Diversity of parliament in the spotlight

29 August 2022 Read the paper

New research shows the Victorian Parliament is more diverse but still doesn’t accurately reflect the constituents it serves.

A research note prepared by the Victorian Parliamentary Library analysed the key demographics of elected members at the past five state elections (2002-2018).

Two decades of representation in the Victorian Parliament found the average MP has been male, university educated, born in Australia and turning 45-64 during the election year.

This age group is overrepresented given it only accounts for a third of the total adult population in Victoria. As a result, those aged 18-44 and 65 and above are underrepresented in parliament.

The five most recent parliaments have also been male dominated, ranging from 70.3% in 2002 to 58.6% in 2018. This is despite a roughly equal split of men and women in Victoria’s population.

The biggest discrepancy is in the members’ region of birth.

Although migrants accounted for 30.7% of Victoria’s total population in 2016, the proportion of Australian-born MPs held steady between 83% and 91% across the five parliaments. 

The research note also looked at the education level of members and their occupations before entering parliament.

The findings revealed a large percentage of the MPs had previously worked for a union, political party, trade group or the public service, including as a staff member to another parliamentarian.

While those fields are overrepresented, others such as retail, hospitality and blue-collar services are underrepresented. Science and healthcare are also underrepresented, while clerical and administrative fields are overrepresented.

The research note concludes more action is needed if the parliament is to better reflect the diverse characteristics of the Victorian community.

‘The question of representation in Victoria’s legislature is even more pertinent following the gradual release of 2021 Census data from the ABS, the 2022 Federal Election results, and the forthcoming 2022 Victorian state election,’ the note says.