To support an Australian community that is well informed about electoral matters, the AEC delivers education, community engagement and communication activities.
All Australian citizens aged 18 years and over are required by law to enrol and vote. Ensuring Australians know and understand this right and obligation requires the AEC to engage with the community, and to provide information and advice to all eligible voters.
The National Training and Education Unit (NTEU) leads and coordinates the training and professional development of the AEC’s workforce, and delivers electoral education to external audiences. Schools can visit the National Electoral Education Centre (NEEC) in Canberra for electoral education programs. The AEC for Schools website provides free educational resources and programs, including materials to run school elections. Professional learning opportunities are provided to teachers to encourage electoral education in primary and secondary schools.
The AEC provides information and advice to voters, including those with diverse needs. Education and communication initiatives are in place to meet the needs of Australians with disability. Community engagement and targeted activities help increase electoral knowledge, enrolment, turnout and vote formality. The Indigenous Electoral Participation Program (IEPP) delivers culturally appropriate services to Indigenous Australians to support Indigenous electoral participation.
Under section 7(1) (fa) of the Electoral Act, and in close cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the AEC also helps international electoral management bodies.
Highlights of the year
The AEC is building on a number of community engagement resources and initiatives developed for the 2019 federal election, and is supporting the electoral participation of audiences, including:
- young people
- Indigenous Australians
- people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- people with disability
- people experiencing homelessness
Initiatives and resources are delivered to increase enrolment, turnout and formality, and to build the number of people from our targeted audiences who are available for AEC employment at electoral events.
Our approach to community engagement is to target these Australians strategically by:
- harnessing existing relationships through partner organisations
- extending the AEC digital reach and footprint
- using targeted, evidenced-based activities
More information is available in the Performance statement – agency direction one (1.3).
The AEC is working to increase electoral participation for Indigenous people through IEPP. This national initiative works in partnership with other organisations to deliver electoral services in ways that meet cultural and regional needs.
The AEC has built on the library of videos developed for the 2019 federal election in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. These resources are used by the AEC and its partners online—including social media channels—and on radio. They aim to encourage the electoral participation of Indigenous peoples in remote, rural and metropolitan locations. Video resources that deliver messages in culturally significant ways are also being developed to:
- highlight the importance of enrolling and voting during an electoral event
- explain the voting process
- promote the importance of participating in an election, including the opportunity to work
The AEC continues to participate in the Electoral Council of Australia and New Zealand (ECANZ) Indigenous Electoral Participation Working Group. This platform allows members to share knowledge and resources, and to collaborate to improve electoral participation by Indigenous Australians at federal, state and local levels.
People with disability
Initiatives to enhance services for people with disability are being developed and implemented. This work—which accords with the AEC’s Disability Action Plan 2020– 2023—includes increasing accessibility at polling places and developing resources to support electoral participation for all voters. The AEC also provides accessible materials and has implemented disability training to support AEC staff and our temporary election workforce.
The AEC’s Disability Advisory Committee is the primary mechanism to communicate with—and understand the issues for—people with disability. It is promoting greater accessibility, inclusion and participation in the electoral process, and seeks feedback from peak disability organisations on AEC programs and services. The AEC also collaborates with ECANZ to deliver accessible electoral services across jurisdictions.
Electors from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
The AEC is expanding resources to meet the needs of electors from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Easy read guides explaining how to enrol and how to vote at a federal election have been translated into a number of languages, and short in-language videos are being developed to support electoral participation.
People experiencing homelessness
People experiencing homelessness or with no fixed address are also supported to vote. This is achieved through partnerships with homelessness service providers and other relevant organisations to distribute AEC resources that promote enrolment, participation, improve formality and provide information on how to get involved in the temporary election workforce.
The AEC is committed to supporting young people to exercise their democratic rights and responsibilities as eligible voters. The AEC is increasing the use of digital and non-digital channels to promote AEC electoral participation resources to youth while increasing partnerships with youth led organisations—particularly those with a strong online presence.
Enlightening Elections 2020
The NEEC opened to the public during Canberra’s Enlighten Festival in late February and early March. This pilot program, Enlightening Elections 2020, was designed to expand the NEEC’s reach to adult audiences. More than 500 people participated in the event, which included a variety of election-related activities and demonstrations over four nights.
A formal visitor satisfaction survey conducted across the event found that:
- 95 per cent of respondents rated Enlightening Elections 2020 either four or five stars
- a further 80 per cent of respondents indicated they were likely to recommend Enlightening Elections to others
The impact of bushfires and COVID-19
The NEEC usually runs at full capacity welcoming over 95,000 visitors each year. Between November and February, many schools cancelled their visits because of the bushfires. In March, schools also cancelled because of COVID-19. Face-to-face professional learning sessions—including conferences and visits to university campuses—were also affected.
However there was a slight increase in uptake of the AEC’s online teacher professional learning modules, and the AEC for Schools website had more than 215,000 visitors during the year. The Get Voting program distributed 352 election packs to schools to run school elections for 38,601 students before mail-outs were suspended in March 2020.
Evaluation of the 2019 federal election communication
The AEC evaluated the integrated advertising, public relations and communication activities used at the 2019 federal election, which was informed by independent market research. This found that:
- there was strong message recall from the advertising campaign—particularly the enrolment and voting participation messages
- the campaign played a significant role in increasing voter knowledge and awareness during the election period
Independent market research on the ‘Stop and Consider’ social media campaign—which encouraged voters to check the source of electoral communication to avoid being misled by disinformation—showed the campaign was generally well received, with two in five (40 per cent) of those recognising the campaign confirming they would take action after seeing it. The campaign delivered more than 56 million social media impressions and more than 100,000 visits to AEC website material.
This campaign will continue to be a feature of the AEC’s suite of election communications. More information is available in the Performance statement – agency direction one (1.3).
Election communication during COVID-19
The AEC delivered a new and expanded voter communication campaign for the Eden-Monaro event to provide voters with the information they needed to participate, and to stay safe from COVID-19.
The integrated campaign messaging:
- delivered on the electoral participation and integrity requirements
- addressed the implications of COVID-19 through protective measures messaging
- addressed the impact of bushfires on the Eden-Monaro community, including people who were living away from their usual residential address
The AEC’s 'Plan your vote' campaign—a mix of advertising, social media and media relations, and stakeholder and community outreach—communicated electoral participation messages and information on the health protection measures in place.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) funds the AEC to lead a number of bilateral programs—particularly throughout the Indo-Pacific region—to deliver capacity building and support for electoral administrators. In 2019–20 these activities were undertaken to support:
- the Autonomous Region of Bougainville
- Papua New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
- Sri Lanka
- the Kingdom of Tonga
- Republic of Vanuatu
DFAT also funds and supports the AEC’s major electoral capacity building program through the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators Network (PIANZEA). The AEC delivers programs and resources through this network to:
- enhance the capacity of electoral administrators
- provide a forum of cooperation and communication between members
- strengthen Pacific electoral management bodies
A face-to-face representative meeting scheduled in early 2020 could not be held due to COVID-19 restrictions, however the AEC continued to engage remotely through ongoing secretariat services. We also provided remote support for, and technical upgrades to, the General Voter Registration System—an important resource for members to maintain elector registration.
In 2019–20 the AEC:
- provided technical assistance to Tokelau to help develop an election procedures manual for the 2020 national election
- revised the national electoral procedures manual and training package for the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission. This facilitated a pilot of simultaneous national by-election and provincial level elections
- helped the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission train and deploy polling teams to conduct the country’s first dual ballot for the 2019 provincial and national by-election
- hosted eight participants from the Electoral Commission of Sri Lanka and one from the International Foundation of Electoral Systems, for a week-long knowledge exchange program
- provided technical assistance to the Tonga Electoral Commission
- helped design, print, package and supply ballot materials for the Autonomous Bougainville 2020 elections. This work was undertaken remotely because of COVID-19 restrictions
The AEC is also an integral participant in the BRIDGE partnership—a capacity-building program for electoral administrators including the:
- International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
- International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA)
- United Nations Electoral Assistance Division (UNEAD)
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Within this longstanding partnership, the AEC provides a secretariat and supports the continued development and maintenance of one of the world’s leading electoral professional development programs.
The AEC also hosted key international partners and study programs from several countries throughout the year. Participants were able to meet with senior staff and technical experts from the Australian Political Exchange Council, universities, DFAT, and through intergovernmental visits. Delegations came from Japan, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu.
Another 23 nations were represented by participants in the DFAT international graduate program who—for the first time—attended an AEC-led information session.
More information is available in the Performance statement – agency direction five (5.1).
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