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Women in decision-making positions

Government organization

Australia is a federal monarchy with three spheres of government: federal, intermediate (states and territories), and local.

A tier of central government, one tier of three intermediate governments (states, northern territory and Australian capital territory) and one tier of local government for states and northern territory. There is no local government in the Australian Capital Territory.
Federal government
  • Head of State: The Monarch. A Governor-General appointed by the King is His Majesty's representative in the Commonwealth.
  • Head of Government: The Prime Minister is a member of the House of Representatives and the leader of the political party that commands the support of the majority of members of the House of Representatives, as appointed by the Governor-General.
  • Legislative body: Parliament is a bicameral legislature, with an upper house (the Senate), and a lower house (the House of Representatives). Members of Parliament are directly elected by voters.
  • Executive body: The Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister and ministers (one of whom is the Attorney-General) appointed by the Governor-General, with the advice of the Prime Minister, from amongst the members of Parliament.
State and territory government
  • Organization: Australia is organized into an intermediate tier of government, comprising six states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia) and two self-governing territories (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory).
  • Legislative body:
    • The state parliament is bicameral, with an upper house, the Legislative Council, and a lower house, the Legislative Assembly (in New South Wales, Western Australia, and Victoria) or the House of Assembly (in South Australia and Tasmania).
    • The state/territory parliament is unicameral with one house, the Legislative Assembly, in Queensland, the Northern Territory, and the Australian Capital Territory.
  • Executive body: The cabinet, led by the premier, is composed of ministers appointed by the premier. The premier appointed by the governor of the state/territory from amongst the majority party of the state/territory parliament.
Local government
  • Organization: Local government is organized into one tier of 548 local government areas, including 131 in New South Wales, 19 in the Northern Territories, 81 in Victoria, 78 in Queensland, 72 in South Australia, 138 in Western Australia, and 29 in Tasmania. The name of the local government area varies (city, town, municipality, shire, or district) but the government structure and competencies are similar across all local government areas.
  • Competencies: Local government is responsible for making and enforcing local regulatory legislation, laws and by-laws, adopting a budget, and raising revenue.
  • Ministerial oversight: Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development, and Cities

Overview of local government

Local government composition
Local government areas

Deliberative body: The council is composed of 5-15 elected members, including the mayor/lord mayor/president/chairperson, who presides over it but is not vested with executive powers.

Executive body: The general manager (in Tasmania) or the chief executive officer (in all other local government areas) is appointed by the council to be the executive of the local government area.

Local government elections
Electoral system

Electoral system for local deliberative bodies: mixed; first-past-the-post (in Queensland, Western Australia); proportional representation with single transferable vote (in the Northern Territory) or preferential (in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania)

  • First-past-the-post, proportional representation with single transferable vote, or preferential systems are used for local deliberative body elections.

Electoral system for mayors/lord mayors/presidents/chairpersons: optional-preferential system or indirect elections


  • In Queensland, the mayor is elected by optional-preferential voting.
  • Western territory, South Australia, Northern Territory, New South Wales: mayor/president may be elected directly by voters of by and from the local deliberative body.
  • In Victoria, the Mayor is elected by and from the Councilors by absolute majority.

Sources: Queensland Local Government Electoral Act, article 65; Western Australia Local Government Act, 1995, Schedule 4.1.2, 4.2.3 and 4.1.4; South Australia Local Government (Elections) Act, 1999, article 45.1; Tasmania Local Government Act, 1993, Schedule 7, Part 2; Northern Territory Local government (electoral) regulations, 2021, Schedule 1; New South Wales Local Government Act, 1993, article 285; Victoria Local Government Act, 2020, article 269

  • Gender quotas: No
  • Additional quotas: No
Term of elections
  • Term length: 4 years. In Tasmania and Western Australia, half of the membership of the council is renewed every two years.
  • Last local elections: varies by state/territory: 2020 (in Queensland and Victoria), 2021 (in New South Wales, Northern Territory and Western Australia), 2022 (South Australia and Tasmania)
  • Next local elections: varies by state/territory: 2023 (in Western Australia), 2024 (in Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria), 2025 (in New South Wales and Northern Territory), 2026 (in South Australia)
Electoral management body

State/territory independent electoral commissions


1. UN Women: Data on share of women in local government as of 1 January 2023.

2. UN Women: Information on Head of State and Government as of 3 October 2023.

3. Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU): Data on share of women in the single/lower chamber of parliament as of 1 January 2023.

4. IPU and UN Women: Data on share of women in ministerial positions as of 1 January 2023.

5. Information on local government organization as of 1 January 2023.