Last Saturday I was working as a Polling official at the NSW State election. It was a wonderful learning experience for me. My aim overall is to major in political and investigative journalism, so working at the election gave me an inside look into what goes on behind the scenes.
This was also my first year of voting, I didn’t usually go to vote with my parents as they used to go straight after work when they had the bakery. I didn’t know what I was in for.
I was working at Ingleburn North Public school, my job was to find and mark voters off the list with thousands of names. What I noticed was no one likes to vote. Almost every second person came in with a bad mood. I’m the type of person to smile and I’m cheerful. So I tried to put a smile on as many people as I could.
Voters blamed me a lot for voting, they put a lot of their angry towards me and my colleagues. A lot of the comments/remarks that I would get:
“I have no time for this” or “Why the bloody hell are there only two people working” or “I don’t need your help to vote”
Everyone seemed to be in such a rush to get out, but what I don’t get is, why would you keep complaining to me and waste your time when you could no joke leave within 5 minutes of coming here. All you need to do is mark off who you want to win and place them in the box. It’s that simple.
We didn’t get to pick how many people worked. Our polling place got allocated five people. That’s it. Five people for 2000 voters. I mean if you are in such a rush to catch a train or go to work, why didn’t you think about coming that extra five minutes instead of rushing off?
I didn’t take those comments personally, I wasn’t the only one that was getting them.
There was this one particular incident when an elder lady, I’d say in her late 60’s early 70’s came in with her husband. She was also in a rush to catch a train to somewhere. I asked for her last name and if she had voted for this election yet, that’s what we were required to do. She said her name. Her name was special in the box of names, and I didn’t know that her name was in a different section. So I took a little bit longer searching for her name and when I told her I couldn’t find her name she said, “don’t be silly, we’ve voted here for many years now” I then asked her to show me her licences, just in case I had the spelling wrong, and I was allowed to ask her and she’s allowed to deny, but the way she said it was so snobbish and rude
“No, I’m not showing YOU it,” “Just look up the name and hurry up I have a train to catch”
She requested my supervisor over, he couldn’t find the name and that just made her angry, but when we both fingered that the name was in a special spot we apologised and marked her and her husband off.
I then went on to say “Sorry about that, okay so here are your voting papers, the instructions on how to vote are on top of the pages, if you need any help just come back and ask me. Once you’re done fold the papers and place them into the correct boxes at the end of the hall”
I said that to everyone, her reply was “Look, I don’t need any help from you, you bloody Asian”
For me, I don’t take notice of racial abuse towards me, I ignore it or sometimes if i’m in a really bad mood I’ll snap and tell them off. Because they have no right to say that to me. I mean, I know I’m Asian, but what’s that got to do with anything? The thing I can’t tolerate is abuse to my parents. My parents are migrants, dad was a refugee who came to Australia by boat during the Vietnam war. I’m proud of my heritage. My parent’s english is not very strong, but you can speak and understand them. But if anyone ever racially abuses them, I snap and tell them to f*ck off.
I don’t see why me being Vietnamese limits my ability to find a name. I was born and bred in Australia, I went to Australian schools and I’m currently studying a communications degree at a well-known university.
It just angers me on how far Australia has come to be so multi-culrtural and yet we still have people like that.