1383.0.55.001 - Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators, 2009  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/04/2009   
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The proportion of women in federal parliament
Column graph: the proportion of women in the house of representatives and the senate, as of 1 January 1999 and 1 January 2009

Source: Parliamentary Handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The proportion of women in the Parliament of Australia has risen over the past 10 years. On 1 January 1999, 33 of 148 (22%) members of the House of Representatives were women, as were 24 of 76 (32%) senators. By the beginning of 2009, the representation of women had risen to 40 of 150 (27%) in the House of Representatives and 27 of 76 (36%) in the Senate. The rise in the proportion of women in parliament between 1999 and 2009 was relatively small compared to the increase that had taken place in the decade prior (Endnote 1).

At 30 June 2008, 92% of eligible Australians were enrolled to vote, the same proportion as at the time of the Federal elections in 2007 and in 2004. There are differences in the proportions enrolled among different age groups. The lowest proportion is for younger people aged 18-24 years where 82% were enrolled at 30 June 2008 (Endnote 2).


National life is influenced by both the wellbeing of individual citizens in terms of tangible factors such as income, wealth, health and education and by less tangible factors such as the quality of our public life, the fairness of our society, the health of democracy and the extent to which citizens of Australia participate actively in their communities or cooperate with one another.

While these areas are important to the functioning of society, it is difficult to measure these aspects, and there is no single indicator that summarises this dimension of progress.

It has been argued that a healthy democracy needs citizens who care, are willing to take part, and are capable of helping to shape the shared values and aspirations of a society. Participation - whether through the institutions of civil society, political parties, or the act of voting - is therefore seen as important to a stable democracy. In Australia, enrolment and voting in state/territory and Federal elections is compulsory.

Another principle underpinning a healthy democracy is that parliament should represent and express the will of the people. The representation of women in parliament is an indicator of women's political participation and the support for female candidates from political parties.


Democracy, governance and citizenship - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2006
The Australian Constitution
Australian Human Rights Commission


1. Information on women in parliament can be found in the Parliamentary Handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia on the Parliament of Australia website, viewed 20 January, 2009.

2. These estimates were derived using Australian Bureau of Statistics population data and are sourced from Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) 2008, AEC Annual Report 2007-08, viewed 10 December 2008.