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Arafura Decides: Country Liberals could win by-election in NT electorate following incumbent's death

Updated: May 19, 2023

The by-election was triggered by the sudden death of the incumbent Labor MP.

Voters will be heading to the polls for the Arafura by-election in the coming months after the sudden death of the Incumbent Labor MP, who has represented the region since 2016.

As of 2020, the electorate contains 5,183 electors, over an area of 57,410 square kilometres. The area includes the towns of Maningrida and Gunbalanya in western Arnhem Land, and Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island.

Federally, the seat is entirely located in the Division of Lingiari, held by Labor on less than 1%.



Arafura, created in 1983, was first won by Labor member Bob Collins with a margin of 12%, with 3 seperate Labor MPs winning the seat from 1987-2012.

In 2012, a 15% swing to the Country Liberals lead to a shock election defeat of Labor, with the Country Liberals holding the seat with their candidate Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu (with the exception of a brief change of allegiance to Palmer United).

However, in 2016, Labor successfully regained the seat, holding it ever since.

It's also worth noting that all but one of the MPs to have represented Arafura were of Indigenous descent.

At the 2020 NT election, Labor retained the seat, despite a 3.7% swing against them, bringing their lead down to that of 3.6% against the Country Liberals.



Manuel Brown (Labor)

Leslie Tungatalum (Country Liberals)

2020 candidates


Gibson Illortaminni (Country Liberals)

George Laughton (Territory Alliance)

Tristan Mungatopi (Independent)

2022 election results










Country Liberals

Gibson Illortaminni





Tristan Mungatopi




Territory Alliance

George Laughton









Country Liberals

Gibson Illortaminni




Labor hold


The most drastic factor at play in this by-election is turnout, as a combination of this being a by-election and a generally lower turnout in rural regions could lead to some drastically low voter participation. For example, in the Fannie Bay by-election earlier this year, the turnout plummeted by 15% - All these factors could bring the vote share to as low as 40% of electors.

The Daly by-election in 2021, in a rural region comparable to Arafura, saw a 7% swing to Labor on a 2PP basis, with Labor successfully gaining the seat from the CLP. If a similar swing were to occur in Arafura, the seat would be easily retained by the Labor candidate, moving the seat safely away from its current marginal status. Although, this doesn't mean the CLP doesn't have a chance considering the seat is only held by 4% for Labor.

Another thing to note is that in the times Greens ran a candidate in Arafura in recent years, they recorded strong performances, climbing to 14% of the vote share. Although it'd be hard to see a Green gain, they could make significant ground on Labor and bring another competitor into future Arafura elections.

However, the most important factor in NT elections are often the candidates, and until then a safe prediction for the outcome of the seat would be hard to make.


For all our reports on the Arafura by-election, click here. Help support unbiased journalism & keep us independent: donate just $4 a month on Patreon & receive exclusive benefits. Want to inform others? Share the link to this story on social media & with your family & friends using the buttons below.


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