Words by Georgia Cameron Art by Kaye Simonson
The democracy sausage, a humble sausage in bread that is an essential part of Australian life and culture. An icon of celebration and coming together.
There are few things more Australian than a sausage sizzle. An essential part of any trip to the pool in summer, or a Sunday trip to Bunnings and even while taking a compulsory trip to polling booths across the country. For people who didn’t grow up with the tradition, it may seem a little confusing why Aussies care so passionately about a barbecued sausage on white bread, drenched in tomato sauce and onion, and they must hold even more confusion as to why “Democracy Sausages” are so excitedly talked about.
In December of 2016 it was announced the term “Democracy Sausage” was Australia’s Word of the Year. But what is it? It would be understandable for one to question if it’s some kind of political sex act, but fortunately it is far more innocent and literal. Simply, it’s a sausage in bread bought on election day.
For Australians, voting has been compulsory since 1915 and voting booths in Australia much like a lot of places across the world are held at local schools, churches or community halls. Always held on a Saturday, community organizations saw the opportunity to not only feed hundreds of people after they voted, but to fundraise for various organizations.
The democracy sausage does more than allow Australians to participate in fundraising for their local community. It is also a celebration of democracy and completing one’s civil duty as well as being an icon for coming together with people of various political persuasions in a way that is enjoyable for all, evoking a sense of completion and mateship.
With the rise in popularity of things like Twitter, finding these places became a whole lot easier. Especially since the launch of a crowdsourced website, named after the democracy sausages themselves, that maps the location of sausage sizzles and cake stalls. With a highly active Twitter following, the website has encouraged Australia’s love for the election day sausage sizzle. But, it isn’t the only place to source your local democracy sausages, websites and various social media platforms allow easy tracking for this scrumptious democratic delicacy with thousands of sizzles and bake sales being tracked across the country.
2016 saw the most recent Federal Election, and the most recent peak of the democracy sausage popularity. With Tweets, hashtags and various websites documenting the excitement of democracy sausages, and Twitter itself even changing the emoji for #ausvotes from a ballot box to a sausage in bread.
Political involvement is important, but what about knowing where to source the best sausage on election day? That’s essential to every Australian. No longer do people go to the closest school or hall, but now will travel to wherever they know has the best sausage sizzle, thanks to social media or online sources.
Democracy sausages aren’t the only treat people elect to enjoy on election days. Some other recorded and adequately named foods include “Plebislice,” a slice named after the plebiscites we seem to have too many of, and “Malcolm Turnballs,” a treat cleverly named after Australia’s current PM.
But, the democracy sausage wasn’t always the beloved treat we know and love. In 1989 the Premier of Western Australia was forced to deny allegations he was bribing voters with a sausage sizzle prior to the election that year. But, it has since lost its negative connotation as a tool of bribery and has now become the cause for celebration that it is today.
The Australian love for democracy sausages doesn’t appear once reaching the legal voting age of 18. The appreciation for a good sausage sizzle starts from a young age, when kids parties in the summer are accompanied by a barbecue, especially ones by the local pool. This is reinforced as one grows older, taking trips to Bunnings with parents as they renovate the house or when the local sports club is fundraising. The combination of cheap bread and sausages is something that brings a sense of nostalgia to all Australians.
Democracy sausages are one of many iconic Australian foods. Some notable examples also served on white bread include Fairy Bread and most famous of all, Vegemite on toast. Australians take their iconic food seriously as it’s point of pride, but also one of the seemingly strange ways Australians express their humour. Knowing that something like a crisp sausage on white bread, or a dark yeast-based spread on toast, are considered among the national dishes is in a national joke.
So, the democracy sausage is more than just a simple barbecued sausage. It is a source of pride and principle for the Australian peoples, an icon for mateship, celebration, community and the Australian identity.