The Voice referendum is coming up on Saturday 14 October 2023. It's the first referendum we've had in 24 years!
Eligible voters will get to have a say in whether our Constitution is changed to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Read the referendum question.
The Voice would provide independent advice to Parliament and Government on matters that affect First Nations people, like housing, education, and health. The proposed Voice would also include a permanent Disability Advisory Group.
For the referendum to succeed, it must achieve a double majority—this means the national majority of voters AND the majority of voters in at least 4 out of 6 states must vote "yes". So it's important that eligible voters of all ages and abilities get the opportunity to have their voice heard.
How accessible will the Voice referendum be?
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is responsible for conducting federal elections and referendums. As a Commonwealth agency, it must ensure its services and information is accessible to people with disability.
Here are some of the ways the AEC and other organisations are improving voting accessibility, from enrolling to vote to navigating a polling place.
If you haven't enrolled to vote yet, you have until Monday 18 September 2023 to do so. Voting is compulsory in Australia for all citizens aged 18 and over.
You can enrol to vote via the AEC's online enrolment service, or via a PDF or paper form (available from the AEC website or office).
The AEC is aiming to make the enrolment process easier. This includes letting people use their Medicare card as evidence of identity, ensuring its online enrolment service conforms to WCAG 2.1 standards, and allowing people to enrol as general postal voters so they can receive their ballot papers in the mail.
Not sure how referendums work? Weighing up between voting "yes" or "no"?
The AEC has released an official referendum guide that explains how the voting process works. It includes a Yes/No pamphlet prepared by parliamentarians that may help you decide whether to vote for or against a Voice to Parliament (note: this pamphlet has not been fact checked by the AEC).
This guide is available in several accessible formats:
- Easy read guides that outline the referendum voting process using pictures and simple language. These are available in multiple languages.
- Large print, eBraille and screen reader guides for people who are blind or have low vision
- Translated versions of the guide in 34 CALD and up to 25 First Nations languages
There has been some criticism from disability and CALD advocacy groups that these accessible formats were not made available earlier (compared to the English version). This may prevent people with disability from accessing reliable information on the Voice.
Additional community-led resources
In addition to the AEC, several First Nations and disability advocacy groups have created accessible materials to inform the community about the Voice referendum.
- First Peoples Disability Network Australia has released an easy read version of the Uluru Statement from the Heart
- Life without Barriers and Polaron have published a range of videos, fact sheets and social media tools about the Voice referendum in 45 languages
- Council for Intellectual Disability has created their own easy read Voice to Parliament fact sheet
When it comes to referendum day, the AEC has plenty of accessible measures in place to ensure everyone has the opportunity to vote.
At a polling place
If you want to vote in person, the AEC has an accessibility rating system on their website that will show which polling places have wheelchair access. 21.6% of polling places at the 2022 federal election were fully accessible, and a further 62.3% had assisted access.
You can also check if a polling place has a hearing loop, text-to-speech pen, and voting rooms with adjustable lighting for people with sensory needs.
Voters can ask for help completing their ballot paper from a family member, friend, polling official or even a support worker.
If you're seriously ill, travelling, or are unavailable to vote on election day, you may be eligible for postal voting or early voting. If this applies to you, make sure to apply for a postal vote by 11 October 2023 via the AEC website.
If you generally find it difficult getting to a polling place, you can apply to become a general poster voter. This means you can automatically receive all federal election and referendum ballot papers in the mail.
Voters who are blind or have low vision can cast their vote from home over the phone. The AEC have a dedicated phone service that allows people to cast their vote in secret. Learn more about telephone voting.
Need a hand getting to a polling place? Like Family can help!
At Like Family, we want to empower our Members to fully engage with their communities. This extends to helping them vote!
Our Social Carers (support workers) can provide transport to and from a polling place and help you complete your ballot paper (if you need it). Just post an Activity on our website, or contact our Customer Care team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need a hand finding a Carer.
If you're a Social Carer, you can post your own Activity offering to provide transport on the day. Just let Members know when you're available and how far you're willing to travel.
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