Voting and belonging: Research

Collecting data and information

Despite being enfranchised, women and Indigenous people remain under-represented in Australian parliaments.

  1. The Australian Parliamentary Library contains records of women in Australian parliaments.

    The Australian Electoral Commission’s History of the Indigenous Vote provides a list of the State, Territory and federal Indigenous parliamentarians since 1971.

    Look at the data contained on the websites relating to women and Indigenous people in parliaments (past and present). Does this data surprise you? If so, why? If not, why not? Discuss your thoughts with a classmate.

  2. Increased formal participation, a sense of belonging and equality are often associated with being enfranchised and represented in parliament and government. If women and Indigenous people are elected to parliament, issues such as health, education, employment, gender and racial equality, housing, welfare and land rights can be given a woman’s and an Indigenous person’s perspective. Their ‘voice’ is important, especially on the issues that directly affect them.

    Complete a Past-Present-Future chart as you reflect on the issues affecting the lives of women and Indigenous people:

    • before being enfranchised and represented (the past)
    • after being enfranchised but without representation proportionate to their representation in the community (the present)
    • after being enfranchised and being represented proportionate to their representation in the community (the future).
  3. Over the years, strategies for increasing representation by women and Indigenous people have included:

    • committing to having women candidates in a percentage of 'winnable' seats (a quota system)
    • implementing a model similar to that operating in New Zealand, which has had dedicated seats for its Indigenous people since 1867.

    Use a search engine to investigate reasons for and against dedicated seats and/or a quota system as a strategy for increasing the representation of women and Indigenous people in Australia’s parliaments.

    Record the for and against reasons you find online, as well as your own reasons, on a Plus and Minus chart.

  4. Form a team of six students to debate the issue of dedicated seats and/or a quota system as a strategy for increasing representation by women and Indigenous people in Australian parliaments. Each team of six will need to divide into two groups of three to make up the affirmative side of the argument and the negative side.

    You can choose to focus your debate on either:

    • a quota system for women in parliament
    • dedicated seats for Indigenous people in parliament
    • both a quota system and dedicated seats in parliament.