Voting opens in the backblocks of Australia

Residents of one of Australia’s most remote communities have cast the first votes in the July 2 Federal election.

The Australian Electoral Commission’s remote polling team visited Bulman, in Central Arnhem Land – 300km northeast of Katherine – last week, and over the next two weeks 38 remote polling teams will visit more than 400 remote communities to allow locals to cast their ballot.

“AEC mobile polling teams will cover about 3.4m square kilometres by road, air and sea to reach remote outstations, pastoral properties, small towns, tourist resorts and mine sites in the Northern Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia,” said AEC Northern Territory Manager Mick Sherry.

“A large proportion of people who vote via the AEC’s remote mobile polling service live in Indigenous communities, with the majority in the Northern Territory.

“There are 130 electors on the electoral roll in Bulman. Many other smaller communities, such as Camel Camp (23 voters) in the Northern Territory and Koongie Park (39 voters) in Western Australia will also be visited,” Mr Sherry said.

“Remote polling teams typically consist of three members, with the majority including Indigenous staff. They are often assisted by an additional community-based voter information officer whose role is to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voters, if required.

“The AEC has reviewed its remote mobile polling arrangements since the 2013 federal election to identify better ways to deliver polling services, including offering communities more flexible and extended opportunities to vote, such as coinciding visits with cultural business or other community events.

The AEC is also working with other government agencies to extend the reach and enhance the effectiveness of remote voter services.

“In the Northern Territory and parts of Western Australia, that includes drawing on Department of Human Services’ resources, such as vehicles and Indigenous staff, to reach and connect with communities,” Mr Sherry said.

As well as improved accessibility, remote polling arrangements for this election are providing employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians to work as AEC polling officers in their communities.

Remote mobile polling visits are being promoted by advertising in radio, television and newspapers, as well as by AEC indigenous community contact officers and posters in shire councils and government offices.

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