Misunderstanding: Arnhem Land Residents Burn Postal Vote Survey Forms


Residents of a remote Arnhem land community have burned about 50 same-sex marriage postal vote survey forms because they misunderstood the question.

Residents of the Aboriginal community of Ramingining, where most people speak Djambarrpuyngu over English, believed the survey was asking them whether or not a man should be “compelled” to marry another man.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) deputy statistician Jonathan Palmer (pictured) told the ABC that they subsequently burned all their forms.

The actual question is: Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

The ABS has deployed teams of field officers to about 200 communities to assist with the returning of surveys.

“Our people are out there for between one to three days, and I think there’s plenty of time for them to have the length of conversation required,” Mr Palmer said.

ABS staff do not have interpreters with them when they visit remote regions, instead relying on audio recordings of survey explanations in about 14 Aboriginal languages.

“I’m very satisfied that we’ve got a pretty comprehensive program to get out and give as many people as possible a say in this matter,” Mr Palmer said.

The forms are distributed according to electorate.

For the seat of Lingiari, which takes up the entire Northern Territory except for Darwin, the data won’t show which remote communities had poor participation.

Mr Palmer said the survey results would be detailed enough for most people.

“What you’ll see for every electorate is not only the results for that electorate, but you’ll also get how many people participated and the breakdown of those by both their age group and their gender,” Mr Palmer said.