Most of our readers will pick up Crosslight the day after the federal election. A large number of Uniting Church halls across the Victorian and Tasmanian synod transform into polling booths on Saturday 2 July. We asked Janice Laverty, who co-ordinates hall bookings at the Nhill Uniting Church in the Wimmera district of Western Victoria (as well as playing the organ for Sunday worship) what is involved with preparing a hall for voting.
“We have inspectors visiting months before the election,” she said. “They spend a lot of time measuring doors, working out our accessibility, the location of toilets, the availability of ramps and whether we have enough tables and chairs. We are right on the highway, so as well as local people we have a constant stream of travellers who stop to vote.”
When an election hits town, the Australian Electoral Commission’s booking always take priority. So Janice is probably one of the few Australian’s pleased with the long election campaign, as the Nhill church hall is a popular events venue, so it helps to plan ahead.
“We host school examinations, the Lions Club Youth of the Year, dinners for the CWA, space for Wimmera UnitingCare when they need it as well as Probus meetings and of course, our own church events.”
Almost 10 years ago, the church hall received funding for a commercial kitchen so the community had a central place to gather for crisis events such as a flood.
The Australian Electoral Commission delivers the polling booths ahead of the election and then spends approximately half-a-day setting up the hall. They are expected to leave the hall as they found it and are responsible for removing the furnishings after the election has finished, an important consideration for a church which has worship services the next day.
“Up until this election, the Ladies Guild has run a store but because we are all getting older, this time we will not be doing so,” Janice explained. “But we benefit from the hall hire and the ability to be a welcoming location for polling day.
“My only job on the actual day is to turn up and vote!”
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