Our story started a century ago, with small farmers and ordinary people coming together across the nation because they believed that regional Australia was too important to ignore.

William McWilliams

After a number of rural parties sprang up during the late 1800’s, the federal Country Party was founded in 1920 by Tasmania’s William McWilliams. In his first speech as leader, McWilliams announced the Party’s principles, stating:

“we crave no alliance, we spurn no support but we intend drastic action to secure closer attention to the needs of primary producers”

The separate state parties had been gaining individual traction before this, but now we had become united in our vision for a stronger, fairer Australia.

Our message resonated with people across regional Australia. We won 14 seats – 12.5% of votes – in the 1922 election and formed government with the Nationalist Party (a predecessor to the Liberals), commencing a partnership which has undergone continued evolution but endures today.

The Party has continued to develop over the past century, but our heart remains in rural Australia, its regional towns and its cities. Our first priority is and always has been to the people who live and work in these communities.

In 1977 the Party changed its name to the National Country Party and following that, the National Party in October 1982.

Victorian Nationals

In Victoria, The Nationals first entered Parliament in 1917 as the Victorian Farmers Union, led by John Allan, they gained 4 seats in the Legislative Assembly. Allen later became Australia’s first Country Party Premier. Today, the Victorian Nationals are representative of regional cities, towns and rural communities throughout Victoria and hold 7 seats in the Legislative Assembly and 2 in the Legislative Council.

The Victorian Nationals in government have a proud record of investing in regional communities. Unquestionably the most recent achievement was the $1 Billion Regional Growth Fund, which has been exclusively dedicated to creating jobs and improving infrastructure in partnership with locals.

The Victorian Nationals have always embraced the contribution of women in politics. Shirley McKerrow was appointed State President in 1976. She was the first female in Australia to lead the administration of a major political party at a State level and in 1981 she was appointed Federal President and became the first female Federal President of any political party in Australia.

Leaders of the National Party Victoria

Peter Walsh MP

2015 – Present

Peter Walsh
Leader of the National Party

Peter Ryan

1999 – 2015

Peter Ryan
Deputy Premier

1988 – 1999

Pat McNamara
Deputy Premier

1970 – 1988

Peter Ross-Edwards
Leader of the National Party

1964 – 1970

George Moss
Leader of the Country Party

1955 – 1964

Herbert Hyland
Leader of the Country Party

1945 – 1955

John McDonald

1935 – 1945

Albert Dunstan

1933 – 1935

Murray Bourchier
Deputy Premier

1917 – 1933

John Allan

Looking to the Future

After a century’s journey, we still believe that political representation of the regions is vital, with many of Victoria’s families, natural resources and primary industries being outside of metropolitan Melbourne.

Regional communities today are more diverse than before, and so are we. Our members and parliamentarians are mothers, teachers, business owners, barristers, football players and of course, farmers.

We believe that now, more than ever, what happens in regional Victoria matters for the whole state. This belief has underpinned our achievements in government and it is what drives us into the future.