Polling day: Backing family, dad Warren H and aunty Alison

UPDATE, August 25, 10.41pm: With 95% of the ballot counted, Alison Anderson (Country Liberals) has been returned in Namatjira with 64.5% of the vote. Des Rogers (Labor) has 28.3% and Warren H. Williams (FNPP), 7.2%.

Ms Anderson’s win is part of a historic swing to the CLP in the bush, which has given them government.

 

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

Nicholas Williams (at left) was in Hermannsburg this morning, handing out how-to-vote cards for his father, Warren H. Williams, while stationed in front of Alison Anderson’s campaign vehicle.

“I’m campaigning for both,” he said, “Warren is my father, Alison is my aunty.  I’m doing it for family.”

In practical terms that meant telling prospective voters to put his dad at number one but to give their second preference to Ms Anderson. This went against his father’s how-to-vote, where Ms Anderson was in the last spot, with second preference going to Labor’s Des Rogers. Nicholas said he didn’t mind who won the seat, out of his two relatives.

What would he see as the most important issue in his home community?

He thought about that for a while before replying: “There’s not enough focus on the kids. I mean the teenagers, 25 years and under. Not enough focus on why they don’t listen to their families, their parents.”

What can government do about that?

“First the families have to change. The kids need role models, not just one role model, more than one, who they would listen to.”

Who had been a role model for him?

Again he thought for a while.

“I used to live at Hermannsburg in the holidays. I was away for school, living with my grandmother in town. She was my role model, my mum’s mum, so my grandmother, and my mum and dad.”

These days he works at the tearooms, serving visitors to Hermannsburg’s historical precinct, and also at Top Shop, on the cash register or doing whatever’s needed. But he’s got big plans: “I’ve been working on my walking trail for the last three years.”

It’s a six-day trail across the range from the back of Ipolera and ending at Palm Valley. His vision is to take visitors on a guided walk, camping with them at night. He had a collaborator for the first two years. That relationship ended and now he’s looking for a joint venturer to help him put the enterprise on a business footing. Meanwhile his father and other family members are giving him a hand.

No matter what the outcome of this election, it felt like a bright future awaited this focussed young man.

His father (above right, in sunglasses) was standing across the way, supported by Ken Lechleitner, a leading figure in the First Nations Political Party (FNPP) and his wife, Michelle Lechleitner.

Mr Williams said the Namatjira campaign had been “an eye-opener”: “You know where Ampilatwatja is and then you have to travel there and you realise how just how big the place is. And you meet people who think you’ve forgotten them.”

He said the people he had spoken to were “looking for a change”.

What kind of change?

“I guess they just want to be free. We were free 10 years ago, before the Intervention and all this other stuff.

“A lot of people have asked what I would offer them. I told them it’s about teaching our culture in schools, getting people to respect our law and culture. We’ve got to start with the kids.”

In his home community he was feeling confident of strong support. As one man said, when asked whom he would support: “Warren, he’s from here, I grew up with him.”

Elsewhere Mr Williams felt he’d done “pretty good”.

He said if the seat doesn’t change hands, he’ll run again next time, for the FNPP: “It’s for our people, and for people who live in the NT, not only Aboriginal people. Like pastoralists, nobody talks to them. If I got in, I would talk to the people that work on the land.”

Inside the school grounds, Labor commanded a prominent position, but only one campaigner was present, Vince Jeisman (above, blue t-shirt), long-time electorate officer for Warren Snowdon MHR.

He said he didn’t know where the candidate, Des Rogers, was today, as he himself had been constantly on the move over the last week covering the mobile polling route where Mr Rogers couldn’t.

How did he think the vote was going?

“It’s all over the place – nearly 100% in some places, nothing in others. We’ll only know when it’s all brought together,” he said.

He had a hands-off approach. When voters arrived he spoke to them from behind the table where he was sitting, inviting them to take one of Mr Rogers’ how-to-vote leaflets if they intended to vote Labor. There were three to choose from, each one showing Mr Rogers with different Aboriginal people, presumably his supporters in the electorate. I asked Mr Jeisman who they were. “I don’t know,” he said.

Further into the school yard, halfway between the two entrances was Ms Anderson (at left). Her corflutes were outside but from here, she spoke to each and every voter, presumably in Arrernte in this Western Arrernte community. Usually the interactions were brief, focussed on the how-to-vote, pointing to the boxes – “One, two, three!”

She said she has been getting most preferences from votes cast for Mr Williams across the electorate. She is confident of holding her seat, which she won as a Labor candidate in 2008 but has contested this time for the Country Liberals (after a period as an independent).  Her scrutineers have told her that she has received overwhelming support across the electorate, she said.

She will stay at Hermannsburg this evening while the votes there are counted and then drive into Alice Springs, where she will do a “live cross” to the tally room at 9pm.

She has been the target of relentless attacks since her defection to the CLP, particularly from retiring Labor Minister, Chris Burns.

It will be interesting to see how the Namatjira electorate responds.

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3 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Posted August 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Nicholas Williams is a delightful young man who understands so many of the issues impacting on Aboriginal residents in bush seats. He has enjoyed some strong role modelling and will continue to be a positive model for others to learn from. His observation that the people have to learn to think differently is spot on.
    Good luck with tour trail venture, Nicholas … I’ve often said you should be “the national face of Aboriginal tourism”. Stay strong and proud … continue to be a role model for your generation and those that follow.

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  2. David Chewings
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Dare I say that anyone who has anything to do with Advance Alice and Action for Alice would be more than happy with the electoral outcome for the CLP in the bush.
    The Intervention has proven to be the complex canvas for bush communities to work from as voters decided what is the best way forward.
    Responding to the support from the bush, Terry Mills declared, (in his victory speech), his love and respect for Aboriginal people. This is a first in terms of conservative party politics in the NT.
    I do worry that the love and respect of the new Chief Minister will not last under the pressure of the old and new Intervention policies.
    There is no doubt that the Intervention is permanent policy just as there is no doubt that policy from Canberra directly effects the daily lives of NT First Australians.
    Were Tony Abbott to achieve his dream to be PM I for one would be most concerned for the rights and freedoms of all Territorians. The mean, throwback paternalism of the Howard Government may be just around the corner.
    D.R. Chewings aka THE lone dingo.

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  3. Hal Duell
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 1:14 am

    Is it true? Do we have a new government?
    If so, it will be interesting watching a CLP government take the reins of office after 12 years in opposition.
    I wish them luck, while predicting something similar to when the new Town Council took office here in Alice Springs. It was as if an air-bag had deployed.
    In an interesting article on the approaching US election, the term “political vaporware” was used. If there is a better term for campaign promises, I haven’t read it.
    Ingrained cynicism aside, the thought of Bess Price and Alison Anderson representing the bush in central Australia is chock full of possibilities. That could prove to be truly exciting.

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