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How do Indigenous people vote?

By Stephen Hagan - posted Wednesday, 27 October 2004

The refusal of the major parties to address the chronic social issues of our people accentuate the extent to which we, as an identifiable group within Australian society, are viewed by the power brokers and in turn, the broader community.

Outgoing HREOC Social Justice Commissioner, Dr Bill Jonas, conceded that the existing legislative approaches to negotiations are not delivering for Indigenous communities or the environment. A new approach, he said, based on respect and co-operation has the potential to deliver many practical benefits in the long run.

Mark Latham talked about his Medicare Gold policy for over 75s but his advisors obviously failed to inform him about our social indicators that clearly show life expectancy for Indigenous males is just 56 years and 63 years for females. I don’t know the man but perhaps he factored that into the equation.


AMA President Dr. Bill Glasson, speaking on the Access Economics report, says the government needs to spend an extra $1.6 billion alone to address the chronic health problems of the Indigenous community.

The Labour government spoke of an injection of $50.8m into Indigenous health if they gained office. However when reminded of the Access Economics report recommendation leader Mark Latham bluntly commented that the party “hasn’t got unlimited spending”. Strange I seem to remember them throwing billions of dollars around at “swinging voters”.

I didn’t get to hear any commitments to the Indigenous community from the Coalition Government but then again I could’ve missed the fine print in one of the lesser-known papers. What I did hear from John Howard was a lot of noise about terrorists or anyone who could conceivably be branded a threat to “the Australian way of life”. That threat also included the ALP and their leaders’ abysmal handling of the economy and in particular interest rates. Smart public relations exercise on interest rates from Howard - the ALP could do with an injection of likeminded PR savvy executives on their payroll.

Did I just say interest rates?

This brings me back to my original quandary - How do Indigenous people vote?

Several examples of the disparity of Indigenous voting patterns can be clearly probed by outcomes such as the 4.5 per cent swing to the conservative Member for Leichhardt, Liberals Warren Entsch. He boastfully declared that, “It’s the first time ever we have had this sort of swing from the Aboriginal community - it’s been incredible”.


In Central Australia, CLP Indigenous candidate Maisie Austin, says she could have done a lot for disadvantaged Aboriginal people if elected. “I think that a lot of Indigenous people live in the past and they really need to let go and go forward and take their people with them.”

Non Indigenous ALP incumbent for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, held on to his seat with a swing of 2.5 per cent.

Then we have the leader of the national fundamentalist Christian Family First Party, Andrea Mason, an Adelaide based Indigenous lawyer and former Australian netball champion quoted on ABC Radio: “I think that there will be a significant change in the way we perceive ourselves and our relationships with each other when there is an apology made to the stolen generations. I really believe that."

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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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