What happens when representative democracy turns participatory? Interpreting the democratic experiences of Indi

Stream: Panel 85 - Political Theory: Democratic Reforms and Populism
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.00 pm


Representative and participatory models of democracy have never been close bedfellows. The principal-agent model of representation underpinning representative democracy is often viewed as antithetical to the participatory ideals of inclusion and democratic empowerment. This paper reconsiders the relationship between representative democracy and participation in light of the participatory experiences unfolding in the Federal electorate of Indi, in rural North East Victoria, Australia. It tracks how a small community group, Voices4Indi, built a participatory campaign in the lead up to the 2013 Federal Election that questioned, challenged and ultimately transformed the democratic landscape of their electorate, and in turn Australia’s Federal parliament. The paper maps the ongoing participatory efforts of the elected Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, in her attempt to ‘bring the community with her’. Drawing on the Indi experience the paper discusses the frustrations electoral democracy poses to some communities, and the opportunities and challenges faced when elected representatives seek to reinvigorate it by actively engaging with constituents. More broadly, the paper considers how the democratic experiences of Indi inform recent debates on political representation in contemporary politics.


Carolyn Hendriks (Presenter), ANU
Carolyn M. Hendriks is an Associate Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University (ANU). Carolyn has taught and published widely on the practice and politics of citizen engagement, public deliberation and network governance. Her research interests include democratic innovation, public deliberation, alternative forms of political participation and environmental politics. Carolyn teaches graduate courses in the Masters of Public Policy.

Carolyn is the Chair of the Academic Advisory Committee of newDemocracy Foundation. She is an editorial board member of the following journals: the European Journal of Political Research, Policy and Society, Journal of Public Deliberation
Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies.