SA voice vote delayed amid national referendum debate

The first elections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to South Australia’s Indigenous voice to state parliament will be put back until 2024 to distance the local body from the ongoing debate over a national voice.

Jun 29, 2023, updated Aug 30, 2023
North Terrace in the city is part of a new precinct where police have the power to search and ban people in a new grid in the CBD. Photo: AAP/Matt Turner

North Terrace in the city is part of a new precinct where police have the power to search and ban people in a new grid in the CBD. Photo: AAP/Matt Turner

The government had previously planned to have elections in September with the state body operating by the end of the year.

It says the revised timing to March will also allow more time for people to enrol to vote and to consider nominating for a position.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher said the clear advice from both the electoral commissioner and the commissioner for first nations voice was that work being done in SA was being overshadowed by the debate at a national level around the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ referendum campaigns.

The commissioners have advised the increasing prominence given to the referendum was causing confusion and making it harder to inform communities about the state voice.

“We have done so much work to support the South Australian voice and it will be proceeding regardless of the outcome of the referendum,” Maher said.

“By allowing for more time, we’re giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in South Australia the opportunity to fully understand how they can get involved and take the time to campaign, with distance from the discussion about the national voice.”

Under the new schedule, nominations for those wishing to stand for election in SA will open on January 22 and close on February 12.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders wishing to vote in the voice elections must enrol by February 12.

Early voting will open on March 4 and continue to March 16, with polling on March 16.

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The SA process, established after historic legislation passed parliament in March, provides for six regions across the state.

Five of those will elect seven members, with the central region including Adelaide to have 11, reflecting the higher Indigenous population.

Two members from each region will then be chosen to make up the smaller group, which will speak directly to the SA parliament.

Commissioner for First Nations Voice Dale Agius said local communities had expressed a need for more time to get involved amid concerns the national referendum was making that increasingly challenging.


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