Securing meaningful indigenous voice in elections

Electoral Regulation Research Network (Vic) Seminar

Thursday 29 August


  • Dr Sana Nakata
  • Mr. Eddie Cubillo
  • Mr Warwick Gately

About the seminar:

In 2016, 649,173 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were counted in the national census. This is estimated to be 3.3% of the Australian population. Representative democracies have long-struggled with how to make minorities matter in electoral processes that are premised upon majoritarian, aggregative forms of political decision-making. But for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders this minority status has more complex and substantiative character due to geography, age demographics and our foundational role in the making of this nation. In all, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are less likely to be enrolled to vote and less likely to turn out. It turns out that making 3% count in a representative democracy is exceptionally difficult indeed. The panel explored the kinds of problems and problematisations this should raise for understandings of Indigenous Australian political engagement.

About the speakers:

Dr Sana Nakata is Lecturer in Political Science, ARC Discovery Indigenous Research Fellow (2016-2019) and Co-Director of the Indigenous-Settler Relations Collaboration. Trained as a lawyer and political theorist, her research is centred upon developing an approach for thinking politically about childhood in ways that improve the capacity of adult decision-makers to act in their interests. She published her first book in 2015, Childhood Citizenship, Governance and Policy: the politics of becoming adult (Routledge). Her current project looks at representations of children in Australian political controversies, with particular focus upon Indigenous Australian children and child asylum seekers.

Mr Eddie Cubillo is a Larrakia, Wadjigan, Central Arrente man from the Northern Territory, and completed a Bachelor of Laws in 2002 and Masters of Laws (International Law and International Relations) in 2009. Admitted as a Legal Practitioner of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, professional positions include NT Legal Aid Commission in the areas of Commercial Law, Family Law, and Litigation, as well as Aboriginal Lands and Correctional Services with the Department of Justice. In 2002 he was elected to the ATSIC Yilli Rreung Regional Council, and subsequently became the Chair of that Council. Eddie is a former Chair of both the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee (NT). In 2010 Mr Cubillo was appointed the Anti – Discrimination Commissioner of the Northern Territory and then after his term was appointed as the Executive Officer of the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (NATSILS). In 2015, Eddie was announced as the National Indigenous Legal Professional of the Year. Eddie is currently completing his PhD.

Mr Warwick Gately is Victorian Electoral Commissioner. His early career was with the Royal Australian Navy. Joining the Western Australian Electoral Commission in 2003, he conducted three State General elections, local council elections and referendums on retail trading hours and daylight saving. He oversaw the redrawing of the State’s electoral boundaries under “one vote, one value” legislation.  In April 2013, he was appointed as the Electoral Commissioner for Victoria with responsibility for the administration of the State’s register of electors and the conduct of Parliamentary and local council elections as well as referendums and various statutory polls in Victoria. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Government, a Master’s Degree in Defence studies and is a graduate of the Institute of Company Directors.