Democracy sausages point to snags in the system

If you enjoyed a “Sausage of Democracy” on Saturday, did you know it was cooked by volunteer parents trying to make up for the school’s insufficient funding?

The humble snag has become so election-related that popular Twitter hashtags #auspol and #ausvotes end with an image of a sausage in bread, breakfast TV hosts seriously discuss ‘natural sausage skins’ with butchers and a whole “popular sauce” website. exists to find your nearest BBQ.

Anthony Albanese grabs a sausage sandwich during a campaign visit to Perth last month.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Most speeches on democracy issues are lighthearted and fun. Grabbing a sausage adds a touch of sizzle to the task of voting. Barbecues (and cake stands) are generally described as a community affair and a great fundraising opportunity.

The real story behind the sausage sizzles on Election Day is much more serious. Public schools — the main “sauce” of your Democratic snag — rely on funds raised at Election Day barbecues to purchase items that should, by any stretch of the imagination, be government-funded. You know, things like classroom supplies, readers, whiteboards, sports equipment, STEM resources, shade sails, and even basic furniture.

How much is our public education system supported by fundraising? We just don’t know. There’s no routine recording, it hasn’t been studied by academics, and state-based education departments don’t seem to care. Available figures indicate an average of tens of thousands of dollars per school per year.

Hopefully, by the next election, funding for public schools will have increased so that parents don’t feel like they have to spend election day turning sausages.

That money is hoarded by parents, a demographic that is already furiously juggling paid work and caring responsibilities. Sometimes they are supported by teachers, who shouldn’t have to give up their time to make sure they have the right resources to do their job.

Raising funds for schools via Democratic sausages straddles two key issues that drove this election campaign and its outcome – governing for people of all genders and socioeconomic levels.

You can bet that most of the parents and teachers who show up to sort out a problem are women. And it’s not hard to guess whether it’s easier for public schools in rich or poor areas to raise funds.