This paper updates earlier work on participation and representation in ATSIC elections. It adds analysis of the fifth round of ATSIC elections held in 2002 to those held in 1990, 1993, 1996 and 1999. It confirms and refines earlier findings relating to a number of different measures of participation and representation. It argues that overall voter turnout is reasonable given the voluntary nature of ATSIC elections. It discerns a distinctive geography of both voter turnout and candidate interest, which are higher in sparsely settled northern and central Australia, and lower in southern more settled Australia. It argues that women's participation in ATSIC elections as voters, candidates and in being elected as regional councillors is quite high, but that there is some falling away in women's election to the 52 full-time salaried offices of Commissioner and Regional Council Chairperson. It notes some weakness in the representation of women as regional councillors in remote areas and an under-representation of councillors under the age of 35. It also discerns a distinctive geography in the election of Torres Strait Islanders to ATSIC regional councils which can be related to under-lying demography.
In all these instances the paper attempts to explain and understand distinctive geographies and other patterns of participation and representation, while also raising them as possible issues of concern for ATSIC. Explanations relate to ATSIC's program and service provision roles, different social meanings and types of Indigenous identity, the relative influence of European settlement norms on traditional patterns of Indigenous political behaviour, and the nature of public career life courses. The paper suggests that distinctive geographies and other patterns of participation and representation in ATSIC elections are both understandable and well entrenched, and are unlikely to change greatly in the future.
ISBN: 0 7315 5627 5