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New South Wales

About Parliament | History | State symbols | Chartist checkbox | Did you know?

About Parliament

New South Wales Parliament

The New South Wales Parliament consists of two Houses: The Legislative Council (Upper House) and the Legislative Assembly (Lower House). There are important differences between the two. The government of the day is formed in the Lower House, while the Upper House is often called ‘the House of Review’.

Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) are elected using a proportional, optional preferential voting system. There are currently 42 members who represent the whole state. Half the Legislative Council (21 members) are elected every four years for an eight-year term.

Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) are elected using an optional preferential system. There are 93 MLAs. Each is elected from one of the 93 single-member electorates in New South Wales. An MLA's usual term is four years.

Voting in New South Wales State elections is compulsory for all citizens aged 18 years or over.


New South Wales has Australia's oldest Westminster system of Parliament, with a history of responsible government dating back to 1856.

From 1824 to 1855, New South Wales was governed by a governor and a small group of men he appointed, known as the Legislative Council. In 1843, the Legislative Council was expanded, and two-thirds of its members were elected by the public. This body was replaced by the new bicameral parliament in 1856. The Legislative Council originally had 21 members, all appointed by the Governor. The Legislative Assembly originally had 54 members, all elected by male voters who owned property in the colony or who paid substantial rent.

State symbols

New South Wales has no official state colours, but sporting teams usually wear blue.

The New South Wales Coat of Arms was granted in 1906 by King Edward VII of England. It shows a lion and a kangaroo supporting a shield. The Latin motto 'Orta Recens Quam Pura Nites' means 'Newly Risen, How Brightly You Shine'. The lion represents the old country (England) and the kangaroo represents the new.
The New South Wales flag was made official in 1876. It consists of the blue ensign, with the Union Flag in the corner and the State Badge.
The NSW State Badge is the red cross of St George on a white disc. There is a gold star at the end of each arm of the cross and a lion in the centre. The badge was created by the NSW colonial architect of the day and a retired naval officer.
The New South Wales Parliament House is in Macquarie Street in the heart of Sydney. The oldest part of the building, completed in 1816, was part of a hospital in the early colony. The Legislative Assembly Chamber was opened in 1843. The Legislative Council Chamber was opened in 1856.
The waratah was made the State Floral Emblem of New South Wales in 1962.
The platypus was made the State Animal Emblem of New South Wales in 1971.
The kookaburra was made the State Bird Emblem of New South Wales in 1971.

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Chartist checklist

The Chartist checklist was a series of demands for responsible and representative government that spread throughout the Australian colonies from the mid-19th century.

New South Wales (Self-government from 1856)

Democratic right Date right achieved for Assembly
Universal adult male suffrage 1858
Secret ballot 1858
Annual Parliament Not implemented
No property qualifications for Members of Parliament 1858
Payment of Members of Parliament 1889
Equal electorates 1980 Electorates can vary by 10%
Adult female suffrage 1902
Voting rights for Indigenous Australians Indigenous men received the right to vote with other British subjects as the right was acquired for some colonial parliaments in the 1850s; and Aboriginal women acquired the right on the same terms as other women as the franchise was widened in some colonies and States. Other prohibitions and qualifications, and bureaucratic interpretation, however, sometimes conspired to deny Indigenous people the exercise of their right.

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Did you know?

  • Kerry Chikarovski was the first female leader of a major parliamentary party in New South Wales when she became leader of the Liberal Party, and consequently the Opposition, in 1998. Kristina Kenneally became the first female Premier of New South Wales in 2009. She led the Labor Government until March 2011.
  • Even though the New South Wales Parliament was established in 1856, it only began recording its debates in Hansard in 1879.
  • New South Wales was given responsible government in 1855 when the British Parliament agreed to the New South Wales Constitution Bill. This bill was drawn up by the New South Wales Legislative Council in 1853.
  • In the late 1800s, New South Wales was the richest colony and had the most people of any of the other colonies. The colony initially feared that a new federated nation would threaten its wealth.

Parliament of New South Wales

Electoral Commission NSW

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