Characteristics of a democratic society

An open, democratic society offers many benefits to its citizens. It gives them freedom to make choices about their lives, to develop their potential as human beings and to live free from fear, harassment and discrimination. It gives them protection under the law and the right to elect legislators of their choice and to remove them if they do not perform to their satisfaction. It guarantees freedom of speech, religion and assembly. It ensures an independent judiciary. Through the principle of the rule of law it guarantees universality of the scope of the law and equality before the law for all citizens.

Freedom of the press makes possible the exposure of corruption, malpractice and incompetence; diversity of media opinion offers alternative interpretations of news and events. Parliamentary committees and inquiries oversee the accountability of executive decisions. Public officers such as Auditors General and Ombudsmen, answerable to the parliament not the executive, have statutory powers to review large and small decisions of the government.

A strong democracy encourages an active and outspoken civil society and robust public debate including dissent and disagreement with government. Such a democracy gives its members many opportunities to participate in public life. A properly functioning democracy also has moral responsibilities to non-citizens, refugees, visitors and other nations. Many of these responsibilities are enshrined in international covenants and agreements.

These are the benchmarks against which the practice of democracy in Australia must constantly be measured.

Recent releases


Hear Our Voice book cover Hear Our Voice Ken Coghill & Paula Wright

New reports

Book cover Are we progressing: Comprehensive monitoring and reporting in Australia Andrew Macintosh & Deb Wilkinson

New Essays

HRFA-cover Human Rights For and Against Spencer Zifcak & Alison King

Aus-Economy The Australian Economy Ian McAuley

GPoverty-img Global poverty Michelle Sowey

For the launch of the new web site:

Democracy in Australia

Full revisions completed.

Fact and Issue Sheets

Revisions to nearly all sheets completed.

School resources

Full revisions completed.