This paper examines participation and representation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) elections over the ten-year period since its inception in 1990. It attempts to identify patterns of participation that seem to be emerging and what these might suggest about ATSIC's operation.
By examining numbers of nominees compared to positions available, the paper suggests that ATSIC elected office has fairly keenly and consistently sought and competed for by Indigenous people, though there may have been some slight initial reticence in the 1990 elections.
By examining voter numbers and voter turnout, the paper suggests that voter participation nation-wide rose slightly from 1990 to 1996 and then largely stabilised in 1999. It also suggests that there have been significant variations from this national pattern at State and Territory levels and it explores some reasons for this, such as change in postal voting procedures. The paper also examines voter numbers and voter turnout at the ATSIC regional level since 1993 and finds that there has been a much higher voter turnout in the sparsely settled regions of northern Australia and much lower voter turnout in the southern and urban areas. This is explained in terms of ATSIC program and expenditure priorities and in terms of polling place access.
The final two sections of the paper examine the representation of women and Torres Strait Islanders among ATSIC elected representatives. Both are seen as significant issues, which should be of some ongoing concern within ATSIC, alongside the issue of the southern/northern difference in voter participation.
ISBN: 0 7315 2633 3