon the Members of Parliament. After knocking three times on the chamber door to request entry from the Speaker, the Black Rod leads members to the Legislative Council Chamber, where they listen to the Governor-General read the Speech from the Throne.
Arthur Bothamley became the first Black Rod in 1914, although he had been acting in the role since 1892.
“I’m honoured to be appointed into this role for the opening of Parliament,” Ms McKie said. “New Zealand’s Parliament is rich in heritage and tradition. It’s a privilege to be performing my duties in keeping with the fine history of this important institution.”
Ms McKie took up her current position in the Heritage Commemorations and Protocol Group of the NZDF in 2012, after a 30-year career in uniform in the New Zealand Army and Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN).
Her responsibilities include the planning and delivery of NZDF participation in ceremonial and commemorative activities in New Zealand and overseas. She is also responsible for the coordination of visits to New Zealand by foreign defence dignitaries and NZDF support for Head of State and Head of Government visits.
While serving in the Army and RNZN she was deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Asia after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami following an earthquake in the Indian Ocean.
For her service she has been awarded the New Zealand Operational Service Medal, the New Zealand General Service Medal (Afghanistan primary operational area), the New Zealand General Service Medal (Iraq 2003), the New Zealand Special Service Medal (Asian tsunami), the New Zealand Defence Meritorious Service Medal, the New Zealand Armed Forces Award and the New Zealand Defence Service Medal with clasp “Regular”.