Issue 5
Monday, 01 July 2019
Charles Darwin University
CDU is developing a model that can lift engagement with voting in the bush
CDU is developing a model that can lift engagement with voting in the bush

Research aims to boost remote voting

CDU’s Northern Institute is working with the Northern Territory Government and the NT Electoral Commission to raise Indigenous Territorians’ engagement levels in the electoral process.

Researcher Ian Gumbula has been looking at the barriers to voting in Ngukurr as part of a broader project that includes Galiwin’ku and Daly River. The project aims to devise a model that can lift engagement with the voting process in the bush.

Mr Gumbula recently presented his research to a seminar on Indigenous electoral inclusion held at Parliament House in Darwin. The seminar heard about research into Indigenous electoral inclusion, Indigenous political participation, engagement and representation.

Mr Gumbula said work still needed to be done to explain to people in bush communities why voting was important.

“People don’t understand the meaning behind voting. If they do know that then it’s easier for them to decide which person they want to vote for,” he said.

Getting on the electoral roll can also be a challenge for Indigenous people, with even something usually straight-forward such as a name sometimes being the source of confusion for the official system.

“Sometimes people in communities use different names for different organisations, but the right name is vital for the electoral roll. But sometimes it’s sensitive because a death in the community might cause someone’s name to change.”

Mr Gumbula has been working between the people in communities, the NT Electoral Commission and the NT Government to find ways to make the process of enrolling and voting more suitable in remote areas.

Young people have been a particular focus of awareness activities in communities with some schools running a mock election process to get children familiar with the concepts of voting. Young role models talk to students about the importance of voting so when they are old enough to participate they can understand the system.

Mr Gumbula said the nature of politics impacted local engagement on the ground.

“Some communities say they only see a politician around election time and can’t see how anything around their communities has been changed by politics. If they can see things either on a local or wider level change for the better then they will have more interest,” he said. 

CDU’s research will ultimately build a ground-up model assisting partnership and engagement around remote voting engagement activities.