Within the Pia Wadjarri Aboriginal community, which is located in mid West area of Western Australia, the mobile voting station is situated in the midst of a basketball court, and there are more than a dozen dwellings located in the immediate vicinity.
On Wednesday, the polling booth for the Indigenous voice to parliament referendum, which was located approximately eight hours north of Perth, was open, and residents of the surrounding area, in addition to individuals from cattle stations and farms further away, came in to cast their vote.
“Everyone who was eligible to vote got to do it,” says Kylie Simpson, a cultural adviser and Wadjarri language teacher at the distant school where there are perhaps a dozen kids.
Voters in some of the most inaccessible areas of Australia have already cast their ballots in advance of the official voting day, which is scheduled to take place on October 14. This occurs as referendum activists enter the closing days of their efforts on the campaign trail. Since polls opened on October 2, the Australian Electoral Commission reports that more than 16,000 people living in remote Australian towns and villages had voted through roving mobile teams. These voters cast their ballots using electronic voting machines.
There are thousands of workers, thousands of kilometers of red dirt, rivers, and roads that need to be traversed, and gorges that need to be navigated in order to ensure that some of the most isolated people in Australia are able to have their voices heard.
In addition to it, there are further challenges. First Nations people who live in remote communities in Western Australia and the Torres Strait have voiced worries that they have not gotten sufficient information in advance of the vote. These communities are located in Australia. Others have said that elderly people just did not know enough about the referendum a day or two before pop-up polling stations visited their communities.
The electoral commission claims that it has been working diligently to increase access and outreach. As part of this effort, the commission has been traveling to a greater number of communities than ever before to provide information about the election. Additionally, the agency has been using social media, Indigenous community radio and television stations, and traditional platforms to spread the word.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) recognizes that voter participation in distant locations “varies” due to factors such as population size, the degree of campaign awareness and engagement, and the activities that are taking place in communities on election day.
Simpson explains that many people, rather than relying on official movies, booklets, or leaflets, rely on word of mouth from family, friends, local businesses, and social media to get the word out about the referendum and the voice. Simpson makes this statement in Pia Wadjarri.
“People from out here wouldn’t have had access to any information like that,” adds Simpson. “It’s more what they’ve heard in talks with other people and on Facebook and posting things like that; in addition, we sent notes home before the holidays so that everyone would be aware that they were coming in advance.
“Yesterday, we had participation from every member of the community who was qualified to vote. In addition to that, there were individuals from the greater Murchison community as well as neighboring stations that came to the town as well.
Central Land Council delegates have cast their votes in the “red center” of Uluru, which is the location where the germ for the voice to parliament initiative was initially sown.
Sammy Wilson, a delegate for the Central Land Council and the traditional owner of Uluru, said in a statement, “I was here six years ago, when we invited Australians to join us on a journey towards voice, treaty, and truth-telling.”
“This morning, our council gave its unanimous approval to the proposal because we are aware that when decision-makers pay attention to our input, we wind up with policies that are beneficial to us rather than detrimental to us, and our finances are handled in an efficient manner.”
According to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), approximately 3,000 votes have been cast in the state of Western Australia, while the Northern Territory has seen more than 6,500 persons living in remote communities submit their votes.