Western Australia inherited the English system of Government and law when it was colonised in 1829. Its first legislative body was the Legislative Council which met for the first time on 7 February 1832 and was presided over by the Governor of Western Australia, Captain James Stirling, who nominated the other four members.
In 1850, Western Australia was denied a two-thirds elected Legislative Council because the convict system required the British Government to provide the bulk of expenses for the Colony. As a compromise, in 1867 the Governor agreed to nominate to the Legislative Council those persons elected by all free adult males who owned property.
In 1870, Western Australia was granted representative Government with a Legislative Council consisting of 12 elected members and 6 members nominated by the Governor.
Western Australia was granted responsible government in 1890 when Parliament was formed with a Legislative Assembly of 30 elected members and a Legislative Council of 15 members who initially were nominated by the Governor.
During this evolutionary period in Western Australia, the British system of government, the Westminster system, also was developing. The franchise – or the right to vote – was being expanded as the notion of government representing all the people, not just certain classes of people, was gaining acceptance.
When Western Australia was granted self – or responsible – government in 1890, the system established was based on the Westminster tradition. However, unlike the Westminster system where the members of the Upper House [the house of Lords] were not elected but appointed by hereditary right, the Upper House in WA was, from 1893, elected.
In 1893, when the Colony's population reached 60,000, the Legislative Council became an elected body of 21 members with three members elected from each of the seven provinces.
Until 1964, only those people who owned property were entitled to vote in Legislative Council elections. Women were not entitled to vote until 1899; however, few were able to vote because most did not own property.
In 1920, women became eligible for election. In 1921, Edith Cowan became the first Australian woman to be elected as a Member of Parliament. The only other female Member of Parliament to be elected before her in the British Empire was Lady Astor, who took her seat in the House of Commons in 1919.
Role of the Legislative Assembly
Role of the Legislative Council