Australian Electoral Commission

British Subjects Eligibility

Updated: 5 May 2014

Why are some British subjects allowed to be on the electoral roll?

There are British subjects living permanently in Australia, who are not Australian citizens, who are eligible to vote in federal elections and referendums.

Under section 93(1)(b)(ii) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, British subjects, who were enrolled for a federal electoral division in Australia immediately before 26 January 1984, are eligible to enrol and vote at federal elections and referendums. Section 4 of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 also provides that electors who are entitled to vote at an election are entitled to vote at a referendum.

Prior to 1984

Eligibility to enrol and vote prior to 1984 was based on a combination of British subject status and a minimum Australian residence qualification of six months. In 1981, the Parliament passed legislative amendments changing the federal franchise qualifications. It was the view of all political parties and governments, state and federal, that Australian citizenship is the appropriate basis for the franchise. Parliaments in all states soon passed complementary legislation.

When the franchise qualifications were changed to require Australian citizenship, it was considered unfair to disenfranchise British subjects who were already enrolled and entitled to vote. Consequently, British subjects who were already enrolled at the date of transition were able to retain their franchise.

Is it compulsory?

Yes, it is compulsory for British subjects who were enrolled for a federal electoral division in Australia immediately before 26 January 1984, to enrol to vote, even if following 25 January 1984 they have let their enrolment lapse. British subjects not on the roll immediately before 26 January 1984 are not eligible to enrol even if they were resident in Australia at that time.

Over time, the number of British subjects enrolled for a federal electoral division in Australia prior to 26 January 1984 is gradually diminishing.

British subject status in Australia

The citizens of the following Commonwealth countries had the status of a British subject in Australia as at 25 January 1984

  • Bahamas (Commonwealth of the)
  • Bangladesh (People's Republic of)
  • Barbados
  • Botswana (Republic of)
  • Canada
  • Cyprus (Republic of)
  • Fiji
  • Hong Kong
  • Gambia (The)
  • Ghana (Republic of)
  • Guyana
  • India (Republic of)
  • Jamaica
  • Kenya (Republic of)
  • Lesotho (Kingdom of)
  • Malawi (Republic of)
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Nauru (Republic of)
  • New Zealand
  • Nigeria (Federal Republic of)
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore (Republic of)
  • Sri Lanka (Republic of)
  • Swaziland (Kingdom of)
  • Tanzania (United Republic of)
  • Tonga (Kingdom of)
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Uganda
  • United Kingdom and Colonies*
  • Western Samoa (Independent State of)
  • Zambia (Republic of)

Countries included in Citizenship Regulation 5A

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Belize
  • Dominica (The Commonwealth of)
  • Grenada
  • Kiribati
  • Maldives (Republic of)
  • Papua New Guinea (Independent State of)
  • Saint Lucia
  • Solomon Islands
  • Seychelles (Republic of)
  • St Kits and Nevis
  • St Vincent
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu (Republic of)
  • Zimbabwe


Ireland is not a British Commonwealth country but is to be treated as such.

South Africa is currently (and was previously) a member of the Commonwealth, however, people born in South Africa are not eligible British subjects for the purpose of enrolment.