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South Australia

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

About Parliament

South Australia Parliament

South Australia's Parliament consists of two Houses: the Legislative Council (Upper House), which is often called ´the House of Review´, and the House of Assembly (Lower House), where the government is formed.

There are currently 22 Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs), representing a single electorate. Legislative Council members are elected for a term of eight years, with half the council being elected at each general election every four years.

There are 47 Members of the House of Assembly (MHAs), elected from single-member electorates for a four-year term.

By-elections are held to fill casual vacancies in the House of Assembly, and in the Legislative Council a joint sitting of both houses is held to elect a new member when a vacancy arises.

Members of the House of Assembly are elected using a preferential voting system, while members of the Legislative Council are elected under a form of proportional representation.

Elections for the South Australian Parliament are held on the third Saturday in March, four years after the previous elections. All citizens aged 18 and over are entitled to enrol to vote.


South Australia was first settled by Europeans in 1836. It was to be a planned settlement without convicts.

From 1842, it was administered by an eight-member Legislative Council consisting of the Governor and seven nominated members. In 1851, the Legislative Council was enlarged to 24 members. Eight of these members were chosen by the Governor while 16 were elected by adult males who owned land or paid rent in the colony.

Responsible government began in South Australia in 1857, after the South Australian Constitution Bill was passed by the Legislative Council in 1855 and was agreed to by Britain in 1856. In 1857, the 18 members of the Legislative Council were elected by adult males who owned land in the colony. All adult males were allowed to vote for the new House of Assembly.

State symbols

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet, South Australia, has given permission for its State's insignia and emblems to be reproduced for educational purposes.

The South Australian Coat of Arms was granted in 1984 by Queen Elizabeth II, replacing Arms granted by King Edward VIII in 1936. The shield shows the State Badge, the State's Floral Emblem, and the State colours.
The South Australian flag was made official on 13 January 1904. It consists of the blue ensign with the Union Flag in the corner and the State Badge.
The State Badge was made official in 1904. It shows the piping shrike, or magpie, standing on a gum tree staff. This bird is the Bird Emblem of South Australia.
The Parliament House of South Australia is on the corner of North Terrace and King William Street, next to the site of the first, original building. Built of Kapunda marble on granite, the Parliament House was constructed in two stages, 50 years apart.
In 1961 the Sturt's desert pea was made the State Floral Emblem of South Australia.
The hairy-nosed, or plains wombat, was made the State Animal Emblem in 1970.
Opal was adopted as the Gemstone Emblem of South Australia in 1985.

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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.

South Australia (Self-government from 1857)

Democratic right Date right achieved for Assembly
Universal adult male suffrage 1856
Secret ballot 1856
Annual Parliament Not implemented
No property qualifications for Members of Parliament 1856
Payment of Members of Parliament 1887
Equal electorates 1975 (Electorates can vary by 10%)
Adult female suffrage 1894
Voting rights for Indigenous Australians Indigenous men received the right to vote in the 1850s, as for other British subjects. Aboriginal women acquired the right on the same terms as other women in 1894. Other prohibitions and qualifications, and bureaucratic interpretation, however, sometimes conspired to deny Indigenous people to exercise their right.

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Did you know?

  • Until 1942, voting in elections for both South Australian Houses of Parliament was voluntary. In 1942, voting in House of Assembly elections was made compulsory for all people listed on the State electoral roll. These conditions were applied to the Legislative Council in 1985.
  • Enrolment to vote in South Australian State elections is voluntary. However, once enrolled, electors must vote. As South Australia and the Commonwealth share a common roll, and it is compulsory to enrol to vote for the Australian Parliament, voting is in effect compulsory for South Australian citizens aged 18 and over.
  • In 1894, South Australia became the first Australian State to give women the right to vote and to stand for Parliament.
  • South Australians voted for federation by a very large majority. The Premier, Charles Kingston, was a strong supporter of federation and played an important role in drafting the Australian Constitution. Although he was the leader of a colony with a very small population, Kingston was not in favour of a strong federal Senate. He supported the efforts made by Victoria and New South Wales to limit the power of the Senate to control money.

Parliament of South Australia

Electoral Commission SA

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