Think WEL before you vote! Interested in joining one of our voter education sessions?
Women decide elections! Women outnumber male voters in almost all federal electorates. Therefore WEL wants to make sure that every vote by a woman counts. This year we have been delivering free voter education sessions for new voters, migrant and refugee women, and women who want to know more about how to more about how our Members of Parliament make the decisions that impact on our us and the people we care about.
Thank you to our local partner organisations that host the women's voter sessions and spread the word to women voters in their community. And thank you to WEL members who have responded to our crowd funding requests to cover the cost of the 'Think WEL before you vote' voter education program. Our aim is to reach as many women voters as possible, to make a welcoming space where women can can come along for free, discuss how elections work and continue the discussion over a light lunch.
Helen attended one of our voter education sessions in March 2019 and was inspired to write to us, sharing her experience.
At my first encounter with Women's Electoral Lobby (WEL), it came as a surprise to me that, having spent more than two decades in this country as a voter, I had not known about the existence of WEL.
Only last month, I attended an event promoted by our local women’s health service centre. It was organised by WEL in our local electorate. With the up coming state election at the end of March, I was interested to see what WEL had to say about both state and federal politics.
This would be a fantastic opportunity for me to clarify many issues before I decided who to vote for. I met Sinead, a representative from WEL at the beginning of the session. The group of women shared life experiences on Australian politics and it was wonderful to meet other women in the area to understand different aspects of life.
The session introduced participants to WEL, and its visions, providing clear procedures for each election. WEL encourages the public to contact their local Members of Parliament with their concerns regarding matters of local community and broader issues such as climate change, health and education. In order to vote for the politician you think is the most appropriate to represent your electorate, it is essential to understand what, and where your local MPs stand on certain issues.
During the session, many attendees commented on the frustrations they felt towards major parties and how they only focused on the stadiums during the State Election. The lack of information on other policies and the manipulation of media were also matters which were brought up. The issues rised such as domestic violence, women’s health (particularly on the reproductive choices), mental health, education, age care, disability care and the difficulty of accessing assistances during hardship periods.
We discussed the reasons why women lacked voicing their opinions with their votes, and expressed concerns of women’s welfare. Some reasons included; the lack of interests in politics, feeling oppressed by the patriarchal members of family to vote whoever they told to vote, and lack of time and resources to understand who they should be voting for.
Another element for women’s disempowerment is the language and cultural barrier. Many migrant women move to Australia with very little understand of English, and minimal incentives to access and research information about the elections. Most of these women rely on their male partners or their father to make decisions about voting.
A day after the state election, there was a thread on a Facebook mother’s group, asking “Who did you vote for?” The thread starter preconditioned people to be respectful and to not attack individuals. A few members replied they just turned up, marked their name off and didn’t put down any numbers. Some women find elections too complicated and overwhelming. Some responded they couldn’t be bothered because they didn’t care who won. That is a worry. People feel either they are too disappointed about the government to vote or they are comfortable and content, hence they do not need to worry about the policies.
With the upcoming federal election, it is a citizen’s responsibility to do research and be concerned about their surroundings. Even if you are already in the most privileged position, caring for the disadvantaged is the basis of humanity.
It’s good to say, I have gained so much information about the election and where to seek assistance. I'd certainly share what I learnt from my session with WEL with anyone I know!
If you would like to contribute to help us reach more women and continue our work on these voter education sessions, please visit this page - Making Women Count.