Voter Awareness

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Mahatma Ghandi once said that "My Notion of Democracy is that under it, the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest' (The Free Dictionary, 2010, p2).

Ghandi's struggle for freedom in India resulted in self-rule being granted to the people. We sing about freedom in our national anthem and we talk about it in everyday life. We fly our flag with pride and take advantage of the rights and freedoms that our country offers us. We must now walk proudly beside our fellow non indigenous Australians to carve out a new future that is equitable for all.

Why is it important to vote? This question has been asked throughout past and present. This question affects all Australians and is an important one for Indigenous people, especially with regard to our history concerning the right to vote.

This right to vote, though taken for granted in our society now, was not quite as easy to gain. Since colonisation in Australia in 1788, the rightful elders of our land have fought hard to be granted the rights they deserve and are entitled to. After colonisation, indigenous Australians had their land rights revoked and consequently couldn't vote. Sixty two years later, in 1850 when all Australian men could vote, our indigenous inhabitants were still not encouraged or entitled to do so. Five years later when they claimed all women were eligible to vote, indigenous women were still excluded (Australian Electoral Commission, 2006, p4).

With talk of Federation came hope for new law reforms. However, as quickly as talk of federation came, so too did talk of the White Australia Policy. It stated that anyone on the electoral rolls before 1901 could vote (which theoretically included the indigenous population). However, people questioned its relevance in regard to Indigenous people and whether they should be included or not.

Consequently, in 1902 the policy was revised and once more voting rights were denied (Australian Electoral Commission, 2006, p5).

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