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This Man Had His Failure To Vote Fine Revoked Thanks To His Indigenous Culture

Callum Clayton-Dixon refused to vote in Queensland elections based on his Aboriginality.

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The Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ) has waived a $174 fine issued to 20-year-old Clayton-Dixon who refused to vote in the last state election saying that it goes against his Anaiwan culture.

"As an Aboriginal person it is my religious obligation or spiritual obligation not to participate in Australian elections," Clayton-Dixon told BuzzFeed News.

"For me to vote in an election that is not on my country for someone that is not from that country would be really disrespectful for the Aboriginal people who are from that country. It would also be disrespectful to my own people and my own country because I do not have permission from my own people to participate in those elections."

In a statutory declaration to the ECQ Clayton-Dixon wrote, "I did not vote in the Queensland State General Election held 31 January 2015 because it is my religious obligation, as a member of the Anaiwan Aboriginal tribe not to participate in Australian elections”.

“If an elector believes it to be part of the elector’s religious duty not to vote at an election, that is a valid and sufficient excuse for failing to vote at the election,” the state legislation says. The ECQ subsequently waived the fine.

Regarding federal elections, legislation on the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website states, "Under s 245(14) of the Electoral Act or s 45(13A) of the Referendum Act the fact that an elector believes it to be a part of his or her religious duty to abstain from voting constitutes a valid and sufficient reason for not voting.

This is the second time Clayton -Dixon has refused to participate in elections. In 2013, he failed to vote in the federal election.

Supplied.

"This [waiving of the fine] is a de-facto recognition by the electoral commission and, therefore, the Queensland state government of our distinct status as Aboriginal people and our distinct right as Aboriginal people not to participate in Australian elections. That is a system of policy and laws being imposed on our people without any consent," Clayton-Dixon says.

Clayton-Dixon is currently the chairperson of the Aboriginal Provisional Government (APG) an organisation that campaigns for Aboriginal sovereignty and is well-known for issuing Aboriginal passports.

The AEC estimates that only 50% of the entire Indigenous community is enrolled to vote, and only half of them will show up on polling day. Around a third of those who attend a polling place will cast a dummy vote.

Clayton-Dixon believes the low numbers are due to the Indigenous community feeling alienated and underrepresented in the political process.

"If there was a system of dedicated Aboriginal parliamentary seats, whether in the senate or the house of reps, and there was Aboriginal electorates there would be a much larger participation of Aboriginal people in that political system," he says.

"Then we, and only then, would we have the power to vote for our own people who can actively and freely advocate on behalf of use instead of being tied down by party policy."

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Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.

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