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Who Could Vote?

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Proclamation of the Western Australian Constitution Act 21 October 1890
Proclamation of the Western Australian Constitution Act, 21 October, 1890.
Colonial Secretary’s Office, AN 24, Acc.752, 2964/90
State Records Office of Western Australia

From 1829 to 1890, the ability to participate actively in government had been gradually extended from only the Governor to all men who owned or leased property of a certain value.

At the time of the proclamation of the Constitution in 1890, only wealthy men could vote. This meant that most men, all women and Aboriginal people had no political rights at all.

1829

The Governor held all political power in the colony.

1832

The Governor and four officials constituted the Executive and Legislative Council.

1839

Four leading colonists were nominated to the Legislative Council. In 1867, more colonists were appointed and the Council slowly developed into a mini-Parliament

1870

Two thirds of members of the Legislative Council were now elected. Men over 21 who owned or leased property could vote. For example, professional men could usually vote but artisans, labourers and others could not. Women and Aboriginal people were excluded.

1890

The two-House (bicameral) Western Australian Parliament was established by the Constitution.

Men could vote if:

  • they owned freehold or leased property of 10 pounds annual minimum value,
  • were Crown leaseholders of 10 pounds annual value,
  • were householders with Crown leaseholds of 10 pounds annual value,
  • were householders who leased homes of 10 pounds annual value, or
  • were lodgers, occupying a room of 10 pounds annual value for two years.

Note: The casual daily wage for a skilled labourer was about 7 shillings. Ten pounds was approximately six weeks' wages of such a labourer.