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Community awareness

The department promotes the work of the House through a range of activities aimed at different sectors of the community. In 2018–19 the budget allocation for this activity was $1.030 million and expenditure was $0.668 million. Results against performance criteria are summarised in the annual performance statement (page 23 of printed report).

Performance summary

During 2018–19, the department continued to grow its communications channels to inform the public of the work of the House and committees and to increase community engagement. The seminar program also experienced strong participation and positive feedback, with increasing demand for customised seminars.

The department continued its role in supporting school visits and providing background support to the PEO. The My First Speech competition offered school students the opportunity to imagine themselves making their first speech as a parliamentarian, and almost a hundred entries were received from across Australia. The parliamentary internship program continued its success in 2018–19, with 48 students placed with a member or senator during the period.

Media and publications

The department uses its electronic media distribution channels to expand the reach of parliamentary business and educational information. Its Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn accounts provide valuable information to the general public, and through these platforms the department receives consistently positive feedback. During the reporting period, the department’s Facebook subscriber base increased by 10 per cent (from 6,466 to 7,105 subscribers) and its Twitter following increased by 5 per cent, surpassing 44,000 followers. The House’s YouTube account, used for publishing replays of Question Time and ‘About the House' series of short videos, grew by 40 per cent in the reporting period, and now has over 6,600 subscribers.

About the House newsletter banner.
Header image from the department’s About the House newsletter. Image: Department of the House of Representatives

The department also produces the About the House newsletter. This publication aims to promote committee activity, and provide information about the House and its procedures. It also enables the public to engage with the House through a regular ‘Ask us anything’ segment, which provides a channel for interested members of the community to have their questions answered. Launched at the beginning of the Forty-fifth Parliament, the newsletter has recently surpassed 2,000 subscribers, an increase of 14 per cent over 2017–18.

The department has continued to issue a large volume of media releases on behalf of committees, the Speaker and the Clerk of the House. In total, the department issued 217 media releases during the reporting period. During the election period, work commenced on an updated ‘About the House News’ page on aph.gov.au, to give members of the public and other interested stakeholders a more convenient way to access media content published by the House of Representatives.


The department’s seminar program is designed to raise awareness of the work of the House, particularly among employees of government agencies. The program includes a series of seminars covering the parliament, the budget, and the processes relating to legislation and committees, as well as custom seminars for individual departments.

During 2018–19, 11 seminars were held with a total of 356 participants, a 54 per cent increase in participation over the previous period. Feedback was positive, with 93 per cent of surveyed attendees agreeing that their objectives were met, and over 96 per cent giving a positive score for the content, detail and presenters.

My First Speech competition

In December 2018, the department held the sixth annual My First Speech competition. The competition is open to Australian secondary students in Years 10 to 12. Entrants are asked to imagine themselves as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives, and to write a three-minute speech on issues they are passionate about and record themselves presenting it.

Submissions were reviewed by a panel of members, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Finalists were flown to Canberra to receive their awards at a ceremony on 5 December 2018, and were also given a personalised tour of the Australian Parliament.

The Speaker of the House with the My First Speech competition winners.
My First Speech competition finalists with the Speaker. Image: Department of the House of Representatives

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of Parliament House

In October 2018 the parliamentary departments celebrated the 30th anniversary of the opening of Parliament House. The department collaborated with other parliamentary stakeholders to develop a program of activities to celebrate this milestone, including Parliament House Open Day on 6 October 2018.

The Clerk of the House taking photos in the Chamber on Open Day.
The Clerk of the House, David Elder, takes a photograph for a visitor in the Chamber during the Parliament House Open Day, 6 October 2018. Image: Department of the House of Representatives

Parliamentary assistants program

In 2018–19, the parliamentary assistants program, managed by the Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office, entered its nineteenth year. The program offers university students part-time employment in the House of Representatives to promote understanding of, and engagement with, the work of the parliament (see page 71 for further details).

Parliamentary internship program

The Australian National Internships Program has operated since 1993 under an agreement between the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University and, under the Commonwealth Parliamentary Internships component of the program, the Australian Parliament’s Presiding Officers. Australian and international students enrolled at the university under the program undertake an internship placement as part of their formal course of undergraduate study.

In the second semester of 2018, 26 students were placed with a member or senator. In the first semester of 2019, 22 students were placed with a member or senator. During their placement, each student completes a research project on a subject agreed to by their host. The report is assessed by the university and counts towards the student’s degree.

The department continued to have a representative on the Australian National Internships Program’s advisory board and parliamentary steering committee.

Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program

Each year, a small number of Australian Defence Force representatives spend a week at Parliament House, hosted by a member or senator. Arrangements for participation by members and senators are made through the Assistant Minister for Defence in conjunction with the Department of Defence. In September 2018, 21 Defence Force representatives were hosted by senators and members through the program. The departments of the House of Representatives and the Senate collaborate to support the program and provide orientation seminars on the work of the chambers and committees.

Parliamentary Education Office

Jointly funded by the departments of the House of Representatives and Senate, the PEO delivers parliamentary education services to teachers, students and others across Australia through:

  • delivering Australian curriculum-aligned programs for teachers and students on site, off site and digitally
  • developing relevant and accurate print and digital resources that explore the role and value of the parliament and illuminate the aims and achievement standards of the Australian curriculum
  • engaging with senators, members and teachers to promote the work of the parliament.

To date, over two million students have expanded their knowledge of the Australian Parliament through participating in a PEO program.

In addition to operational management from both departments, the PEO is guided by the PEO Advisory Committee. The committee comprises interested members and senators, meets twice a year and reports to the Presiding Officers.

The full-time equivalent staffing level for the PEO in 2018–19 was 10.6 (compared with 11.1 in 2017–18). The cost of providing the service of the PEO in 2018–19 was $1.4 million (compared with $1.2 million in 2017–18).

Education programs: on site, outreach and digital

The PEO delivers education programs on site at Parliament House, in classrooms across Australia, through its outreach program and digitally through videoconferencing.

The PEO’s immersive learning program at Parliament House is regarded as a highly effective method of parliamentary education. The program continued to run at capacity, with 93,225 students from 1,677 schools across Australia participating in 2018–19. These figures represent a 4.4 per cent increase on 2017–18 student participation rates.

The PEO also delivered tailored programs, including ‘Rotary Adventures in Citizenship’, a week-long program for 36 Year 11 students from around Australia, and the National Youth Science Forum for 280 Year 12 students.

In 2018–19, the PEO delivered outreach to 2,952 participants in four states: New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. Additional outreach is planned for the 2019 calendar year to Queensland.

The PEO continues to increase the number of students and teachers who take part in a videoconferencing program, with 1,296 participants in 2018–19. This relatively new method of program delivery is facilitating excellent engagement with students unable to travel to Canberra, and provides another avenue for the PEO to deliver teacher professional learning.

Parliamentary Education Office's Rotary Adventures in Citizenship program participants.
2019 Rotary Adventures in Citizenship program participants. Image: PEO

Content: online and print

The PEO’s websites continued to perform strongly. These websites provide information about parliament and curriculum-aligned teaching resources for all Australian teachers and students. A total of 1,227,935 users (representing 2.81 million unique page views) were recorded over the past year, representing an increase of 22 per cent on 2017–18 users.

The PEO produced and distributed a range of publications during the reporting period, including the redeveloped Teaching Civics and Citizenship: a classroom guide; Australian Constitution pocket edition, produced in partnership with the Australian Government Solicitor; and Get Parliament, an easy-to-understand booklet that explores Australia’s system of government.

Services for members and senators

The PEO provides dedicated support to encourage and assist members and senators to engage with schools and students. Members and senators are offered a complimentary annual allocation of education and information materials for students, teachers and others in their communities. Senators and members can also request a tailored brochure,

Representing You, to assist them when explaining their work as an elected representative. In 2018–19, 134 parliamentarians requested their allocation.

PEO outlook

In late 2019 the renewed PEO website will be launched, and this, along with the PEO videoconferencing program, will provide support for students and teachers unable to visit Canberra.

As another strategy to amplify its capacity to reach larger numbers of students, the PEO will also continue to increase engagement with the education profession, actively looking for opportunities to deliver teacher professional learning face-to-face, offsite and via digital platforms.

With advance bookings for learning programs at Parliament House likely to remain high, the PEO will continue to operate at capacity and will continue to explore strategies to effectively meet demand while ensuring program quality in2019–20.


The department will continue to raise community awareness of the work of the parliament through a range of activities. In the forward period, it will seek to further grow its communications channels to expand the reach of parliamentary information, and will work with the other parliamentary departments to enhance the Parliament of Australia website to improve accessibility and navigation. An increased focus on analytics across the department’s websites and social media channels will also assist the department to improve the delivery of parliamentary information to the public.

Ongoing review and evaluation by the PEO of programs and content will ensure that these meet the needs of Australian students and teachers.