Writs to Referendums: Celebrating Australia’s Unique Electoral System

  • 2023

  • Digital

Designed In:


From sausage sizzles to scrutineers, come on a vibrant journey through the innovative and intricate processes which afford all Australians equal say in the running of this country. Tracking the people and procedures underpinning federal elections, this interactive exhibition immerses visitors in the strengths that make our democracy so unique.

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  • At the time of commissioning, the Australian public's trust in the government as an institution was low. Our challenge was to renew faith in, and enthusiasm for, the Australian democratic process. Within Canberra’s Old Parliament House, the Australian Electoral Commission wanted to redevelop the Museum of Australian Democracy in an immersive experience, celebrating Australia’s unique and much-admired federal electoral process. Grumpy Sailor's brief was to design, develop and deliver a series of interactives to inform and engage students. The goal was to provide transparency and regain the public’s trust in our democratic process and, ultimately, ensure every voice is heard.

  • The ‘Writs to Referendums’ exhibition moves conceptually and physically from the macro to the micro of democracy and elections. Navigating a richly interactive map, visitors first discover the shifting shapes and dynamic role of Australia’s electorates in maintaining an equal vote for all. Around the corner, interactive video walls and a cinematic soundscape immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of election day, whilst inviting deeper engagement with various facets of both the voter experience and the AEC’s work behind the scenes. Finally, an uplifting documentary film spotlights the intricacies of the much-admired electoral process that makes Australia so unique.

  • Through immersive learning, the key impact is engaging audiences on a dry topic. ‘Writs to referendums’ educates audiences about the democratic process while explaining their role within the civic system. Stories of everyday Australians highlight the inner workings of the electoral process and election day buzz. Visitors discover how participation impacts the nation, how trust and transparency are embedded into the system, and the ways they can personally engage. Leaving informed and inspired, this greater buy-in to the democratic process has a significant long-term social impact. Through greater participation in civics, visitors help design the society they will live in.

  • Interactive electoral maps An animated interactive map invites users to discover what an electorate is, and how redistributions work to ensure all Australians get equal say. Traversing the map’s tactile appearance and responsive surface, users zoom in to explore their own electorate. Toggling between historical, past, and present views, users see how the size and shape of their chosen electorate have changed over time to accommodate the shifting population. ‘Trust and Transparency’ video walls A pair of multi-channel interactive video walls tell the story of election day from two sides: the voters, and those involved in making voting possible. From preparing for the day to arriving at polling centres, to casting and counting votes, each story mirrors the other, creating a powerful window into the rigorous process that underpins the simple and secure experience offered to all Australians. ‘Free and Fair’ Documentary Shoes scuff pavement, hands shuffle ballot papers, sausages sizzle. Capturing the sights and sounds of election day, a beautiful documentary film tells the story of Australia’s largest democratic event. Voters, journalists, candidates, scrutineers, and of course, our AEC electoral experts, offer an incredible glimpse at the myriad of people and processes that make Australian elections work.