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Aboriginal Council Calls On Turnbull Government To Abandon Same Sex Postal Survey

“This [postal vote] is the latest episode in successive governments attempting to shut us out of participatory democracy."

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An Aboriginal council has called on the federal government to abandon its postal survey on same-sex marriage, saying it will again deny Aboriginal people a say in our democracy.

A view of houses in the Hidden Valley town camp near Alice Springs. The town camps do not have street or mailing addresses, and are concerned they will miss out on the Turnbull government's postal survey on same-sex marriage.
Dan Peled / AAPIMAGE

A view of houses in the Hidden Valley town camp near Alice Springs. The town camps do not have street or mailing addresses, and are concerned they will miss out on the Turnbull government's postal survey on same-sex marriage.

The Turnbull government announced its national postal survey last week after a plebiscite on the issue failed to pass parliament.

It will be run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and voters must enrol with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) by August 24.

There are concerns the postal survey will leave out some of the most vulnerable Australians, with Aboriginal Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy last week stating the federal government had failed to take into account the logistics in remote communities.

Those concerns were echoed on Wednesday by Tangentyere Council, which delivers municipal services and a number of programs around family wellbeing and youth to 18 town camps in Alice Springs, Central Australia.

Council CEO Walter Shaw said the postal survey was another example of Aboriginal people in the town camps being treated as second-class citizens.

"Town campers, like most residents of remote communities, don't have regular street addresses detailed on their electoral enrolment information," Shaw said in a statement.

Shaw lives in one of the town camps, and says he has no street address or mailing address.

Despite writing to the AEC about this issue previously, he said they had placed it in the "too hard basket".

"The AEC has informed us they don't actually have a policy for dealing with the address situation on town camps," Shaw said.

The town camps are on the edge of Alice Springs, but have been historically denied access to basic government services such as adequate housing. In 2009, the camps signed 40-year leases in exchange for $100 million in government funding.

The population can swell from 2000 to 5000, with many Aboriginal people from remote areas coming into the town at times of big events.

It was subject to the Northern Territory intervention, and was placed under blanket grog and alcohol bans, which left residents feeling disempowered.

Shaw said there had been a "long, shameful" history of Aboriginal people being denied the right to vote, and this was the latest example.

“This [postal vote] is the latest episode in successive governments attempting to shut us out of participatory democracy," he said.

“We want to vote. We want to exercise our democratic right to participate in a vote where the rest of the country gets to have a voice."

A spokesperson for the AEC told Buzzfeed News there are provisions in place for those with no fixed address, stating it is "not an issue".

"Arrangements will be put in place to allow eligible Australians living in remote areas, those living overseas, those located in the Antarctic, government personnel on overseas deployment, those unable to self-complete a paper form, or those without access to mail to have an opportunity to participate in the survey," they said.

Do you have questions about Australia's upcoming postal survey on same-sex marriage? Same. Here's a list of everything you need to know, and more.

Amy McQuire is an Indigenous Affairs Reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Queensland, Australia.

Contact Amy McQuire at amy.mcquire@buzzfeed.com.

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