Reaching out to the young Indigenous vote

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When millions of Australians head to the polls next month to decide the nation's next government, Indigenous Australians will be under-represented.

At Windsor Gardens Secondary College in Adelaide, students from the Wiltja program are running a mock election. 

Myles Turner, from Alice Springs, is among those learning how votes are tallied and how preferences are distributed.

He’ll be voting for the first time on July 2.

As a young Indigenous Australian, he said it was a right he took seriously.

“I reckon it’s really important, because, back in the day we weren’t allowed to vote,” he told SBS News.

“Having our votes put out there will probably make it easier for us.”

His classmate, Partinah Fielding, will also be voting for the first time next month.

The young woman from the APY lands said she would be thinking of her community when she cast her vote as the APY lands rarely get visits from politicians.

“They should know where we live and how we live,” she said.

“I do believe that they should come out to our remote communities.”

More than 800,000 Australians who are eligible to vote haven’t enrolled with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), and will miss out on having their say on election day.

That includes about 250,000 people between the ages of 18 and 24.

The AEC estimates only about 58 per cent of Indigenous Australians are enrolled to vote.

Warrick Clinch, an AEC community engagement officer, works to engage those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the political process.

As a young Indigenous man himself, he said he understood why some others were hesitant to vote. 

“It gets a bit of a bad look through the Indigenous population for not being ‘our business’,” he said.

“If we can change that attitude and get more people involved in the democratic process, it’s going to be better for everyone involved.”

For the Wiltja students, the mock election is good practice for another reason: their school will become a polling place on July 2.

The students will work as scrutiny assistants and polling officers on polling day, helping others play their part in the democratic process.

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