Sausages and Australian Elections

After casting their ballots voters around Australia were greeted by cheery volunteers raising funds for their local school.

After casting their ballots voters around Australia were greeted by cheery volunteers raising funds for their local school.

Sausages and elections go hand in hand in Australia.  The schools and community centres which are used throughout the country as polling booths take advantage of elections to do some much-needed fundraising.  The most popular fundraising event is the sausage sizzle.

DSCN9935 White BreadAll that is needed is a barbeque, sliced white bread and tomato sauce to make a sausage sandwich.  Often fried onions are included.  I have no idea why manning the barbeque is traditionally a male thing.  In my family it isn’t.

But I digress.

Stumbling Through the Past was born a little over three years ago on the day of the last Federal election in 2010.  I was writing up my thesis which included discussion of the Federal election of 1910.  Writing about the Federal election of one hundred years ago was an obvious topic to launch my new blog. You can read that post here.

So I had to write an election day post today to celebrate the third anniversary of Stumbling Through the Past and pay homage to the event that helped me start my blog.  But what to write about?  I had planned to write a serious post about technology and elections, but it has been an intense week this week.  I was in no mood to write a serious post.

It came to me when I saw that “#sausage” was trending world-wide today on Twitter:

How long have sausages been associated with Australian elections I wondered?  So I did a simple search in our wonderful Trove digitised newspapers site for the words “sausage” and “election. Early results were about sausage wrappers. For example this article published in Broken Hill:

The Barrier Miner>, 16/12/1895, p. 3.

The Barrier Miner 16/12/1895, p 3.

So for all researchers out there, maybe this is why you are having trouble finding material about the 1891 election in New South Wales.

We speed through to 1917 for the next interesting comment about sausages and elections.  Calling a newspaper a ‘sausage wrapper’ was a serious insult worthy of damages:

Muswellbrook Chronicle, 9/6/1917, p 1.

Muswellbrook Chronicle, 9/6/1917, p 1.

I saw other references to newspapers being sausage wrappers.  Calling a newspaper a sausage wrapper was clearly a well-used insult for the journalism in some of the papers of the time.

But I didn’t find anything about cooking sausages for fundraising at polling booths.  Most of the newspapers that have been digitised date prior to 1954 so I guess that this form of fundraising is a relatively recent innovation.  However, I did find this rather intriguing item about a ‘sausage bribe’ from The Canberra Times in 1989:

Image of article about a 'sausage bribe'

The Canberra Times, 11/4/1989, p, 3.

I love the accusation thrown at the West Australian Liberal Party leader, Barry MacKinnon, that he had been caught in the dastardly deed of “being involved in the dissemination of sausages”. Of all the terrible things politicians stoop to!

I don’t remember anything about this. I can’t find any further articles about this evidence of election silliness. Perhaps you can find some more? (A search for ‘sausage’ and ‘bribe’ did reveal an article about a fundraising car rally in 1990 “where bribes are encouraged and where people are fined for taking things too seriously”.)

If you want to get a feeling for how important sausages now are at Australian elections, check out these popular websites:

And here’s a last look at some of those humble sausages that helped to put some extra funds into our schools today:

DSCN9940This post has been updated on the day of the West Australian Senate election in 2014 to include the full text of the article about the ‘sausage bribe’ and to share the article about the car rally. This was felt to be an appropriate way to mark another day of #democracysausage in Australia.

Further Reading

12 thoughts on “Sausages and Australian Elections

  1. I remember in the 1950s that a standard way of making money as a kid was to collect newspapers to sell to the butcher, who would use them for wrapping meat (it probably worked with fish shops too). Then health and safety rules came in, butchers had to use fresh white paper, and that idea disappeared. But I can think if a few newspapers I’d happily use for sausage wrappers today.

    Lovely post, Yvonne, and congratulations on 3 years of blogging. It has indeed been a hard week.


    • Thankyou Marion. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last three years of blogging. The highlight for me is always the comments from readers. Thankyou for all your thought provoking comments!

      Do you remember anything about schools using elections to raise funds in the 1950s-1980s? My quick search of digitised newspapers gave the impression that before 1954 this wasn’t done. However we have to keep in mind that newspapers have never reported everything and that not all newspapers have been digitised. The absence of evidence does not mean it did not occur.


  2. I began school in 1954 so my memories don’t go back to Trove’s dates, but no, I don’t really. The answer may be linked to when school halls began to be used as polling booths – and I don’t know the answer to that one. Sectarianism was such an issue, both in education AND in politics, during the 1950s – state schools were de facto Protestant schools, since Catholic kids went to their own schools – so maybe a school hall wasn’t such a neutral place as it is today.
    What intrigues me is that fund-raising efforts have moved from cake stalls and lamination drives to sausage sizzles – is that driven by gender or by a shift in taste from sweet to savoury?


    • That is an interesting observation about election day fundraising moving from cakes and lamingtons to sausage sizzles. I wonder if that is because our diets are changing and we are no longer being served up with sausages, vegetables, mashed potato and gravy on a regular basis for dinner at home. Sausages may now be a bit more interesting to us. I also wonder if it is the result of Dads becoming more involved in school activities such as fundraising. Your point about sweet vs savoury works on me because I’m not so keen on sweet things, however I desist from the sausages because of cholesterol. Frankly, none of the fundraising foods are any good for us!

      It hadn’t occurred to me that the sectarian issue may be a factor too. Catholics would not have wanted to contribute to the fundraising efforts of protestant schools.

      We had lamingtons at the local school’s election day fundraiser. However, I feel that the focus of the fundraising was still on the sausage sizzle. This may be because cooking on the spot has a performance element which attracts more attention because of the sound, smell and movement involved.


  3. There were no election day sausage sizzles when i was at school in the 1960s nor at my children’s schools in the 1980’s. It hadn’t occured to me that they might be a relatively recent’invented tradition’. congratulations on your third anniversary!


    • Perhaps someone in the future will explore the history of fundraising on election day in Australia.

      Thanks for dropping by and helping to celebrate this blog’s 3rd anniversary. Your blog, The Resident Judge of Port Phillip is an important part of this blog as it is your blogging and encouragement that prompted me to start this one.

      How old is your blog?


  4. Hahaha I love it (even though I actually can’t stand sausages…does that make me unAustralian?). I have to say, with the state of the newspapers in this country right now, i hope they did function as sausage wrappers in this election…it would have been a fiting use. Congrats on 3 years of blogging. I am impressed!


    • We have two children who not only dislike sausages they detest steaks. The traditional barbeque was not at all popular when they were growing up and they preferred to starve than eat at barbeques we were invited to. Australian = diversity in eating preferences as well as other forms of diversity.

      The thing I love about blogging and other forms of online media is now we have the choice to present and consume news and information in the way we want to. It is a powerful vehicle that allows each of us to make a small contribution to creating a better world. I put the blog post you published today in that category – When in doubt, Prioritize people. I look forward to reading more from you.


  5. Congratulations on your blogoversary! This is a good opportunity to thank you for the way you have enriched my reading life, improved my understanding of what history is and how it can be written, and become a good friend as well *hug*
    BTW the reason for the lamington/sausage shift is because there are now so many regulations about selling home-baked goods (extensive labelling because of nut allergies etc) that home cooks feel discouraged. No one wants to own up to using a packet mix on the now compulsory label, and there are now not so many people who actually bake from scratch. (Which was really what most of us loved about the traditional cake stall). With sausages, all you have to worry about is offending religious sensibilities (anti-pork, anti-beef) LOL!


    • Thankyou for your insights into the lamington vs sausages discussion Lisa! I hadn’t thought of the decline in cooking skills and time available to cook impacting on the lamington stall. You are right about people wanting to buy home cooking, not the results of packet mixes.

      And thankyou for being such a great supporter of this blog! I really appreciate your thoughtful comments 🙂


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