Sargon Zaya arrived at the Broadmeadows polling booth to cast his vote in the Iraqi election proudly wearing his Assyrian national costume. "This is very important to myself and to the Iraqi people ... we have been going through a lot of oppression because of our identity," says the former interpreter for Medicins Sans Frontieres who arrived in Australia as a refugee 10 years ago.
"This voting is going to drag Iraq out of the conflict and troubles," he says as he dips his finger in the UN-supplied ink, which stains the skin for two weeks to prevent people voting twice. Zaya now lives at Glenroy near 35 other family members who have escaped persecution in Iraq over the past decade through Turkey, Jordan and Syria before arriving in Australia as refugees.
They will join about 15.5 million voters in Iraq and expatriates in 15 countries choosing members of Iraq's parliament from about 7000 candidates.
Up to 40,000 Iraqis living in Australia are expected to cast their votes in polling booths operated by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq.
In Victoria, there are polling booths at Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Preston and Shepparton. They will have been open for three days, from 9am to 9pm, when voting closes tonight.
The manager of the commission's Victorian office, Bassam Alyaseri, says that he expects up to 8000 Victorian Iraqis to vote for the country's first full government since Saddam Hussein was ousted two years ago.
"It is part of the democracy for rebuilding Iraq to start a new life for Iraqis with a new government," he says.
At Broadmeadows, voters face a security check before entering the Migrant Resource Centre to cast their votes.
Across the road, former Baghdad cartoonist Yousef Fathel angrily shouts his grievances at the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq while further up the street groups of supporters cheerfully distribute campaign brochures for their preferred candidates.
Despite the commotion, Sargon Zaya says he was happy and proud to be able to cast his vote.
"There are plenty of Iraqis like myself who have been suffering there and to get their rights in a free Iraq is the main point," he says.
The result of the election is expected to be known by the end of the month.