Washington International Law Journal


Megan A. Winder


In 2006, Australia’s Parliament banned all prisoners from voting. A year later, Vickie Lee Roach, a female prisoner of Aboriginal descent, challenged the blanket ban promulgated in the 2006 amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1918 (“Electoral Act”). Vickie won, but in a limited way. The High Court found an implied right to vote in the Australian Constitution, but held that Parliament could limit such voting, as it did in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment of 2004 (“E & R Amendment”), disenfranchising any prisoner serving three or more years in jail. This Comment argues that the E & R Amendment conflicts with Australia’s obligations under the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, codified by Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 (“RDA”). The RDA mandates that Indigenous citizens be treated equally to non-Indigenous citizens, including with respect to voting rights and opportunities to participate in political life. The E & R Amendment disenfranchises a significant portion of the prison population—a large percentage of which is Aboriginal. Disproportionate disenfranchisement of this sort constitutes indirect discrimination and perpetuates racism against Aboriginal people, preventing meaningful participation in their own communities. To rectify the problem, Parliament should repeal the three-year disenfranchisement provision of the E & R Amendment

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