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Western Australian Constitution

Prior to 1870, the Governor appointed members of the Legislative Council. In 1870 “representative government” was introduced and after this time, for the next 20 years, two-thirds of the members were elected. By 1890 the Legislative Assembly was fully elected and the Legislative Council followed in 1894. Not all men met the land ownership or wealth requirements necessary to be eligible to vote.  It was not until 1893 that this was removed and all men were given the vote. Opinion was divided on including women.

It is not a question so much of what the women want as it is a question of what the men want, because, after all, we men have the power in this colony.

Premier John Forrest, December 1897

I ask why should I refuse them the right to vote when I have found, on so many occasions, their judgement correct, and their feeling right. We give the vote to drunkards and spielers all over the colony; and we who support this principle ask you to place at any rate equal confidence in the sex that has produced your mothers.

Walter James, Member of Parliament, 1890s

In1899, responding to increasing public pressure, both Houses of Parliament passed a motion in favour of women being given the vote. This was five years after South Australia but before all the other States.

Commonwealth Constitution

At Federation all eligible male citizens over the age of 21 could vote, but only women in South Australia and Western Australia had the same rights. Women in these States were the only ones to vote on whether the colonies should create the Federation of Australia but the wording of the Commonwealth Constitution ensured that by 1902 all women had the right to vote in Commonwealth elections on the same terms as men.

Although all States had adult suffrage from 1908 this did not include Aboriginal people.  They were not given the right to vote in national elections until 1967 after the referendum.

Franchise was again expanded in the 1970s when the voting age was reduced from 21 to 18.    With this, the only restrictions remaining on eligibility to vote are insanity, treason and imprisonment for a serious offence. 


Acknowledgement of Country

The Government of Western Australia acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.