Colour head shot of Don Farrell, current Special Minister of State.

Senator the Hon Don Farrell

Special Minister of State

OpEd - Record numbers sign up to have a say


Opinion Piece

Record numbers sign up to have a say


I’ve always felt that we as Australians do elections pretty well.

Sure, we might grumble about fitting it in to our busy Saturday routine but we balance it by grabbing a democracy sausage on the way out for our troubles.

Because in the end, this is we know all of us having a say in how the country is what makes this nation great.

However, despite compulsory voting being a long-standing feature of our system, for some Australians it has been hard to get to the ballot box. 

Shift workers who miss their chance, trapped late in overtime.

New migrants unable to understand the language or the process.

And remote communities forced to travel for hours, even to access a postal vote.

Historically, the most tragic example of all – our First Australians – where the rate of both engagement and participation has been unacceptably low.

With a referendum now looming, I’m hoping we can rectify some of these failures.

As Special Minister of State, a role and portfolio that will probably remain a mystery for most, I have the task of governing our electoral system.

From bolstering the Australian Electoral Commission, to shining a light on political donations, we’re working to strengthen the system which is at the heart of our democratic process.

A strong democracy is transparent, protected against malicious actors, and most importantly, one in which every eligible Australian can participate freely, safely, and easily.

After all, what bigger injustice could there be than holding a referendum giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a voice, but those very communities being unable to access their vote?

That’s why we’ve changed a few things. 

We’ve made it easier to enrol to vote, or update your details, using something as simple as your Medicare card.

New migrants, proud to be Australians, can now use their citizenship certificates to add themselves to the electoral roll.

We’ve boosted communication and awareness campaigns across mainstream media, social channels, and targeted advertising.

And we’ve injected new funding into outreach – connecting some of our most remote communities with services that make it easier to find information and cast a vote.

Services like remote polling teams, who are already packing their bags to travel across the full breadth of Australia in the lead up to 14 October.

The results of this work are already clear.

Since we focused our efforts on improving the system, national enrolment has hit 97.5 per cent, with over 17.5 million Australians enrolled to vote.

Enrolment of younger Australians, those aged between 18 and 24, is now over 90 per cent, as some prepare to have their say for the very first time.

And most significantly, after decades of languishing well below the national average, more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are enrolled to vote than at any point in our nation’s history – soaring from 80 per cent just a year ago, to over 94.1 per cent today.

Numbers don’t lie.

Younger Australians are ready to have a say.

New Australians are ready to have a say.

Our First Australians are ready to have a say.

With the AEC now busily preparing for the opening of remote polling from September 25, and early voting from 2 October– information will be flooding in from all sides.

Not all this information will be genuine, and it’s up to all of us to read and understand what our First Australians are asking. Every household will be sent yes and no pamphlets while the AEC also keeps a handy disinformation register on their website.

In the lead up to 14 October, I hope you join me and millions of other Australians as we vote ‘YES’ to recognition of our first people, ‘YES’ to a Voice to Parliament, and ‘YES’ to better outcomes for our entire country.

This article was first published in the Northern Territory News.