The Australian Bureau of Statistics has announced it will send teams of survey officers to around 200 remote communities over the coming weeks to explain the same sex marriage survey, and to issue new forms when needed.
The deputy statistician responsible for the Australian marriage survey, Jonathan Palmer, said the officers would also have the authority to collect completed forms on the spot.
“We’re following our mailout up with engagement in remote and rural areas to give everyone the best opportunity to participate,” Mr Palmer said.
“We’ve still got five weeks in which people can respond.
“The first step was the mailout, and now we’re going out to help people where the mail might not work [reliably].”
However, ABS staff will not be accompanied by Aboriginal language interpreters.
Instead, they will be relying on audio recordings in selected Aboriginal languages.
Mr Palmer said if any person wished to change their survey response, or had concerns that their form may have been returned without their knowledge, they could request a new survey from the ABS.
“Only one response will be processed for each eligible person,” he said.
Reports marriage survey not widely discussed in regional areas
In Tennant Creek, a town that sits halfway between Alice Springs and Darwin, a local pastor told PM there had been next to no public discussion of the same-sex marriage survey in the town.
Michael Baker’s Christian congregation is mainly Aboriginal, and he said he had told them to vote no.
“We haven’t had any marches or anything saying we need to vote yes, and so we’ve made the statement as a church that we don’t agree with it, and we’re sending a message,” Mr Baker said.
Michael Baker also says he welcomes the news ABS staff will be visiting remote areas to facilitate the survey, and that he’s been telling people to make sure they do vote.
“I think there’s a certain amount of awareness, especially amongst more younger people, but some of the older people would certainly need an explanation in language,” he said.
In another remote Northern Territory town, the organiser of the annual Elliott Mardi Gras, around 700 kilometres south of Darwin, agreed more awareness of the survey was needed.
Shelley McDonald said she already returned a yes answer to the survey, but despite the town’s history of supporting the gay community the survey had not been widely discussed.
“There’s been no advertisement put up around town or anything,” Ms McDonald said.
“I haven’t heard anyone discuss it or talk about it in any way,” she added.
The pastor of a Christian congregation in Tennant Creek has told his community to vote no. (ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)
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