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Democracy is all about the parties (as in the one Don threw)

This will be a 2019 federal election free zone, I promise. Sunday, the morning after democracy’s big day, you’ll likely be a bit dusty whichever team you were cheering for on Saturday night. As it is an evening enshrined in Australian national mythology thanks to David Williamson’s Don’s Party, let’s hope you partied.

Nick Tate (Don), Brionery Behets (Susan) and Allan Lander (Mal) in the 1972 NIDA production of David Williamson's Don's Party.

Nick Tate (Don), Brionery Behets (Susan) and Allan Lander (Mal) in the 1972 NIDA production of David Williamson’s Don’s Party.

As I dusted off my mother’s 1970s sausage roll recipe this week to make her favourite finger food for the party I went to on Saturday night, I tried to conjure the ghosts of election parties past. I realised as I looked back on my own voting history over the years it was the parties I recalled, rather than the political parties’ platforms.

The first election I voted in was 35 years ago, the March 1984 NSW state election. I had narrowly missed out on voting in the previous year’s federal election, because then PM Malcolm Fraser closed the electoral rolls early, so as to minimise the number of young voters fired up over the Franklin Dam. I remember that March 5, 1983 “drover’s dog” election party that Bob Hawke won, because it was my first in Bathurst as a journalism student. It was such a big celebration, one of our college lecturers boasted he’d conceived one of his many children the night of the Labor victory.

The next year was not only the first time I voted, but also the first I worked as a journalist on work experience at The Sydney Morning Herald’s state bureau. I was sent to do the obligatory junior job, a vox pop on what people thought about making homosexuality legal. Let me just say that again, in case you missed it. Homosexuality was still a crime in NSW. That 1984 election party was nothing on the party that took place later that year when NSW Parliament voted to make homosexuality legal. The protesters on Macquarie Street, some of whom graced your television set during the latest election coverage on Saturday night, saved their celebrating for when that law finally passed.

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