Every once in a while, the discussion of statehood for Washington D.C. flares up, with the argument made, that residents of Washington D.C. are less represented in Congress than residents of other US states.

How is the situation in Australia? The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is the other special capital district that comes to mind. Are residents of the ACT comparably represented in Australia, or is the situation with the ACT different than Washington D.C.?

1 Answer 1


The situation in Australia's ACT is different:

In Australia's Federal Parliament, the ACT is represented by five federal members: three members of the House of Representatives represent the Division of Bean, the Division of Canberra and the Division of Fenner, and it is one of only two territories to be represented in the Senate, with two Senators (the other being the Northern Territory).

I'm not seeing any evidence of any recent campaign to change this.

EDIT based on @JoeC's comment: Some historical background from another Wikipedia article:

The division was created in 1949 and included the whole of the city of Canberra and surrounding rural areas.

Prior to 1949, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) had no representation in the Australian Parliament. The ACT's first member was elected at the 1949 federal election. However, until 1966 he could only vote on matters relating to the ACT and did not count for the purposes of forming government. In 1966, full voting rights were granted.

  • Strange, I assumed that Northern Territory was a state.... Apparently, for some reason, it is not. Does that mean it's "not really part of Australia"? Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 12:42
  • 3
    @user253751 It is part of Australia. Typically a territory is an area which is partially managed by the federal government because it's considered too small, or too sparsely populated, or it's a historical hangover, or it's not politically expedient. It's complicated. This chart helps.
    – Schwern
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 20:15
  • @Brian So, prior to 1949 the situation of the ACT might have been comparable to Washington D.C.? Australia really far far away from Central Europe, so please forgive my lack of insight. As the discussion of statehood for DC has recently flared up once again in the US, it struck me that Australia has a similar special capital district. So I wondered whether the situation with the ACT is comparable. Apparently, the Australians adapted their political system over time w.r.t. the ACT, which the US apparently didn't w.r.t. DC.
    – Dohn Joe
    Commented Jul 1, 2020 at 7:01
  • @DohnJoe Washington DC today is a city of over 700,000 people, Canberra in 1950 still had less than 20,000. That's kind of a big difference, but otherwise, I guess you could say yes.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Jul 1, 2020 at 10:51
  • @Schwern: That's a wonderful comparative table!
    – gktscrk
    Commented Jul 1, 2020 at 17:36

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