After making history in 2020 as our nation’s first female Usher of the Black Rod, New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Deputy Director Visits and Ceremonial, Sandra McKie, has now been permanently appointed to the role.
The Usher of the Black Rod is the Governor-General’s messenger for ceremonial communications with the House of Parliament.
At the three-yearly State Opening of Parliament, the Governor-General sends the Black Rod to summon Members of Parliament to attend the Speech from the Throne.
After rapping three times on the door of the debating chamber the Black Rod informs members that the Governor-General commands their attendance, before leading them to the Legislative Council Chamber to hear the speech – which outlines the Government’s policy and legislative intentions.
“As New Zealand’s first female Black Rod this is a moment in history, and I am honoured to be appointed to this role,” Ms McKie said.
When she was temporarily appointed as Black Rod in 2020 for the opening of New Zealand’s 53rd Parliament, Ms McKie was the first female to hold the title in its 130-year history in New Zealand.
Her permanent appointment comes following the retirement of predecessor, David Baguley.
“It’s a privilege to be asked to perform these duties for the opening of this important institution. Anyone who knows me understands how much I enjoy ceremonial occasions.
“It’s also a wonderful opportunity to dress up.”
As no other female had held the title, Ms McKie says she turned to her sister, Claire Hacon, a lecturer at Massey University’s School of Design, to create a new uniform.
“Claire wanted to make an outfit especially for a woman, rather than just alter the existing men’s garb. She wanted it to be elegant and reference the official dress worn by people holding appointments within Parliament and other office,” Ms McKie said.
“She saved the day for me really… It was an opportunity to make something special and quite powerful, and worthy of the occasion.”
Taking on a role steeped in such tradition is fitting for a woman whose responsibilities include the planning and delivery of NZDF participation in ceremonial and commemorative activities in New Zealand and overseas.
She is also responsible for coordinating visits to New Zealand by foreign defence dignitaries, and NZDF support for Head of State and Head of Government visits.
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, which included deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and Asia after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
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”.