The ALP was first formed in Queensland in 1891 and, during the ten years that followed, separate Labor parties emerged in other colonial states. All were sponsored by the trade union movement, which participated actively in the foundation of the infant political movement.

The ALP became a federal party when the former Australian colonies federated in 1901. As a federal party, it is 20 years older than the Country Party (now known as the National Party) and 45 years older than the Liberal Party.

The Victorian Branch of the ALP was formed at Federation, and was built on a history of labour movement involvement in the Victorian Parliament.

The ALP, both nationally and in Victoria, is a genuine labour party in the sense that trade unions are part of its structure. This distinguishes a labour party from a social democratic party (although they may have common ideals and philosophies) and from broad-based progressive parties such as the United States’ Democratic Party.

Like Australia itself, the ALP is a federal organisation. Each state and territory has its own branch, with its own membership, rules and policies. These branches come together to form a national ALP organisation.

This is expressed most visibly through the National Conference and the National Secretariat, which are responsible for determining the Party’s national direction and administration.