Indigenous candidates more likely to be party members than parachuted into politics
Indigenous people are more likely to stand as candidates for the Labor party (ALP) rather than Liberal, Country Liberal or National candidates, research from the University of Melbourne’s Dilin Duwa Centre for Indigenous Business Leadership has found.
The study by Dilin Duwa Director Associate Professor Michelle Evans and Griffith University’s Professor Duncan McDonnell, published in the Australian Journal of Political Science, looked at data from all federal, state and territory elections from February 2001 to May 2021, showing the two major parties, the ALP and Coalition, put forward Indigenous candidates on 143 occasions between 2001 and 2021, 70 per cent of whom stood for the ALP.
While the trend of more Indigenous candidates standing in Australian elections over the past 20 years has been gradually rising, this is the first study to explore in more detail the pathways to candidature, which parties the candidates stood for, the winnability of the seats they stood in and whether they were successful.
Professor McDonnell said across the political sphere, Indigenous candidates tend to stand in winnable seats.
“Of all the candidates that stood, 53.2 per cent won their election,” Professor McDonnell said.
The study also found women won significantly more often than men, 66 per cent of the time versus 44 per cent of the time.
The report shows the ALP has put forward more than five times as many Indigenous women than the Liberals and the Nationals.
The study also showed despite common misconceptions most Indigenous candidates were “partisans” - grassroots party members for at least a year before standing.
Associate Professor Evans said despite there being occasional instances of high profile “parachute” candidates, the opposite was more often the case.
“There have been some high-profile ‘parachutes’, however most Indigenous candidates (around two thirds) are ‘partisans’ - people engaged with and representative of their communities. We observed how the longer experience of partisans in the parties, and the mentoring and other advantages this gave them, had helped candidates navigate some of the challenges of standing for election.”
The study used election data from 2001 to 2021, and interviews with 50 Indigenous candidates (80 per cent of all Indigenous candidates) between 2010 and 2019 at federal, state and territory levels for the Australian Labor Party, Liberal Party, and National Party.