Voting and Elections: Electoral events timeline


Lower secondary/Middle secondary

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Links to the Australian Curriculum

Some Major Dates in Australian Electoral History


Australia's first political 'party', Australian Patriotic Association, established in NSW.


Male landowners given vote in Legislative Council elections in NSW.

First Legislative Council with 24 elected members met in NSW.


Australian Colonies Government Act passed by British government, providing for part-elected Legislative Councils in Victoria, South Australia, Van Diemen's Land and the future Western Australian Council.


Men 21 years and over given the vote in South Australia.
Secret ballot introduced in Victoria and New South Wales elections.


Secret ballot introduced in Queensland elections.


First Queensland Legislative Assembly elected by male voters who owned land.


Men 21 years and over given the vote in Queensland. Aboriginal men specifically excluded from voting.


First Western Australian Legislative Assembly elected by male voters who were landowners.


Men 21 years and over given the vote in Western Australia. Aboriginal men specifically excluded from voting.

Secret ballot introduced in Western Australia.


Women 21 years and over were given right to vote in South Australia.


Secret ballot introduced in Tasmania.


A referendum was held in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania to approve the draft Commonwealth Constitution for federation. Western Australia and Queensland did not participate in this referendum. South Australia was the only colony that allowed women to vote.


Women 21 years and over were given the right to vote in Western Australia.

A second Constitutional referendum was held in all colonies except Western Australia. Revised draft Constitution approved.


Western Australia voted to join the federation. Women were allowed to vote.


The Commonwealth of Australia officially began on 1 January.

First Commonwealth elections held in March.

The first Commonwealth Parliament sat in the Victorian State Parliament building on 9 May.


Commonwealth Franchise Act allowed men and women 21 years and over who were British subjects to vote in Commonwealth elections. Indigenous Australians were excluded from enrolment and voting unless they already had the franchise in their states. Women who were British subjects lost their right to enrol to vote if they married a non-British subject. People from Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands (except New Zealand) excluded from voting unless they already had the franchise at state level.

Women 21 years and over given the vote in New South Wales.

Men 21 years and over given the vote in Tasmania.

Commonwealth officials appointed to conduct federal elections. Voting was voluntary.


First Commonwealth election in which all women who were eligible to vote voted.

Women 21 years and over were given right to vote in Tasmania.


Women 21 years and over were given right to vote in Queensland.


First postal voting introduced in federal elections.


Women 21 years and over were given right to vote in Victoria.

Permanent Commonwealth electoral rolls established.


Compulsory enrolment introduced for all Federal elections.

Federal elections changed to be held on Saturdays.


Compulsory voting introduced for Constitutional referendums.

Compulsory voting introduced for Queensland state elections.


Preferential voting system for the House of Representatives and the Senate introduced with the Commonwealth Electoral Acts 1918 and 1919.


The 'Nationality Act' granted naturalised British subjects 'all political and other rights' but denies this right to Pacific Islanders who are British subjects.


Compulsory voting introduced for all Federal elections.


First Commonwealth election with compulsory voting held.
Natives of British India in Australia and naturalised Pacific Islanders given the right to enrol and vote.


First sitting of the Commonwealth Parliament in Parliament House, Canberra on 9 May.


First women elected to the Australian Parliament.


Proportional representation system for the Senate used for the first time in a Commonwealth election.

Commonwealth Electoral Act (1949) amended to give Aboriginal people the right to enrol and to vote in Federal elections if they were already entitled to vote in state elections or if they had served in the armed forces in World War Two.


All Indigenous Australians (Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders) given the right to enrol and vote under the Commonwealth Electoral Act (1962). Enrolment was voluntary, but for those enrolled voting was compulsory.


The age for enrolment, voting and candidature for Commonwealth elections was lowered from 21 years to 18.
The Australian Electoral Office established as an independent statutory authority.


Northern Territory granted self government.


Compulsory enrolment and voting required for all Indigenous Australians.

Franchise qualification changed from British subject to Australian citizen. British subjects on the electoral roll on or before 26 January 1984 allowed to keep enrolment and voting rights.

Registration of political parties introduced.

Public funding of election campaigns and disclosure of political donations and electoral expenditure introduced.


ACT granted self government.

The information on this timeline was adapted from Fact Sheet 17, 'Australian Electoral History', published by the Electoral Education Centre, Canberra. A detailed timeline is provided on the Discovering Democracy School Materials Project CD ROM, 'Stories of Democracy'.

Think about it

The following questions relate to the timeline. They are designed for students working individually or in small groups.

  1. Women were given the right to stand for Parliament in 1902 but no women were elected until 1943. Why did it take 41 years?
  2. Compulsory voting was introduced for federal elections in 1924 but most men and women who were British subjects could vote from1902. Why was it necessary to make voting compulsory in federal elections 22 years later?
  3. In 1962 Indigenous Australians were given the right to enrol to vote but this was not compulsory. Why was the law changed in 1984 to make enrolment AND voting compulsory for all Indigenous Australians?
  4. Use the timeline to create a list of dates for each state and territory to indicate when women were allowed to vote. How would you label this list? What conclusions can you draw about the sequence?
  5. Which dates on the timeline do you think are especially significant? Why?

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