Voting and belonging: Introduction

Research topic

Investigate how being enfranchised (having the right to vote) and having proportional representation affects formal participation, belonging and equality.


If someone is 'enfranchised', they have the right to vote. If someone is 'disenfranchised', they have not been given the right to vote or have had this right taken away from them. The right to vote is sometimes called suffrage.

Today, every Australian citizen over the age of 18 has the right to enrol to vote, but, historically, some groups of people were excluded from the franchise, and were only awarded the vote after years of struggle. This is especially true in the case of women in colonial Australia, and Indigenous people with regards to the Commonwealth Franchise.

This unit uses the historical experiences of women and Indigenous people as case studies for learning about enfranchisement, and about how representation can positively affect groups of people in terms of belonging, equality and increasing formal participation.

Overall aim

After completing this unit, you will have:

  • developed an understanding of the importance of women and Indigenous people being enfranchised in Australia
  • identified key dates and people associated with enfranchisement in Australia
  • appreciated the need for Australia's parliaments to be representative of the wider community
  • considered strategies for ensuring that people are represented in decision-making processes and institutions at school and in the community.

Focus questions

  • What does it mean to be enfranchised?
  • What does it mean to be for parliaments to be representative of the community?
  • What are the key dates for the enfranchisement of women and Indigenous people in Australia?
  • Who were/are the key people who have fought/are fighting for enfranchisement and for parliaments to be more representative of the different communities in Australia?
  • How can I use what I know to ensure that all groups are represented in decision-making activity at school and in the community?


You will begin this unit by finding out about the key dates for women and Indigenous people's enfranchisement in Australia. Following that, you will examine statistics related to women and Indigenous people's representation in Australia's parliaments. You will then consider how being enfranchised and represented in Australia's parliaments has affected the lives of women and Indigenous people, and then debate proposals and strategies for increasing representation by women and Indigenous people in Australia's parliaments. This is followed by a research task where you will find out about the people who sought to achieve enfranchisement and representation for women and Indigenous people – their challenges and achievements. Finally, you will develop an action plan for enfranchising and representing groups, proportionate to their representation in the community, in decision-making at your school or in your community.

For the teacher | Introduction | Background | Researching | Analysing | Reporting | Resources