‘Rebecca Goes To Vote’ is another in our series of short films, and it chronicles my adventures voting in the most recent Australian election at the Australian Consulate in Chicago earlier this month. We shot this over the course of one day, but took us a little while to piece it all together (notably, because we were working on other projects).
As with all of our short films, we made it because we saw something notable, a different perspective. This particular story differs significantly from the experience most Australians have at their polling booths. Voting overseas doesn’t have the same feel, even though you’re technically voting in the same cardboard booths you would back in Australia.
Voting is compulsory in Australia, even for those living abroad. At the previous General Election, I voted at the Consulate in San Francisco and was curious to see how the Chicago experience would compare.
The night before visiting the Consulate, I spent hours researching the candidates. On the Senate ballot alone there were 110 names! A friend had told me about the website BelowTheLine.org: it helped me categorise and order all the candidates, and even prepared a printable cheat sheet for me to take into the voting booth.
In late January this year, the Prime Minister at the time, Julia Gillard, called the election for 14 September. It was a surprise move as most Australian elections seem to be called within a month or two of the election date (unlike American elections that seem to be perennially campaigning). There was a leadership spill in late June, and she was dumped as leader in favour of the former PM Kevin Rudd, ironically the one she ousted back in 2010 for the top job. New PM Kevin Rudd decided to change the date of the election, and brought it forward a week, to 7 September.
Election day : Home v Abroad
Election Day in Australia is always a Saturday, with polling booths stationed at local schools, churches and scout halls. But it’s not simply about the act of having your say in the future of the country — it’s also a day that’s synonymous with sausage sizzles. Once you’ve cast your ballot, it’s tradition to enjoy a sausage sandwich at the BBQs manned by the parents and friends of the school or by local service groups (like Rotary or Lions). Often, there’s a stall beside the BBQ run by old ladies selling home-made cakes and knitted wares (like baby booties and toilet roll holders). To demonstrate just how much we love our sausage sizzles, there’s SnagVotes — a map featuring all of the known places around the nation where there’s a sausage sizzle on election day.
Whilst voting in Chicago lacked the requisite sausage sizzle, vanilla slice, and chewing the fat with neighbours, it more than made up for it in its setting and novelty. Hearing the unadulterated Aussie accent of the consular official, making friends with others in the waiting room and getting invited to sporting functions was a trip. And we made a short film about it to show you what it was like.
So… what did you think?
So what did you think about ‘Rebecca Goes To Vote’?
Have you ever voted overseas before?
If so, how did you find the experience?
We’d love to hear your feedback!