Nearly four in 10 members of GetUp! are older than 56

Is GetUp! radical? Maybe. Young? Er, not at all …

Date   January 13, 2013
Richard Willingham

Richard Willingham

State Political Correspondent for The Age

View more articles from Richard Willingham

textDivisive … Simon Sheikh and the current national director of GetUp, Sam McLean. Photo: Tamara Dean

POLITICAL activist group GetUp! has been derided as ”the Hitler Youth wing of the Greens political movement” as it tackles divisive political and social issues, backed by more than 500,000 members.

But the image of the organisation as the voice of Generation Y couldn’t be further from the truth.

Nearly four in 10 members of GetUp! are older than 56, while fewer than 7 per cent are younger than 25.

A survey of more than 25,000 GetUp! members, seen by Fairfax, found women are 56 per cent of the membership, the largest age bracket being people between 56 and 65.


Joining the group is free and requires just an email address. The group has about 624,200 members.

The next biggest segment of membership is those 46 to 55 at 19.2 per cent, followed by people over 65, at 18 per cent.

By comparison, those 18 to 25 are just 6.6 per cent.

The organisation, which was formed in 2005 when the Howard government won control of the Senate, has often been criticised for championing causes that are too left-wing and for being too supportive of policies of the Labor government and the Greens.

Campaigns have included attacking the supermarket giants for their poker machine interests, calling for an end to live exports, support for same-sex marriage and campaigns against coal seam gas mining.

The average donations from members is $19 and the highest concentration of members is in the Sydney suburbs of Darlinghurst, Kings Cross, Rushcutters Bay and Surry Hills.

Despite the average age of the membership base, the public leadership are all young; the national director, Sam McLean, is just 25.

In late 2011, Coalition senator Ian Macdonald told Federal Parliament that ”GetUp! is the Hitler Youth wing of the Greens political movement”, sparking outrage.

The Queensland senator later apologised to the Jewish community but not to GetUp! or the Greens.

Another major critic of the group is the Coalition Senate leader, Eric Abetz. In 2011, he wrote to the electoral commission calling for GetUp! to be classed as an ”associated entity” – a group that benefits one or more registered political parties.

The former national director, Simon Sheikh, who collapsed during an episode of ABC’s Q&A, has been nominated to be the Greens’ Senate candidate in the ACT at the next election.

His swift decision to enter politics – and with the left-wing Greens – after his resignation angered some in GetUp!, who are keen to remain a politically unaligned group.

The deputy national director, Darren Loasby, said the data showed that the assumption the organisation was for young radicals was wrong.

”The fact is the majority of our members are older people who just haven’t given up,” he said.

”Their values haven’t changed. They still believe they can make a difference. They haven’t given in to cynicism and complacency. And these people won’t be marginalised.”

He said members voted for the Coalition as well as Labor, the Greens and the independents. ”GetUp! is a very broad church,” he said.

Mary Rawlings, 63, an insurance professional from Lane Cove, said she was drawn to GetUp! because of growing frustration that the major political parties were too similar.

”I don’t believe either of the mainstream political parties get involved in the right issues,” Ms Rawlings said. ”The problem with a party, whatever party, is there is always going to be issues people do not agree with.

”In GetUp! you can be a member and join the campaigns you want, or not, while still remaining a member.”

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