Australian Electoral Commission

Australia’s major electoral developments Timeline: 1788 - 1899

Updated: 28 January 2011

1788 – 1899 | 1900 – To Present

Year Australia's major electoral developments
1788
  • Prior to European settlement Australia was occupied by groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people led by elders and subject to traditional laws. These groups governed themselves through a corporate decision making process. European settlement occurred in 1788. Australia became a penal colony run by a governor (Autocratic Government).
1835
  • The Australian Patriotic Association, Australia's first political 'party', was established under W. C. Wentworth. It demanded democratic government for New South Wales.
1840
  • Adelaide and Sydney City Councils were established. Men required 1000 pounds worth of property before they could stand for election and wealthy landowners were allowed up to 4 votes each.
1843
  • First parliamentary elections in Australia – for New South Wales Legislative Council. Only men with a freehold valued at 200 pounds or a householder paying rent of 20 pounds per year could vote.
1850
  • Men with 100 pounds free-hold, 10 pounds annual value householders, 3 year lease of 10 pounds annual value, or depasturing licence were allowed to vote.
  • Elections for legislative councils held in VIC, SA and TAS.
1855
  • Limited self government granted to NSW, VIC, SA and TAS.
1856
  • The Australian version of the secret ballot was introduced in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. Its main defining feature was the government-supplied voting paper containing candidates' names. It was adopted around the world and became known as the Australian Ballot.
  • The right to vote in South Australia was granted to all male British subjects 21 years or over.
1857
  • The right to vote in Victoria was granted to all male British subjects over the age of 21.
1858
  • The secret ballot was introduced in New South Wales.
  • The right to vote in New South Wales was granted to all male British subjects over the age of 21.
1859
  • The secret ballot was introduced in Queensland.
  • Queensland received self government.
1872
  • The right to vote in Queensland was granted to all male British subjects over the age of 21.
1890
  • Western Australia received self government.
1893
  • The secret ballot was introduced in Western Australia.
  • The right to vote in Western Australia was granted to all male British subjects over the age of 21.
1895
  • Women over 21 were given the right to vote in South Australia.
1896
  • The right to vote in Tasmania was granted to all male British subjects over the age of 21.
1899
  • Women over 21 were given the right to vote in Western Australia.

1900 – To Present