NewVote and me - by Hamish Pratt

I’m a farmer from South Australia. I’m passionate about sustainable farming practises and food security. Like many Australians and citizens around the world I’m passionate about the future of our planet and its climate and the environment too. I’m also passionate about how our society supports and cares for our most vulnerable. But most of all I’m passionate about democracy. About everyone having their say. About everyone having a voice, and having that voice heard and considered. 

Hamish Pratt

That’s where NewVote comes in. This is my story…

Newvote began - for me - some five and a half years ago. It was early September (2013) and the Federal election was being held essentially between Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd, who was having his second crack at heading up the Labor Party (post Julia Gillard). 

I remember we were shearing sheep the following Monday. There were 1000 or so Merinos and I had to muster and have them yarded and shedded up - ready to go. The closest polling booth was a good half an hour from where I was. Out there, that isn’t much of a distance, but I hardly had a spare hour or two to vote.

But it wasn’t the time to spare that concerned me the most. It was my vote. My precious, democratic-rite, lucky-to-live-in-a-country-where-you-are-able-to-vote, vote. 

I didn’t know what to do with it. 

Here was my quandary:

I sympathised with policies on both sides of the major parties as well as one or two of the minors. But the information I had been able to glean on these issues had been questionable in its authenticity. I liked candidates from at least three parties up for election - but would they hold their position once they were elected? On the policies that mattered to me the most I sided with one party more than any other but would they stay true to their word? Or would they break their ‘promise’? 

There wasn’t a lot to like about this election and when I spoke to my ‘Gen Y’ niece on the drive to the polling booth to get her take on things she said to me something I that really struck me.

“I don’t care - it doesn’t make any difference anyway”.

It was then I realised for certain there were problems with our political system and the democratic process in our country in general. 

Over the next year or so, after Tony Abbott and the coalition formed the 44th parliament, I did a lot of thinking about what had occurred to me that day. 

Something had to be done!

Oh, and the sheep got shorn too.

I met Dion McCurdy soon after I began formulating a plan to turn this vision into a reality. And, together with long time friend (and co-founder) Helen Stump, we met to discuss how a digital platform for the voting public might look. It turned out Dion had not only been imagining something similar, but had been working away for some years on various floor plans of what is now ‘NewVote’. 

NewVote has come a long way since then and we hope it has a long way to go.

I’m very proud to be part of NewVote and I’m very passionate about what positive, powerful and inclusive impact I believe NewVote can have on democracy. NewVote’s purpose first and foremost was and still is to give people a voice. Now, perhaps more than ever before, that is vital.


Dion McCurdy
The story so far...

Before we can get started telling you more of the real stories - the day in, day out ebb and flow of life in a disrupter, we thought it made sense to cover off the milestones we have hit so far. Looking at them, we are feeling pretty happy. We may still have a long way to go but we’ve also come a long way.


10 NOVEMBER 2016

NewVote is founded as a for-purpose (a not-for-profit), Australia.


We fostered cooperation among the digital democracy sector at the inaugural Australian Digital Democracy Forum, Melbourne, Australia.


Registered educational charity with the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission, Australia.


Presented the concept at TedXBrisbane in a one-minute pitch to the crowd, Australia.


Assembled a research committee who have responsibility for our research fund and research program.


Dr Ron Levy, an Australian National University academic, joined us as our research director.


Australian Government officially recognised us as an Approved Research Institute (ARI). The Australian Tax Office endorsed us as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR-1).

MARCH 2019

Chris Saad, the former Head of Uber’s Developer Platform, joined us as our start-up adviser.

APRIL 2019

Presented our model on the panel, Participation, Engagement and Empowerment at the United Nations University-backed International Conference on the Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance, Melbourne, Australia.

May 2019

Democracy Expo, Melbourne Knowledge Week event co-facilitated with the Power to the People study at Meat Market, Melbourne, Australia.


JUNE 2017

Winner of the ‘People's Choice Award’ at the Random Hacks of Kindness event, Brisbane, Australia.


'Soft' launched our prototype of the app at the inaugural Australian Digital Democracy Forum which we hosted.


Presented at the panel Future Democracy at the Woodford Folk Festival, Australia.

MARCH 2018

Presented at the Digital Democracy Forum - distributed politics and governance hosted by RMIT, Melbourne, Australia.


Presented at the panel, What technology is making democracy more democratic? at the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy in Rome, Italy.


Launched a beta version of our app, UQvotes, with the help of 16 University of Queensland student volunteers, Australia.


Presented at the panel, What technology is making democracy more democratic? at the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy in Rome, Italy.


Launched a Woodfordia version of our app, alongside the six-day workshop and listening series, Redesigning Democracy held at the Woodford Folk Festival. Co-facilitated by Dr Lyn Carson of newDemocracy Foundation, and designer Bill Bannear of ThinkPlace, Singapore.

July 2019

Launched the community SpeakUP with the University of Queensland Student Union.


We have over 14 communities and over 660 active users — including a for-profit business, a university, a political party, a nonpartisan ‘political observatory’ in Ecuador, a media platform and several other NGOs.

Dion McCurdy
The Story of NewVote is the story of my life.

It is not an easy thing to do – to encapsulate your life’s work on a webpage.

I know this because several years ago, I was asked to write my story in an international website I had long admired.

I worked on it for weeks, trying to get the tone right. Personal but not too personal. Positive but not dismissing the challenges. Confident but not annoying. (You know how the self-talk goes.)

Finally I asked a friend for help and he wrote it for me, writing in first person as if he were me.

It was perfect.

So rather than put myself through that misery again, I am going to reproduce the bio part of it here. (If you would like to read the full article - you can do that on this page.)

I hope it helps you understand who I am. Why NewVote is so important to me. And maybe it will inspire you to come walk our road with us.

The Story so Far

I was born in 1984, the same year Alexey Pajitnov invented Tetris and Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple Macintosh. Ten years before the World Wide Web even existed.

I’ve always considered myself quite lucky to be part of the last generation to experience an internet-free childhood and the first generation to become an adult with the Internet in place.

This experience has meant that I’m both a little bit wary of the Internet, and curious, hopeful and excited for its potential.

I believe it can be used to enhance our most important and integral institution, democracy.

I believe that what we have found in NewVote is something transcendental that will bring democracy to the next era. The digital era.

Changing the world

As a young kid, I talked with my friends about how we would change the world when we grew up. We never stopped talking about it and for as long as I can remember I have followed politics and grappled with the complex system of law, culture and power that determines how our democracy is governed.

In Australia, the form of representative democracy we have is a federal Westminster-style parliamentary constitutional monarchy.

Direct democracy is virtually unheard of here. The last popular vote on a national level – on the question of whether Australia should become a republic - failed, 18 years ago.

In high school our ancient history teacher taught us about a very different kind of democracy that existed in Ancient Athens, direct democracy. This, I was told at the time, is impossible in the modern day. But the roots of democracy in the ancient world have always inspired me.

In touch with constituents

Whilst I was at university, studying psychology, political science and law, a European schoolteacher, Per Norbäck, used an online delegative software programme in Vallentuna, a suburb of Stockholm, to hear from his constituents.

This software allowed its users to vote on political issues directly or delegate their votes to others to vote on their behalf.

Across the Pacific from me, Mark Zuckerberg was releasing a university-based social platform, Facebook, which has since grown into a worldwide network of over one billion people. If it were a country, it would be the world’s most populous.

The first major digital democracy innovation in Australia occurred in 2007, with the introduction of Senator Online, a political party in which every piece of legislation would be put on a website that members could vote for or against.

Several parties have followed in its footsteps, for example, FLUX sprung up in 2016 with the promise of an app run on blockchain that would allow voters to trade their votes on issues they don’t care about for issues that matter to them most - a kind of marketplace for votes.

None, as yet, have managed to elect a candidate.

Fusing power

After university I had a gap year overseas. I was in Argentina in 2012 when Partido de la Red created the software, DemocracyOS, which required the public identification of its users (to reduce trolls) and to raise an issue for a vote and leave a comment.

Later that year, when I returned home, my passion galvanised. I decided my purpose was to fuse the power of the internet, with the power of democracy, for the betterment of humankind. For me, this is when NewVote was born.

I think that if NewVote provides balanced information and deliberative processes, then humanity’s general decency will lead to better outcomes.

The wisdom of the crowd has shown to be a large and growing force in technology. NewVote will hopefully bring us closer to our aspiring, best version of ourselves and our society as citizens feel empowered to understand the big issues in society and have their voice heard in a genuine way.

Talking and learning 

For the past five years, I have learnt to figure out how everyday people can engage easily with the decision making process. I have talked with and learned from experts, politicians, interest groups, regular people, family and friends.

Those cynical and critical of my ideas were also the most helpful. As each spurred me on to research and innovate new ways to make the best model possible.

Last year I attended the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. I didn’t know what I would find at the forum in San Sebastián, Spain.

I didn’t know a single person there. I simply flew to the other side of the world to learn and to share what I had learned. The passionate people at the forum inspired me to even greater heights.

Kathy Wilson
Thanks for sticking around....
NewVote at Woodford Folk Festival

NewVote at Woodford Folk Festival

If you’ve made it this far into our website – thanks for sticking around and welcome.

The rest of our website is all “we’re grown-ups” and “look at our graphs and statistics.”

But this space here is where we take off our jackets and let ourselves be a little bit human.

Changing the world is not a project that should not be undertaken by the faint-hearted. There are moments of great elation (like when we launched at the University of Queensland). Those days make us spend the day walking around like John Travolta in Staying Alive. But there are also moments of quiet despair where sometimes the mountain we have chosen to climb seems to turn into a sheer cliff face with no possible path.

On this blog, you’ll find both of those kinds of days.

This feels like an appropriate moment to insert an Instagram quote from someone like Nelson Mandela or the Dalai lama but it feels inauthentic to borrow wisdom from someone else.

Instead, we are building our own wisdom and walking our own path.

One day. One action. One meeting. One phone call at a time. Its not always pretty (and certainly not always Instagram able) but its ours.

Please, come on in. Take off your shoes and curl up by the fire. We have lots of stories to share.

Dion McCurdy