With early voting for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament officially underway across the country, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has been heading to remote Indigenous communities to ensure everyone’s vote is counted.
Kabi Kabi Woman Rain Wenitong is coordinating remote voting across Queensland.
She told NIRS News the AEC has been working with remote communities well in advance of this year’s referendum.
“For this event we started in about June or July not knowing when the date was going to be for the referendum.
And then we used that information to build a plan of attack for how are we are going to go and visit all of these communities.
And then of course we follow up, so once we have the date and reach back out to communities, local councils, the venue places where we think we are going to try and poll at and go ‘hey we’re looking at coming to you guys on this date, does that still work’ those kinds of conversations are all had.”
And once the AEC shows up to a location voters are given roughly three hours to cast their vote.
“We’ll adjust accordingly but as a baseline we will stay for at least three hours.”
Ms Wenitong says if residents miss out on the voting window they will still be able to cast a postal vote.
“I know it’s tough living remote, because you have limited services, but you can absolutely still apply for a postal vote application right up to Wednesday the 11th for this event and that is at 6PM, if you can jump on our website you can apply for a postal vote application.”
Unreliable energy infrastructure is also causing disruptions in the voting process.
Ms Wenitong says in some cases the AEC is limited in what they can do.
“If we are in a venue and the venue owner says ‘look this is not safe’ for what ever reason we will have to abide by their rules.
But we are really flexible we can sometimes move outside, all of our computers and equipment that relies on you casting a vote can absolutely work without power.
And then there are sometimes where we just can’t so we have to make the call, and make sure that the people who are working for us are safe.
And then we have the opportunity to come back, we absolutely try our hardest if we do have those energy outages, and they have affected the polling and people being able to cast a vote, we will try to schedule that stop back in at a later time.”
The commission is also looking for help from communities to translate information into the 300 traditional languages across the country to ensure everyone can have an informed decision on the referendum.
Currently the AEC only offers materials in 13 traditional languages including Tiwi, Walpiri and Pitjantjatjara.
‘It’s so important that people get this message in a language that suits them and that they understand.
So we have done our absolute best to try and provide that messaging in the languages that are required.
However we can’t cover all of that , so what we have done is we can engage and employ people one the day to be that spokesperson and help the local community to turn up, know when it is, and then when they get to the polling booth to help them cast that formal vote and walk them through that process in language that is going to be understood.”
Image Credit AEC Via Flickr