Australian parliamentary timeline

Closer Look – A Short History of Parliament [PDF 3.40Mb, 13 pages]

  • 1901

    Federation; Australia becomes a nation when the six colonies unite. The first Parliament is elected and Edmund Barton becomes Prime Minister.

  • 1902

    Parliament passes the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902, which gives women from all states in Australia the right to vote at federal elections. It excludes 'aboriginal natives of Australia, Africa, Asia or the Islands of the Pacific except New Zealand' from enrolling to vote.

  • 1906

    At Australia's first referendum, voters agree to change the Constitution to allow for concurrent elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate.

  • 1909

    The non-government parties form a Fusion party, a coalition united by their opposition to the Labor government. This leaves two major parties in the federal Parliament and leads to the two-party system which characterises Parliament today.

  • 1911

    The federal Parliament passes the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1911, making it compulsory for all Australians eligible to vote to be on the electoral roll.

  • 1925

    Compulsory voting is used for the first time in a federal election. All Australians eligible to vote are required to be on the electoral roll and to vote in the election.

  • 1927

    Provisional (Old) Parliament House is opened in Canberra. Both the Senate and House of Representatives chambers have a gallery, or area, where journalists can watch the Parliament at work, underlining a commitment to make Parliament accessible to the people.

  • 1934

    Western Australia tries to secede from Australia and become a separate country, but its appeals to the King and the British Parliament are unsuccessful.

  • 1943

    Dorothy Tangney and Enid Lyons become the first women elected to federal Parliament. Dorothy Tangney represents Western Australia as a Labor Party senator. Enid Lyons is a United Australia Party member who represents the electorate of Darwin in north-western Tasmania.

  • 1949

    Enid Lyons becomes the first woman in federal Cabinet when she is appointed Vice-President of the Executive Council in the Menzies Government.

  • 1959

    Parliament is televised for the first time in Australia when the opening of the Parliament is broadcast.

  • 1971

    Neville Bonner, the first indigenous member of parliament, is appointed to fill a vacancy in the Senate. He is elected as a Liberal senator for Queensland in 1972.

  • 1975

    A deadlock between the houses of Parliament results in the Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissing the government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

  • 1988

    Parliament moves to the new Parliament House in Canberra. It had outgrown the previous Parliament House, which was intended to be a provisional building.

  • 2010

    Julia Gillard becomes Australia's first female Prime Minister when the Labor Party chooses her as its leader.

  • 2010

    The federal election results in the first hung Parliament in Australia in 70 years. After 17 days of consideration following the election, four Independent and minor party members decide to support the Labor Party, allowing it to form a minority government.