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Election Festival 2019: democracy in action

 Bec Selleck
A visitor enjoying a democracy sausage at Election Festival 2019. Photo by: Bec Selleck
Election Festival 2019 celebrated the spirit of the historic building and Australia’s unique democratic history on a day when people were reminded of the importance of active citizenship.

More than 12,000 voters had their say on the future of Australia at Old Parliament House during the 2019 federal election when the iconic building was transformed into an Australian Electoral Commission super booth, for local and interstate voters.

In the week before the election, 5,165 people cast pre-poll votes on site, and on election day 18 May, 7,069 visitors embraced the opportunity to be part of democracy in action in the very place where decisions that shaped our nation were made.

During the daylong festival held on 18 May, performers entertained visitors by bringing Old Parliament House’s dynamic history to life in We the People, a game designed for the event. Based on real-life experiences of many who had worked behind the scenes in the building between 1927 and 1988, the characters included a switchboard operator, hairdresser, Hansard reporter, pastry chef and typist.

Visitors were invited to take part in games and complete challenges while in line to vote, receiving a special badge reward. Many people even volunteered for additional challenges so that they could collect the entire set of badges. Children under the age of five were treated to a mini election in PlayUP, helping them learn more about voting and democracy in a fun and hands-on way.

As no Australian election booth is complete without a democracy sausage sizzle, we partnered with Rotary Australia, who raised more than $4,500 by selling 1,700 sausages from a stall in front of the iconic building. Nearby, the Australian Capital Territory’s official Town Crier entertained and added to the festival atmosphere, giving free sausages to people who could answer his questions on Australia’s political history.