Early Voice to Parliament voting under way in remote Kimberley communities
As the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament referendum’s official polling day nears, remote communities in the Kimberley are taking the opportunity to have their say at early voting centres.
With voting taking place on Saturday, October 14, voters who are unable to have their say on the day for a variety of reasons — such as living outside an enrolled electorate, travel or illness — can cast their vote early in nearby locations.
Kimberley MLA Divina D’Anna visited about 10 early voting locations across the Kimberley last week for the Yes campaign to answer any questions voters may have and to clarify the language used in the referendum question.
“I had the pleasure of being in the first week of remote polling,” she said.
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“It was quite an emotional moment for myself. When it opened at 10 o’clock at One Arm Point, it was one of the first ones across the nation.
Ms D’Anna said it was a good opportunity to engage with the community and acknowledge people’s queries, interpreting the referendum question to help people understand it.
“A lady came up to me and asked me ‘who was I voting for?’, and I basically said to her ‘well this time is a different voting, this one is about a question’,” she said.
“I said ‘this is not about numbering people, ticking or picking which person you want; it’s about reading the question and answering whether you support it or you don’t’.
“As we are very well aware, every community across the Kimberley is different and a lot of Indigenous people’s needs are different as well — so it’s expected to have different views and levels of understanding of what they feel.”
One Arm Point was one of the 750 remote voting locations that opened early to allow people living regionally and remotely to cast their votes.
Although highly publicised and debated within the walls of Parliament, those in remote communities are still sceptical of the referendum.
“I believe there is a genuine reaction of mistrust to the Government, which is built up over the years, but there are people who are actually wanting to find out about it,” Ms D’Anna said.
“Some people came up to me and shared their stories about that person coming to visit their community and they were completely thrown off by some of the communication that the individual was saying.
“It was important for teams like us to go there and answer clear-cut questions or concerns they may have.”
Several public figures touring remote communities for the No campaign have made their way through the Kimberley, including controversial boxing star Anthony Mundine last month.
“Just being able to go out there and have that communication with them, not ramming it down their throat and shouting at them,” Ms D’Anna said.
“I’m happy to answer the questions, and some people take that opportunity.
“I think it’s important for people to also have that sounding board if they feel comfortable.”
Although the latest polling statistics for the Voice referendum indicate those who have already voted are against the Voice, Ms D’Anna stressed the race was not over.
“I feel mixed emotions; I feel excited but nervous — I tend not to believe in the polls or the headline statements. The race is not up until the end of October 14,” she said.
“I don’t want to listen to the stuff where it drives people away and say it’s not even worth it if we’ve lost. That mentality is not something I want to hold, and a lot of our mobs don’t want to hold that either.
“This is the final week we’re coming into before October 14, so now is your opportunity to come and utilise your right to have a say in this country on the question.
“It’s an important question and it is important that we do get up there and have our say.”
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