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Date set for N.A.C. lections



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DATE SET FOR N.A.C. ELECTIONS

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The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Ian Viner, today (Wednesday) announced that elections for The National Aboriginal Conference would be held on Saturday 12 November 19.77. · . · ·

The Minister made the announcement to a meeting in Adelaide yesterday with the executive of The National Aboriginal Consultative Committee which the new body will replace. ·

The National Aboriginal Conference of 35 members is being set up by the Government following on recommendations of the Hiatt Commission of Inquiry into the role and function of the N.A.C.C. Although having a similar advisory role to the 41 member N.A.C.C. (set up in 1973) the Government hoped the N.A.C.'s broad community base and greater representation of tradition-oriented Aboriginal Groups would more faithfully reflect the views of Australia's Aboriginal people, ' Mr Viner said. '

The arrangements for the elections, he said, would be widely publicised in a multi-dialect campaign using all media, including video-tapes. Aboriginal field workers would also be used to spread knowledge about the elections in order to ensure the greatest possible response at the polls.

The arrangements, briefly, would be as follows:

Voting Eligibility: . Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people . . 18 years and over and resident in the area for a period of not ■ less than one month would be eligible to vote.

Enrolment: Voters would -enrol and vote on Polling Day in the one operation. No electoral roll for these elections would be prepared.

Nomination: Subject to a residential qualification to be determined, any person eligible to vote would also be eligible* to stand as a candidate subject to payment of a $20 deposit. Nominations would open on 15 August and close on -16 September and must be accompanied by the signature of six other eligible voters in support of the candidate's nomination. . .

Voting; Polling Booths would be set up in all significant Aboriginal centres. Mobile teams would transport ballot boxes to isolated areas and arrangements would be made for postal and . absentee voting. - ' · .

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Ballot System: Candidates' names would be balloted for order of . . position on the Ballot Paper. Voters would be required to ■ '

‘ v indicate their preference for one candidate and the successful ■ ' candidate would be the one receiving the greatest number of such preferences i.e. the "First Past The Post" system.

Conduct of Elections: The Australian Electoral Office would be responsible for conducting the N.A.C. elections in consultation with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

Hr Viner said that prisoners serving a sentence of not more than 12 months would be entitled to vote for the candidate in their usual residential area. Candidates' photographs would be printed on the ballot papers and their biographies would be displayed at polling booths. ■

The Minister said that during his meeting with the N.A.C.C. executive members he received strong recommendations to apply lengthy residential qualifications — as much as 18 months — on intending candidates, in contrast to the Hiatt Report which recommended a maximum of 6 months.

Also, the executive requested that consideration be given to creating an extra electoral area in the Northern Territory to split up a proposed area which contained six different language groups. „

Mr Viner said he undertook to give full consideration to these requests.

The executive also strongly advocated the introduction of training programs for new N.A.C. Members. Mr Viner agreed that this was a sound suggestion and said he believed such programs should cover a wide range of activities to ensure that members were equipped to do their jobs effectively. . .

The Minister said that in some areas of N.T. and Queensland Aboriginal and Islander opinions were being sought on whether they would prefer selecting their representatives to the N.A.C. through traditional methods of community consensus rather than by direct voting. ·

He said the Government was attaching great importance to the elections of The. National Aboriginal Conference and was committed to see the new body set on a firm base with a clear charter for its operations. This he said was the . only way it could faithfully serve the people it represented.

CANBERRA. A.C.T.

29 JUNE, 1977