• The winning margin and Indigenous population for each of the five seats. (The Point)Source: The Point
Just over half of Australia’s First Peoples are enrolled to vote. A new campaign is out to increase that figure, and proves that the Indigenous vote does count.
Ella Archibald-Binge

The Point
18 May 2016 - 8:01 PM  UPDATED 18 May 2016 - 8:02 PM

There are a number of reasons why voting numbers are low among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, says the Australian Electoral Commission Indigenous and Community Engagement Officer Sara Hamilton.

“Some of the misconceptions are that it’s not compulsory for Indigenous people to vote,” says Ms Hamilton.

“Another is that some people may feel like their vote doesn’t count."

She says the commission aims to encourage people that their vote does count towards making a change.

“In areas where seats are actually quite close, one vote could possibly make that difference… It does count and it can change the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Indigenous enrolment has steadily improved, with 58 per cent of Indigenous Australians now on the electoral roll.

However, Ms Hamilton says there’s still a long way to go.

“If people aren’t enrolled then unfortunately they won’t be able to have a say at the election,” she says.

In a number of marginal seats across the country, the Indigenous vote could prove crucial.

Leaders from both major parties have recently visited the marginal LNP seat of Leichhardt in north Queensland, where almost a fifth of the electorate is Indigenous.

In the Northern Territory, both seats are held by a margin of less than 2 per cent. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will have a big influence, accounting for almost half of the Lingiari electorate, and a tenth of the Solomon seat.

Likewise, in Western Australia the Indigenous population of 5.8 per cent could be the deciding factor in a tight contest in the seat of O’Connor, narrowly held by the LNP with a 0.9 per cent margin.

On the east coast, a similar Indigenous population will influence the Labor-held NSW seat of Hunter. While in the marginal western Sydney seat of Lindsay, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is just big enough to sway the vote either way.

How to vote when you’re remote

Ms Hamilton says there are a number of options for voters in remote and regional areas.

“We have remote area polling, which will be a team of people who will go around to areas and allow people to cast a vote on polling day,” she says.

People can also vote at a pre-poll centre or through the post.

Less than a week to enrol

The deadline for voting enrolment is 8pm, Monday May 23. To enrol or find more information, visit the AEC website or Facebook page.