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Newslines Radio: Right to vote


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Nathan Ramsay

Sandra Pilot, Thursday Island, QLD
Shannon Williams, Sydney, NSW
Joe Clark, Alice Springs, NT
Kimberley Lovegrove, Adelaide, SA
Dawn Bennell, Bunbury, WA
Aden Ridgeway, NSW

11 Jun 2012

PRESENTER: Kimberley Lovegrove is a Ngarrindjeri woman from Raukkan community in South Australia and she says young people should look at enrolling to vote as soon as they can.

LOVEGROVE: As soon as you turn 17 or 18, just straight away hit the enrolment office and just vote because it is the most important thing as an Australian and as an Aboriginal person to have the right to vote.

Voting isn’t just picking who is Prime Minister or Premier next, it’s about actually telling people that even though we’ve been voting for 50 years or more, that we should keep on going and that we should never let people stop us and that I’m so thankful that Aboriginal people do vote now.

PRESENTER: And Sandra Pilot is a Torres Strait woman who was born in Brisbane, raised in Townsville and now lives on Thursday Island. She wants to encourage her people from the Torres Strait to participate in the electoral process.

PILOT: We have been given the right to vote and a lot of countries don’t have that and it’s our responsibility to make sure that we have that, our children have that, and our children’s children have that.

When I first started voting, when I used to walk in to place my vote, I was shame. I thought ‘Oh, these people are looking at me…I don’t know if I’m doing it right’.

And just the process of walking in and getting your ballot paper and getting your name signed off and stuff.

Now I can walk in there and I don’t care what people say, I am a lot more confident because I know how it’s done.

When you look at it ‘oh yep, only one person’ you know, how can my voice count? But it’s not only your voice, it’s your voice along with thousands of others. You get a say in who runs our politics, who determines how you live, the rules you live by, your lifestyle and there’s a lot of people that think similar to how you do when you’re voting.

So to you it might seem like only one vote but it actually counts along with everybody else’s.

PRESENTER: Hi I’m Nathan Ramsay and you’re listening to Newslines Radio and today we’re looking at the 50th anniversary of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians winning the right to vote in federal elections.

Many people remember the first time they voted. Community elder Dawn Bennell from Bunbury in Western Australia shared her experience of voting at the age of twenty one.

BENNELL: My first memory of my first vote was when I was twenty-one years old. I was young, just starting out in life and I wanted to be part of the Australian electoral roll to vote for my country, because I know that Aboriginal people fought for a long time so I wanted to be a part of it and that’s what I wanted and I felt very proud standing in line voting.

The more Aboriginal people who get involved makes a big change. Many voices is better than one.

If you’re an Aboriginal person your vote is very important, very important because you are voting for your people, no matter where you live, Arnhem Land, sou’ west, in the bush, on the coast, wherever. Aboriginal people all have suffered over the years and your vote makes a big difference because everyone’s aiming for the same thing, you know, making changes for the better for Aboriginal people.

You don’t turn 18 just to get your drinking rights, you get on the election roll and vote for our future.

PRESENTER: Sydneysider Shannon Williams, also known as rapper Brothablack, has been a long-time supporter of encouraging our people to vote, especially young people.

WILLIAMS: Getting involved and getting enrolled to vote for me, it took a while but I got there and I’m voting and now I’m having my opinion heard. It’s your right and your responsibility as a young person, as a young Australian adult to do that.

Whether you come from a Pacific Islander background, whether you come from an Aboriginal background, whether you come from a Torres Strait Islander background, you have a right to vote and choose the leaders in your community and you need to make that opportunity happen for yourself.

I’d like to see more Aboriginal people in roles within government - Senators, you know Federal MPs, I’d love to see that stuff. Yes, we can dream of the idea of an Aboriginal Prime Minister, but let’s fill that whole space up with black people.

Now for this new generation of Aboriginal people, this is the time to vote and have your voice heard, not just for your own sake but for our peoples’ sake as well, choose who you think should lead the community and also who you think the right person is to lead the Indigenous community. It’s about your opinion, get up, go and register to vote, have your voice and opinion heard.

PRESENTER: That was Shannon Williams, aka Brothablack. Let’s finish the program with a final word from Aden Ridgeway, who we heard from at the start of the program.

RIDGEWAY: Well I would encourage people to enrol to vote particularly young people, we’ve had too many years of being politically disenfranchised and in the wilderness.

Whilst politics and politicians don’t enjoy a good reputation at the best of times that doesn’t mean that we ought to give up our right and responsibility to vote for who we believe is going to best look after our interests but I think most of all to apply the pressure where it needs to be and perhaps there’s cause to think about more people being involved in political parties or to influence the marginal seats that all the marginal politics being played these days. Indigenous people can have a voice and can have a say in determining outcome for all Australians.

PRESENTER: That was Aden Ridgeway.

If you want to find out more information on enrolling to vote or about the Australian Electoral Commission’s Louder than One Voice DVD visit our website

You can find this program online and read our Indigenous Newslines magazine there.

I’m Nathan Ramsay, catch you next time.

Stay deadly.

Find out more

While celebrating 50 years since Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians won the right to vote in federal elections, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has renewed efforts to encourage more Indigenous Australians to enrol and vote.

The Louder than One Voice DVD outlines the history of the Indigenous vote and includes interviews with Indigenous Australians about the values of voting.

The Australian Government funded the Australian Electoral Commission to establish the Indigenous Electoral Participation Program, which is working to increase levels of enrolment and electoral participation amongst Indigenous people.

The IEPP is part of the Government's Closing the Gap initiatives.

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