People of the people’s House–uncovering their stories

The histories of people who have played major roles in the House of Representatives will be uncovered in a project begun recently. The people are the House Speakers, Deputy Speakers, and Clerks. The project brings together the House of Representatives department and the Australian National University’s National Centre of Biography, manager of the Australian Dictionary of Biography. The biographies will be released online in early 2020 and will be known as the Dictionary of the House of Representatives.

Some Speakers and their Deputies are very well known to many Australians but in other cases the biographies will bring their part in the history of the House to public attention for the first time since the early years of Federation.

Clerk of the House, David Elder, said ‘Australians are used to seeing the day to day political struggle of the House on the news but this project will tell us a much more reflective story about the role of the House and how it works. As an institution it is absolutely central to our democratic framework. The project will help explain three of its key offices.’

‘Members who have been elected to be Speaker or Deputy Speaker have stood apart from the politics of the day. When they take up those roles it is on behalf of the whole House. The third group, the Clerks, are principal advisers on House operations. Their role is a much less public one and they have always been expected to work impartially.’

Mr Elder also said that in addition to the individual biographies, the House department would produce short pieces explaining how each role has developed, what was inherited from the Westminster tradition at Federation, and what traditions have begun here.

/Public Release.