Your vote matters- Ensuring people with intellectual disability participate in the electoral process

19th May, 2022

As someone who believes that the best society is an inclusive society, I  am a strong believer that all Australians, deserve the right to vote. The term all Australians in this context refers to any Australian citizen over the age of 18 and includes people with a disability. Despite Australia being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (UNCRPD), which guarantees the right to vote through Article 29 – Participation in political and public life, I have been surprised to learn that so many of the people Barkuma supports have never voted in State or Federal elections.

Whilst I don’t claim to understand the individual circumstances of every person’s situation, I am aware that for some people with an intellectual disability they can only be exempt from registering on the electoral roll by a third party writing to the Australian Electoral Commission stating the person doesn’t have capacity to understand being a voter and voting and this needs to be supported by a letter from a doctor. These assumptions appear generally to be focused on a person’s deficits, without consultation or discussions about the support options available to people with a disability interested in voting.

With the federal election looming near (21 May 2022), and key issues such as the Economy, Affordable Housing, Climate Change and the NDIS on the agenda,  it is not too late for anyone interested in voting to register. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), 6.8 million Australians (40%) reporting they have a disability or long term health condition. In their 2014 Report, Face the Facts the AHRC state that people with disabilities are more likely to experience poverty, live in poor quality or insecure housing, low levels of education, are often socially isolated having fewer opportunities to take part in community life. With these facts in mind, who better than people with a disability to inform and hold Government to account about disability policy and the future of the NDIS than those directly impacted. Who better than people with a disability to inform Government that for every $1 invested in the NDIS, $2.25 is returned to the Australian economy. Who better that people with a disability to inform and hold Government to account on affordable housing policy. I would say that with the right support if required there is no one more qualified.

Barkuma’s SLES program is tackling this issue in group sessions, discussing how the Electoral System works, and how to go about voting. It was excellent to see many Barkuma participants vote in the recent State Election, and know they will be supported to participate in the upcoming federal election. If you are interested in exercising your democratic rights and voting in the upcoming Federal Election, The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has a number of easy read guides to help people with a disability to resources to help people with a disability to understand https://www.aec.gov.au/assistance/

Simon Rowberry
Chief Executive Officer
Barkuma