Parliamentary Collection

1941 Lifesaving Reel Petition

In 1941, this petition was presented to NSW Parliament on a wooden surf life-saving reel. The petition supported continued restrictions on the sale of alcohol for the duration of WWII, which included closing pubs at 6pm (known as the ‘six o’clock swill’). 

In 1955, a NSW referendum was conducted on this issue, and by a slim margin the restrictions were lifted and ten o’clock closing time was introduced. 

Date: 1941
Materials: wood and paper
Dimensions: 1066 cm x 1050 cm x 430 cm




Photograph of the Queen's Visit in 1954

On 4 February, 1954 Queen Elizabeth II became the first British sovereign to open a session of an Australian Parliament.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh arrived at the Parliament at 10.20am where crowds of more than 35,000 people lined the footpath to get a glimpse of the royals as they entered the precinct. The Queen addressed both Houses of the NSW Parliament in the Legislative Council Chamber. Here, The Queen made a short speech at a ceremony that lasted only nine minutes commenting on the warm reception she had been received since arriving in Australia:

“The welcome accorded to us on our arrival yesterday was so cordial and spontaneous that we shall always remember it. I look forward with pleasure to the rest of my stay in Australia”.

By the time the royal couple left the House, an even greater crowd had assembled. It was reported that police were called to order people down from awnings along Macquarie Street.

From the Parliament, The Queen was taken to a women’s luncheon at the Trocadero Dance Hall on George Street.

For the occasion, the Queen wore a tiara and the white satin gown from her coronation. 

Coat of Arms of New South Wales

New South Wales was granted its coat of arms in 1906. Its emblems speak both of our connections to Britain and of our unique Australian identity. The small lion at the centre of the shield (lion passant guardant), and the large lion supporting the shield on the left (lion rampant guardant), represent ties to Britain. Our Australian identity is symbolised by the kangaroo supporting the shield on the right, while the golden fleece and sheaves of wheat represent our successful wool industry and agricultural wealth. The star represents the Southern Cross and hope for the State’s future is symbolised by the rising sun.

The Latin motto, Orta recens quam pura nites, translates as Newly risen how brightly you shine, a reference to the new colony.

Date: c. 1970
Material: moulded polyester resins and industrial paint
Dimensions: 620 cm x 920 cm x 40 cm

Mannequin in Uniform

The customs and ceremonies of Parliament remind us of the rich history that lies behind the institution we know today. Some of these date back to the middle ages, whereas others are more recent in origin. Based on the dress of the English court at the time of Charles II, the costumes worn by the Serjeant-at-Arms and the Usher of the Black Rod derive from the 1600s. Worn for such parliamentary ceremonies as the opening of a new session of Parliament, they include silver-buckled shoes, stockings, breeches, black cut-away coats, white lace jabot and cuffs, kid gloves, bicorne hats and ceremonial swords.

The delicately crafted lace jabots and cuffs are a particular reminder of the fineries of 17th century court dress. Hand-made lace from Belgium was all the rage in Restoration England, so much so that, in 1662, Parliament banned its importation to foster local production. An illegal trade flourished as a result. Lace was smuggled across the channel in hollowed loaves of bread, concealed in garments and even in coffins, wrapped around the body. Only with the manufacture of machine-made lace in the late 18th century was the industry transformed.

In 1955 the uniform of the Usher and other officers in the Legislative Council were modernised, but on ceremonial occasions officers of the Legislative Assembly still wear ceremonial items, continuing a centuries old tradition.

Hand made Irish Crochet Jabot (pictured)
Date: c.1900-1910
Maker unkown
Material: crocheted lace imitating Gros Point needle lace with Rose (England) and Shamrock (Ireland)


Serjeant-at-Arms Sword, Scabbard and Travelling Case

This sword’s presence in the parliamentary collection highlights our historical connection with the UK Parliament and Westminster traditions.

Little information is known about the history of this Sergeant-at-Arms sword.  This sword likely belonged to the Serjeant-at-Arms and is dated back to the 19th century. Dating from the late 19th century. The scabbard was later inscribed with the names of previous Sergeant-at-Arms who served at NSW Parliament. The Serjeant’s sword is a symbol of that authority. In the NSW Legislative Assembly the Serjeant-at-Arms does not carry the sword into the chamber. However, it was used on ceremonial occasions such as the opening of sessions.



The official report of what is said in the two Houses of the Parliament is known as ‘Hansard’, after a man called Thomas Curson Hansard who reported the debates at Westminster in the early 19th century. This machine would have been used by Hansard reporters in the mid-20th century to record parliamentary proceedings.

New South Wales Hansard started on 28 October 1879 with the reporting of the Legislative Council. Prior to this, a record of House proceedings was published in The Sydney Morning Herald. Though NSW is Australia’s first parliament, we weren’t the first to have Hansard. Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland had some form of Hansard report before NSW.

Today, each House has a team of nine or 10 reporters, who are rostered in a continuous relay of “turns”. At the start of a turn, reporters make notes in the chamber for 10 minutes.

The rest of the turn lasts 80 minutes and involves transcribing, editing and checking. For more than a century the basic system of shorthand reporters dictating to typists remained unchanged. Now, Hansard reporters use speech to text software to produce a first draft.

Reporters use a comprehensive style guide, House-specific form guides, and members’ notes to edit and fact-check the turns, paying particular attention to names, titles, and quotes.

Full-Bottomed Wig and Tin

Wigs are part of the ceremonial dress NSW Parliament inherited from the traditions of Westminster. This full-bottomed wig would have been worn by a Speaker of the Legislative Assembly whilst in the chamber and evokes the formality and traditions that underlie parliamentary procedure.


Rewind to 150 years ago and these hand-rung bells were used to summon members to the chambers. This was likely used for a special kind of vote known as a ‘division’, when the outcome of a vote isn’t clear ‘on the voices’ and each member’s vote is counted individually instead. Divisions still occur today, but we now use electronic bells.

The dining bell played a key role too. When it rang, it was a signal to members to break for lunch at the refreshment room to refuel for the rest of the day’s parliamentary business for both Houses.

While technology may have changed, these bells rang alongside history and were a crucial part of the parliamentary process.


Bells pictured from left to right:

  1.  Legislative Council, Legislative Assembly, Refreshment Room, Legislative Assembly, Legislative Council.
  2. Legislative Assembly Division Bell
  3. Legislative Council Division Bell (chained clapper)
  4. Legislative Council Division Bell (rod clapper)
  5. Refreshment Room Bell


Bicorn Hat

Bicorn hats formed part of the traditional dress donned by the Serjeant-at-Arms a role role dates back to the 14th century in Britain. Today, the Serjeant-at-Arms remains a senior protocol officer in the Legislative Assembly who carries out the orders of the House and keeps order in the chamber.



Hourglasses were used in the chamber during parliamentary proceedings to time certain types of parliamentary business.

This white xylonite hourglass was presented to the NSW Parliament by the British Parliament in c.1956, celebrating 100 years of responsible government.


Portrait of Sir Henry Parkes

Presented in 2004, by Mrs Margaret Parkes (great-granddaughter of Sir Henry Parkes) this portrait of Sir Henry Parkes was painted by his daughter Lily Parkes the 1880s. Henry Parkes served five terms as NSW Premier between 1872 and 1891. Parkes played a key role in the movement towards Federation and drafting the Australian Constitution.

Artist: Lily Faulconbridge Parkes
Date: c. 1880s


William Charles Wentworth Bust

Son of D’Arcy Wentworth, one of the contractors who built the Rum Hospital, Wentworth was part of the first European expedition to cross the Blue Mountains in 1813. Elected to the Legislative Council in 1843 he was Chairman of the select committee which drafted the 1853 Constitution which led to responsible Government in NSW in 1856. He was President of the Legislative Council in 1861 and 1862.

Presented to the Parliament by the Government, 21 March 1894. 

Sculptor: Achille Simonetti
Date: No date
Dimensions: 90 x 65 x 40cm

Portrait of Millicent Preston Stanley

Millicent Preston Stanley was the first female Member of the Legislative Assembly (1925-1927).  She was the second woman to become a Member of an Australian Parliament, Edith Cowan of Western Australia being the first in 1921. Millicent Preston Stanley was a feminist, appointed one of the first female NSW Justices of the Peace, and an advocate for women and children. This portrait was presented to Parliament by the citizens of Sydney in December 1951.

Artist: Reginald Jerrold-Nathan
Date: 1951

Womens Legal Status Act

In 1902 the Women’s Franchise Act 1902 (NSW) was passed, giving women the right to vote. However s 4 expressly provided that this did not mean women were able to be nominated as a candidate or elected to the Legislative Assembly.

In 1916, legislation to allow women to become lawyers and be elected to Parliament was introduced. However, it would take three attempts, and was not until 1918 that this legislation would eventually pass through Parliament and receive assent, officially becoming a law of NSW. The Women’s Legal Status Act 1918 (NSW) received assent on 21 December 1918 and officially became law in NSW.

Women were still precluded from jury service until 1947 and the passage of the Jury ( Amendment) Act 1947 (NSW). 

Portrait of Jack Lang

Jack Lang twice served as Premier of New South Wales (1925-27; 1930-1932). He was a controversial Premier and was dismissed by the Governor of NSW, Sir Philip Game, during the 1932 constitutional crisis. His achievements included the provision of state pensions for widowed mothers with dependent children under 14; universal, mandatory, workers’ compensation; removal of student fees in state-run high schools and improvements to various welfare schemes. This portrait was an Archibald Prize Finalist in 1944. A similar portrait by Leist is held by the National Library of Australia.

Artist: Fredrick Leist
Date: 1944

Ceremonial Sydney Harbour Bridge Scissors

The Sydney Harbour Bridge scissors were used by Premier Jack Lang to cut the ribbon at the official opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on March 19, 1932.

The scissors are hand-wrought from Australian gold and contain six flame-coloured opals, quarried from Lightning Ridge. Decorated with flannel flowers, waratahs and gum leaves set around a model of the bridge, the scissors were designed by Vembola Veinberg when he was 16. Les Denham embossed them and Norm Neal engraved them in Angus & Coote’s workrooms. 

The inscription on the scissors reads:

“Presented to the Hon. J.T. Lang MLA Premier and Treasurer N.S.W. by Dorman Long & Co. Ltd Contrators, Opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge 19th March, 1932”.

Before Lang had a chance to cut the ribbon, Francis de Groot, a member of the right-wing New Guard organisation, suddenly rode forward and slashed the ribbon with his sabre. The ribbon was retied, and Lang used the scissors to cut the ribbon.

Date: 1932
Material: 9 carat gold plated, copper alloy with 6 cabochon set flame opals
Maker: Angus & Coote 

Aboriginal Languages Act

The Legislative Council chamber is home to a Message Stick which was presented by Aboriginal elders during the introduction of the Bill for the Aboriginal Languages Act 2017. Used in a culturally relevant manner, the message stick will serve as a potent reminder of the Aboriginal languages spoken in New South Wales, as the embodiment of the voices of Aboriginal people.

The Aboriginal Languages Act 2017 (NSW) acknowledges that Aboriginal languages are fundamental to an Aboriginal person’s culture and identity. The Aboriginal Languages Trust was established to coordinate and resource communities to ‘reawaken, nurture and grow Aboriginal languages’. The Bill was assented to on 24 October 2017. It is the first of its kind in Australia. The message stick is a reminder of the aims of the legislation and symbolises the Aboriginal languages spoken in New South Wales. It was designed by Sheldon Harrington of the Bundjalung Nation, representing all language groups throughout New South Wales and the connections they share.

Waratah Crown

The Waratah Princess crown was once worn by a ‘princess’ selected annually. Finalists for the role were chosen from young women on their lunch hour in Sydney’s Hyde Park. The ‘princess’ was crowned after the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Sydney conducted interviews with finalists at Sydney’s Town Hall. The annual festival celebrated Sydney in springtime and ran for 18 years from 1956 to 1973.

Date: 1963
Maker: Elizabeth Reimer
Material: copper-based alloy, cut glass stones, seed pearls, diamantes, iron-based alloy

Roll of Honour

This roll of honour lists the names of all the Members and staff of the Parliament of NSW who served during the First World War. Thirteen Members of Parliament and 13 staff members served in the conflict.

The roll of honour was unveiled on 27 February 1918 by Frederick FlowersPresident and John CohenSpeaker. A fine piece of artistic work, it was hand-painted by the Government Printers Office, enclosed in a handsome frame and hung in the main vestibule of NSW Parliament House. It represents an unfolding scroll with the flags of the allies above.

Originally installed as a temporary honour roll, it was intended to be replaced by a larger, permanent memorial tablet. This never eventuated.

The following names are listed on the roll of honour:



  • Campbell, Reginald
  • Clapin, Philip Henry
  • Darby, Frank
  • Edden, George
  • Jerrom, Edward George
  • Langley, Frederick Barker
  • McCourt, William Rupert
  • McGowen, Stanley Redfern
  • McLeish, Alexander
  • Miles, John
  • Miller, Horace
  • Ridley, James
  • Rose-Bray, Walter James Elder

In addition to the roll of honour, a memorial to the two Members of Parliament who died in battle, Lieutenant-Colonel George Braund and Sergeant Edward ‘Ted’ Larkin, hangs in the Legislative Assembly chamber.

Library Stamps

Over 180 years old, the NSW Parliament library is one of the oldest libraries in Australia with a continuous history.
The NSW Parliamentary library was established in 1840 by the Legislative Council for use by members of NSW Parliament. A second library was established for the Legislative Assembly in 1856 and in 1862 both libraries were combined to create the library we have today. Our collection of parliamentary library stamps covers over 150 years of branding borrowed books. Changes to the crown symbol used by the monarchy can be tracked through the collection.
From the early 20th century until 1953 the Tudor crown was used, replaced by St Edwards Crown in 1953 upon the accession of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Today, our library provides a range of information services to MPs and staff, from in-depth research to lending and the ongoing management of digital, print and historical collections.

Book Blocks

Dating back to at least 1890, in the parliamentary library book blocks like these were used to mark the spot and record the details of a borrowed book.
Book blocks are not used in our parliamentary library anymore, but we are taking good care of these Victorian-era library cards as part of the Parliament’s object collection.

String Canister

Dating back to 1910, this string canister was used by the Parliament of NSW library to bundle books together in brown paper packages for members to borrow.