Like parties elsewhere, the Australian parties have witnessed a decline in membership activism in recent years and some have suggested that near memberless parties may become the norm. Drawing on elite interviews, party documents and examination of recent organisational reforms, we argue that parties continue to need members and view their involvement as essential to achieving their objectives. In response to declining rates of activism parties have begun to experiment with different forms of membership, such as policy branches, and to expand the traditional notion of membership to include ‘supporters’. We show that membership is a flexible concept that is used by parties to fulfil their institutional functions and electoral objectives, and is defined in unique ways in each sphere of activity. We suggest that accounts of party decline relying on formal membership numbers may be inaccurate.

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Keywords Australian politics, party activism, party members and functions, political parties
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Journal Australian Journal of Political Science
Cross, W, & Gauja, A. (Anika). (2014). Evolving membership strategies in Australian political parties. Australian Journal of Political Science, 49(4), 611–625. doi:10.1080/10361146.2014.958979