Residents of one of Australia's most remote communities cast some of the first votes in this year's federal election today when an Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) remote polling team visited.
Voters in Bulman, Central Arnhem Land – three hundred kilometres northeast of Katherine – were the first of many remote communities to receive a visit from an AEC remote polling team.
AEC Northern Territory Manager Mick Sherry said that over the next two weeks 41 remote polling teams will travel to some of the most isolated parts of the country to ensure voters living in more than 400 remote communities have the opportunity to vote.
"AEC mobile polling teams will cover about 3.4 million square kilometres by road, air and sea to reach remote outstations, pastoral properties, small towns, tourist resorts and mine sites in the Northern Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia."
"A large proportion of people who vote via the AEC's remote mobile polling service live in Indigenous communities, with the majority in the Northern Territory."
"There are 130 electors on the electoral roll in Bulman. Many other smaller communities, such as Camel Camp (23 voters) in the Northern Territory and Koongie Park (39 voters) in Western Australia will also be visited," Mr Sherry said.
"Remote polling teams typically consist of three members, with the majority including Indigenous staff. They are often assisted by an additional community-based voter information officer whose role is to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voters, if required."
"The voter information officer role is especially important with the changed Senate voting arrangements at this election."
The AEC has reviewed its remote mobile polling arrangements since the 2013 federal election to identify better ways to deliver polling services, including offering communities more flexible and extended opportunities to vote, such as coinciding visits with cultural business or other community events.
The AEC is also working with other government agencies to extend the reach and enhance the effectiveness of remote voter services.
"In the Northern Territory and parts of Western Australia, that includes drawing on Department of Human Services' resources, such as vehicles and Indigenous staff, to reach and connect with communities", Mr Sherry said.
As well as improved accessibility, remote polling arrangements for the 2016 federal election are providing employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians to work as AEC polling officers in their communities.
Remote mobile polling visits are being promoted by advertising in radio, television and newspapers, as well as by AEC indigenous community contact officers and posters in shire councils and government offices.
Voters can find out when a mobile polling team will be visiting by calling 13 23 26 or visiting the AEC website at www.aec.gov.au
Images will be available at: http://www.aec.gov.au/media/image-library/mobile-polling.htm. A tweet will be issued from @AusElectoralCom linking to the images as soon as they are available.
Pool vision will also be available. Please advise Paula Nesci (AEC) if you’d like further details. Ph: 02 6271 4708 or email email@example.com
Bulman is a cattle station town three hundred kilometres (four hours by road) northeast of Katherine. A 'small speck' on the red dirt of the Northern Territory, it lies between Katherine and Nhulunbuy. The road becomes inaccessible at times during most wet seasons at Mainoru River and Flying Fox Creek.
Bulman and Weemol are closed communities. A Northern Land Council (NLC) permit is required to visit these communities.
275 people live in Bulman and Weemol Outstation, five kilometres from Bulman. The population is young with a median age of 23 years.
The people of Bulman speak Rembarranga, Kriol and English.
Roper Gulf Regional Council provides a range of Local Government services including road maintenance, traffic management, rubbish collection, airstrip maintenance, upkeep of parks and weed maintenance, community safety through the Night Patrol, animal welfare and control, sport and recreation, governance support as well as providing access to Centrelink.
Facilities in the town include a school, health clinic, community store, police station and an airstrip.
There are currently two public telephones in Bulman.
Community consultation occurs at Bulman Local Authority Meetings. The Local Authority is made up of the elected members who sit on Council for the Nyirranggulung Ward and nominated representatives from the community. Other stakeholders are also invited to attend the Local Authority Meetings. Resolutions made at these meetings form the basis of planning by the Roper Gulf Regional Council.