Bendigo by numbers: how you responded to the marriage survey

Of the 92,000 people in Bendigo who took part in the marriage law postal survey, more than two-thirds want to see marriage equality become law. 

That was the major takeaway for central Victorian ‘yes’ campaigners who cheered as results of the national opinion poll were revealed at 10am. 

In addition to its announcement that 61.6 per cent of eligible voters backed marriage equality, the Australian Bureau of Statistics also released electorate-by-electorate breakdowns of survey responses.

In the central Victorian seat of Bendigo, held by Labor MP Lisa Chesters, 68.7 per cent of respondents supported same-sex couples being allowed to wed.

More than 82 per cent of registered voters in the electorate returned their marriage survey form before the November 7 deadline.    

That means Bendigo’s level of survey participation and its ‘yes’ response rate were both higher than those recorded across Victoria and Australia.

Similarly strong ‘yes’ tallies were recorded in neighbouring seats Ballarat (70.5 per cent), McEwen (65.4 per cent) and Wannon (61 per cent) and Murray (57.6 per cent). 

All but two Victorian electorates – and 64.9 per cent of the state’s participants – returned a majority of ‘yes’ responses;  the state’s ‘yes’ rate was the country’s second highest, trailing only the Australian Capital Territory.

EMBRACE: A tender moment of joy - and relief - as the survey results were displayed inside the Bendigo Town Hall. Picture: DARREN HOWE

EMBRACE: A tender moment of joy - and relief - as the survey results were displayed inside the Bendigo Town Hall. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Bendigo Says Yes volunteer co-ordinator Tash Joyce said when the campaign launched in August participants wanted a high ‘yes’ response rate in their region, a goal she said was achieved. 

“We were out there talking to people from day one… talking to families and workmates, and I think that was really reflected by the fact we got a much higher (yes) result than [Australia] and a much higher result than the state,” she said.

“I’m sure there’ll be people having parties somewhere.”

Bendigo resident Noel Hourigan, who is in a same-sex relationship, said he was pleased so many in the local community saw fit to back calls for marriage equality. 

“It gave me a lot of faith in the community and I want say thank you to all those people who did that – thank you for your support, thank you for your validation that I will walk away with,”he said. 

He put the number of ‘no’ responses – 28,852 in  the Bendigo electorate alone –  down to people voting in line with to their religious beliefs and said he respected their right to do so.

Who stands to benefit?

Survey results in favour of marriage equality will “give heart” to LGBTI people in the migrant and refugee community, social services have said. 

AMES Australia chief executive officer Cath Scarth said culturally and linguistically diverse people could face more barriers than most when coming out or living in a same-sex relationship.  

“We know that it can be difficult for some people ‘come out’ to family or friends when they are not sure they’ll be supported,” Ms Scarth said.

“We hope the result of them postal poll sends a message that Australia is a tolerant, welcoming society where diversity is embraced."

Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services also threw its support behind marriage equality during the course of the survey process, with executive officer Kate McInnes saying a ‘yes’ vote would build a better sense of belonging for LGBTI and diverse community members. 

“The more we value and celebrate diversity the stronger our community will become,” she said.

Why fight?

For someone who identifies as same-sex attracted, taking part in a marriage equality campaign seems logical. 

But what inspires someone unaffected by the survey’s outcome to lead the charge for a ‘yes’ response?

Bendigo woman Tash Joyce was one of the city’s most vocal advocates for changing the Marriage Act since the federal government announced its voluntary postal survey in August. 

The Bendigo Says Yes volunteer co-ordinator, who is heterosexual, said she felt obliged to put her union and lobbying experience to good use. 

“I feel its my responsible to use my skills to advocate for equality,” she said. 

“Doing that, using those skills, it’s just what you do.”

Ms Joyce also said the survey and its outcome had an impact on her loved ones.

“I have cousins and I have uncles who are gay and who are just devastated by this,” she said.

“I have workmates that have been really badly affected and don’t have the capacity to have this fight.”