A group of Indigenous transgender women on the remote Tiwi Islands are concerned about remote Australians’ ability to participate in the upcoming marriage equality postal survey.
Shaun Kerinaiua, one of the Tiwi Sistergirls, said having to enrol to vote on the Australian Electoral Commission website presents a barrier for some Indigenous people.
“I think it’s rubbish really, they’re just wasting their time,” Shaun Kerinaiua told the ABC.
“Most of our people don’t speak English, it’s our second language and that goes for all Aboriginal people in Australia.”
Crystal Johnson added: “We speak eight, nine, 10 different languages and there are Indigenous people who don’t speak English.
“It’s a bit frustrating that there’s a website that needs to be used to register.
“A lot of our people are not literate, we are not up to standard education-wise, I think it’s all just horrible.”
Johnson said Tiwi Islanders were more familiar with compulsory voting, such as during election polling when teams of electoral officials travel to remote areas.
“The money should be going to bring the information [about the vote] to our people in a way that Indigenous people can understand,” she said.
But the sistergirls vowed to work with their limited resources to inspire a ‘yes’ vote on the islands.
“Crystal, myself and some of the other girls will have a rally, put some signs up, hold group discussions and some family gatherings to spread that news and the awareness,” Kerinaiua told the ABC.
“We have an interpretation services and we have some people who are well-spoken and well-educated and hopefully they can get out to community members and have translation from English to whatever language they speak.”
At a Senate inquiry on Thursday, Australian Bureau of Statistics deputy statistician Jonathan Palmer acknowledged some form of paperless survey would be required and said a number of options were under consideration to ensure equal access, to be clarified by early next week.
“It could be an online form, a touch-tone telephone solution, an SMS text message… we are still working out what would be the best option for a paperless return,” he said.
Last week, Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, who is Aboriginal, told Buzzfeed that in most remote communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people don’t have fixed street addresses.
“They might receive their mail at the general post office or it might go to an Aboriginal organisation that might hold their mail for them,” she told Buzzfeed.
“There’s no doubt in my view that not just Aboriginal voters, but a large group of Territorians, will be really disadvantaged in their ability to vote in this postal survey option.”
South Australian Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey told SBS some remote Aboriginal people in his electorate will “undoubtedly” be unable to take part in the marriage vote.
“People are very fluid in their movements so there will be some slippage there,” he said.
“But what do you do? You don’t have an election? You don’t have a plebiscite? You don’t do anything because you can’t get 100 per cent of the turnout?
“The way things work in those communities is people seek advice from people who have better written skills than themselves. It’s a pretty simple answer. It’s either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
Voters have until August 24 to enrol or update their details at the Australian Electoral Commission website to ensure they receive a survey form.
Unlike elections, Aussies who are overseas can’t show up to an embassy or consulate to have their say. They must have an overseas address registered with the AEC before the August 24 deadline in order to receive a survey form.
(Top photo via Twitter, lower photo by Jeffrey Feng/Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras)