Row of empowered multicultural women

There are over 3 million migrant women in Australia

We are doctors and nurses, cleaners, childcare educators, scientists and teachers. We work in every industry and live in almost every town. We are part of Australia and our voices are important in deciding Australia’s future.

We have families and loved ones that depend on us, at home and overseas. We have dreams and hopes for our future, and for the future of our children. We have values that we hold dear and we have lived experiences that have shaped our stance.

In making the commitment to be a citizen, we agreed to help be the keepers of Australia’s future, to play our role in shaping a country that we can all be proud to call home. Australia is a shared dream and part of that dream is our democratic system.

Hand putting ballot paper in box

Voting is our right, but it is also our duty.

Our hopes for Australia include:

  • Leadership that promotes love and respect, where diversity is championed and everyone gets an opportunity to participate
  • A healthcare system that looks after us when we are most vulnerable and is responsive to our cultural and linguistic needs
  • A fair, efficient and effective migration system, where no one is permanently temporary and an end to the citizenship backlogs
  • A zero-tolerance stance on violence against women and children and support systems to help women from migrant and refugee backgrounds (no matter their visa type)
  • A system that enables our full participation in social and economic life, including access to English language learning, employment support and skills recognition.

In the lead up to the 2019 federal election, the Harmony Alliance is calling on all women from migrant and refugee backgrounds to use the power of our votes

Voting in elections is an opportunity for women from migrant and refugee backgrounds to have a say about who makes decisions on our behalf. Harmony Votes calls on women from migrant and refugee backgrounds to exercise active citizenship. Active citizenship means being involved in making society a better place – paying attention to issues that affect us, our families and our communities, and working for change.  

Voting in elections is a key part of being an active citizen. In Australia, there are three levels of government elected at regular intervals: federal, state or territory, and local. Each level is responsible for different issues, and can make laws about these. However, some responsibilities are shared, such as roads, environmental management and public health issues.

You can find out more about the governments in your state or territory here

Understand the levels of government

Australian map

Federal Government

Decision making body:
Federal Parliament

Prime Minister

Lower House:
House of Representatives

Upper House:

The federal Parliament is divided into two houses – the House of Representatives and the Senate.


In order for a law to be made, it needs to be approved by both houses.


Federal government responsibilities include: immigration, most social services, pensions, defence, foreign affairs, and trade. The Federal Government is also involved in health, education, environmental issues and industrial relations.

Australian map of states

State or Territory Government

Decision making body:
State Parliament


Lower House:
Legislative Assembly

Upper House:
Legislative Council

Most state parliaments are divided into a lower and an upper house, like the federal parliament.


In order to create laws regarding state issues, the law needs to be passed through both houses.


State and Territory responsibilities include: schools, hospitals, environment, roads, railways and public transport, community services, police and emergency services.

Australian map of electorates

Local Government


Decision making body:
City Councils/Shire Councils

Mayor/Shire President

Councils look after the needs of a city or local community. Council representatives are called aldermen or councillors. Council meetings are usually open to the public.


Local government responsibilities include: local road maintenance, garbage collection, building regulations, public health and community facilities such as swimming pools. The ACT does not have local councils.

Getting ready to vote?

Check enrolment
How to vote
Issues that matter to you

Not eligible to vote?

Even if you’re not a citizen yet, it is still important to understand how Australia’s democracy and voting systems work. You still participate in civic life. Understanding elections and what motivates political parties can help you to drive change.


The material on this website draws on resources and publications of the Australian Electoral Commission, Women’s Electoral Lobby and the Centre for Multicultural Youth.

Australian Electoral Commission logo
Women's Electoral Lobby logo
Centre for Multicultural Youth icon

Harmony Votes is an initiative of the Harmony Alliance: Migrant and Refugee Women for Change, Australia’s national migrant and refugee women’s coalition, in partnership with the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council (NEMBC).

Harmony Alliance stacked logo
The National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters' Council logo