Getting started

Can I vote?

Voting in Australia is compulsory. This means you MUST vote. If you do not vote, you may have to pay a fine.

Do I need to vote?

To vote in Australia, you must be:

  • an Australian Citizen
  • 18 years or older

How often do I need to vote?

In Australia, there are three levels of government elected at regular intervals.

The Federal Government is elected every three years. The State Government is also elected every three years, but at different times to the Federal Government. Local Governments are elected every four years. You will need to vote in all these elections.

Am I enrolled?

To vote in Australia, you need to be enrolled to vote. Make sure you enrol to vote at least one month before the election day. For federal elections, you can check if you are enrolled on the AEC website.

Australian Electoral Commission logo

To find out how to enrol for the federal election, download our guide or download the AEC Easy English Guide for more information.

How do I vote?

You can vote on election day at a polling place near your house. You can also vote before election day at an early voting centre or via postal vote. To vote, you will need to fill out two ballot papers by ranking the candidates in order of your preference.

To find out more about when and where you can vote, download our guide or download the AEC Easy English Guide for more information.

How the Australian Parliamentary System works

In Australia, candidates are democratically elected to the Parliament to represent the Australian people and to make laws on their behalf.

The Australian Federal Parliament is made up of two houses:

The House of Representatives
(lower house)

Made up of local Members of Parliament (MPs)

Role of House of Representatives diagram

Source: Australian Government Parliamentary Education Office

The Senate
(upper house)

Made up of Senators who represent the states and territories of Australia

Role of Senate diagram

Source: Australian Government Parliamentary Education Office

The party, or group of parties, who have the support of more than half of the MPs in the House of Representatives, becomes the Government and chooses the Prime Minister.

Voting for candidates in both houses is important, because both houses play an important role in decision making. Both houses must agree before new laws are made. For more information, visit the Parliamentary Education Office website

Parliamwentary Eductaion Office logo

Preferential Voting

Australia uses a preferential voting system in the House of Representatives.

This means that instead of just voting for one candidate, you should rank candidates in order of how you feel about them.

Candidates for the House of Representatives need at least 50 per cent of votes to be elected.

If your first choice (the candidate that you marked as number 1) is not elected, your second choice will be counted instead. If your second choice is not elected, your third choice will be counted instead. This continues until one candidate has at least 50 per cent of all votes.

The preferential voting system means that if you vote for a less popular candidate or a smaller party as your first preference, and they do not win, your vote will still be counted towards electing your member. After the election, parties will look at the ‘first preference’ votes to better understand issues that matter to their electorate.

For example – if a large number of voters put number 1 next to Party A, but Party B wins the electorate, the new MP from Party B will still know that a lot of their electorate care about the issues represented by Party A. This may then influence the decisions they make in parliament.

House of Representatives ballot paper

Proportional Representation

Australia uses a proportional representation system in the Senate. This means your State or Territory will choose more than one candidate to represent them in the Senate. In the Senate, candidates need a certain quota of votes to be elected. Instead of just voting for one candidate, you should rank candidates or parties in order of how you feel about them.

In the Senate, candidates need a certain quota of votes to be elected.

If you live in a State (Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia) your vote will go towards electing six Senators for a normal election, and twelve Senators for a double dissolution election. If you live in a Territory (ACT, Northern Territory), your vote will go towards electing two Senators in all elections. For more information about double dissolution elections, visit the AEC website.

If your first choice (the candidate that you marked as number 1) is not elected, your second choice will be counted instead. If your second choice is not elected, your third choice will be counted instead.

Similarly, if your first choice has already received the number of votes they need to be elected, then your second, third, or fourth (etc.) choice will be counted instead.

This continues until your vote is counted, or until enough candidates receive the quota of votes required to be elected.

The proportional representation system allows a voice for minority parties in decision making in Australia.

Senate ballot paper

Practice voting

Workshops

You can also participate at an enrolling and voting workshop with the Harmony Alliance. To find out when these workshops will be held, please check the Harmony Alliance site:

The Women’s Electoral Lobby (WEL) also holds workshops about voting. To find out when they will be held, please visit the WEL website:

Other useful tools and documents

How to fill out election ballot papers
(multilingual)