Australia since Federation Defining Moments, 1901–present
Investigation 2: The development of democracy and citizenship
2.2 Who gets a vote? Suffrage
A main feature of democracy is that there is universal suffrage — that is, that all adult citizens of the nation have the right to vote.
In 1901 most adult male Australians (aged 21+) had the right to vote, except for Aboriginal males in most states. Women in South Australia and Western Australia, including some Aboriginal women, had the right to vote, but women in the other states did not.
How did this change? When did it change in your state, and for the nation? And what other features have to exist for a nation to be a true democracy?
That’s what you are about to discover.
Voting information table
|Adult male suffrage||1858||1858||1856||1872||1856||1900||1857||1893||1901|
|Adult female suffrage||1902||1902||1894||1905||1894||1903||1908||1899||1902|
|Aboriginal male suffrage||1858||1858||1962||1965||1858||1900||1857||1962||1962|
|Aboriginal female suffrage||1902||1902||1962||1965||1894||1903||1908||1962||1962|
|Voting age lowered to 18||1973||1973||1973||1973||1973||1973||1973||1973||1973|
|Women could stand for election||1918||1918||1921||1915||1894||1921||1923||1920||1902|
|First women elected||1988||1925||1974||1929||1959||1948||1933||1921||1943|
|First Aboriginal MP elected||2011||2003||1977||1974||2012||2002||1979||1980||1971|
*Until 1911 ACT was part of NSW. From 1911–1987 laws for the ACT were made by the Australian Parliament
**Until 1911 NT was part of SA. From 1911–1947 laws for the NT were made by the Australian Parliament
***Nobody can see how you vote
1. Look at the Voting information table above. Look at each feature of democracy to see when your state or territory got it. Then add the information to the summary table below.
Name of state or territory:
|Feature of Democracy||Meaning||When achieved|
|Adult male suffrage||Most adult males have a vote|
|Adult female suffrage||Most adult females have a vote|
|Aboriginal male suffrage||Adult Aboriginal males have a vote|
|Aboriginal female suffrage||Adult Aboriginal females have a vote|
|Voting age lowered||People aged between 18 and 20 have a vote|
|Secret ballot||People could vote with nobody seeing who they voted for|
|MPs paid||Members of parliament were paid so anybody could afford to become an MP|
|Women could stand for election||Women could be elected to Parliament|
|First women elected||Women were first elected to parliament|
|First Aboriginal MP elected||Aboriginal people were first elected to parliament|
2. So far you’ve looked at features of democracy in your own state or territory. Now let’s focus on Australia as a whole nation.
Use the Voting information table above to work out when each of these features were introduced across Australia.