The word ‘lanyard’ is commonly used to describe a short rope to hold something, and can be used to describe various items in use by the military. 

What little is known about the origins of the lanyard can be classified as modern myth. One possible account is that the lanyard was first developed for the cavalry to bundle fodder for animals, and later used by the artillery to hold various implements.

Today's lanyards are worn with some forms of work and ceremonial dress but not all. Lanyards are not worn with field dress except by members of the Australian Army Cadets. Officer ranks Colonel and above, and senior Regimental Sergeant Majors do not wear lanyards. 

Lanyards of the type worn today are first mentioned in military text within the British Army’s Dress Regulation of 1900 and indicates it was worn with dress uniforms to signify status. 

The practice of wearing lanyards on the right shoulder applies to all members of the Australian Army except for Infantry Corps units and ‘A’ Field Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, who wear their lanyards on the left shoulder. 

Early lanyards were worn looped around the left shoulder with the loose end in the breast pocket. In 1920 the position was changed to the right side to simplify retrieval of the loose end from the pocket when a bandolier was worn.

The first mention of a lanyard in an Australian manual describes it as an item issued with a military clasp knife to enable it to be secured to the uniform. This type of lanyard was a simple piece of twine coloured a natural brown or khaki. These lanyards were still issued to soldiers up until the 1980’s.

During the early 1950's, whistles were introduced as an item of general issue to all ranks of the Corps of Staff Cadets, and to personnel of the rank of Sergeant and above. Whistles were attached to a coloured lanyard and worn round the right shoulder with the whistle placed in the top pocket. 

With their formal introduction in 1952, there were only seven different coloured lanyards in total, covering the nine Corps of the day with two being used by the Royal Military College Duntroon.

Lanyards were not worn by the junior ranks of the army initially, however, within a very short period of time they were general issue to all ranks.