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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 08:49 GMT
New mace is gift from down under
Hywel Griffith
By Hywel Griffith
BBC Wales

The New South Wales ceremonial mace
The mace is worth around 10,500
More than 200 years of history linking Wales to Australia will be celebrated at the opening of the Senedd.

A ceremonial mace has been flown from Sydney, as a gift from the government of New South Wales.

Hand crafted from gold, silver and brass, the 4ft (1.3m) mace will become the centrepiece of the new chamber.

The Australian state took its name after 18th Century colonialists likened the hills and valleys outside Sydney to the landscape of south Wales.

New South Wales Parliament Deputy Speaker John Price said the links were still held dear.

Most Welsh people evaporate when they come to New South Wales - you can't find them
Clive Woosnam, Sydney Welsh Choir
"We're New South Wales and that puts us very close", said Mr Price.

"We're fond of the name, and we're also fond of the Welsh people who formed a significant number of our early immigrants, both as prisoners in the early days and as free settlers."

The mace started life in 2002, when Melbourne goldsmith Fortunato Rocca was commissioned to come up with a design.

At first he did not know much about Wales, or where the mace would be housed.

"I really don't know too much about your parliament house...I've just done some research through the books of how old Wales was - I don't know much about today's Wales," he told me.
Sydney Welsh Choir
New South Wales still has a sizable Welsh expatriate community

The final, simple design was selected after consulting both Welsh and New South Wales governments.

Fortunato - or Lucky Rocca as he is sometimes known - spent 300 hours crafting the mace.

"If a lot of people see it, you like to express yourself in a way that people say 'Jeeze, isn't that nice,'" he said.

New South Wales still has a sizable Welsh expat community, but many feel they are not as visible as other nationalities.

"Most Welsh people evaporate when they come to New South Wales - you can't find them," says Clive Woosnam, president of the Sydney Welsh Choir.

Fortunato Rocca
Fortunato Rocca researched Welsh history to design the mace

"You can find the Scots and you can find the Irish, but the Welsh blend in so well, they fit in so easily, it's hard to find them."

'Lot to learn'

In the future, the government of New South Wales also hope to send more officials to Wales to build stronger political and economic ties, following up on visits to Australia by Wales' First Minister Rhodri Morgan.

"I think the smaller, provincial parliaments of the world have a lot to learn from each other," said Meredith Burgmann, President of the Legislative Council of New South Wales.

The New South Wales ceremonial mace
The mace is wrapped ahead of its journey to Cardiff

"The national parliaments have a lot of resources and they are looking at issues which are very different to the provincial parliaments, which are really looking at service issues."

However, Dr Burgmann is disappointed she will not be able to attend the opening of Wales' new assembly building, and the donation of the mace, as the date clashes with the first session of the New South Wales Parliament.

The mace is worth 25,000 Australian dollars (around 10,500).

Once unveiled it will take pride of place in the new assembly chamber - and serve as a reminder of Wales' friends down under.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See how the mace was designed and made



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