Gay marriage surveys torched in Arnhem land
DEBATE over same-sex marriage is really heating up in an Arnhem Land community where about 50 surveys have been burned.
Furious residents of Ramingining, 560 kilometres east of Darwin, believed the survey was asking whether or not a man should be "compelled" to marry another man, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) deputy statistician Jonathan Palmer.
He said experienced ABS field officers are currently visiting around 200 remote locations to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities participate in the voluntary Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey - as most people in remote communities don't speak English a their first language.
Staff do not have interpreters with them when they visit remote regions, instead relying on audio recordings of survey explanations in about 14 Aboriginal languages.
"These visits are planned in consultation with local communities to ensure cultural sensitivities are observed," an ABS spokesman said.
"The ABS is aware of a case in a community in Arnhem Land where a misunderstanding led to some forms being destroyed. Replacement forms have been issued and the case has been resolved."
Despite difficulties, more than nine million Australians have voted in the postal survey on gay marriage so far.
That's about 57.5 per cent of the 16 million registered voters able to take part in the $122 million survey, according to ABS estimates.
Both campaigns have welcomed the figure as an promising result, with the No campaign saying the debate was "still wide open" with seven million Australians yet to have their say.
GetUp marriage equality director Sally Rugg said however the participation rate already matched and would likely exceed the turnout rate in Ireland's historic referendum to legalise same-sex marriage in 2015.
"We were initially concerned about the vote being held via the post because the extra hurdles of updating enrolment and remembering to post a letter, so it's heartening and exciting to see such huge participation in the survey," Ms Rugg said.
Whereas, Coalition for Marriage spokesman Lyle Shelton said the high turnout signalled that the Australian public understood the gravity of the debate and the consequences for the community.
"This is consistent with the overwhelming number of calls and emails from people all over Australia who are concerned about how same sex marriage will impact on schools, freedom of speech and freedom of religion," he said.