Year in review

AEC overview

Report on performance: Outcome 1

Report on performance: Outcome 2

Report on performance: Outcome 3

Management and accountability

Financial performance and future operations

Appendices

References

Output 3.1.2 - School and community programs

Updated: 22 December 2010

The AEC provides electoral education and information in schools and to community groups to improve participants' knowledge and understanding of Australia's electoral system.

It also provides professional development and information for teachers and final year teaching students to help their teaching of electoral education as part of the Civics and Citizenship curriculum in schools.

Overview

Through the national School and Community Visits Program (SCVP), the AEC provides electoral education and information sessions and other enrolment promotional activities to key audiences in local communities. AEC staff members visit schools, tertiary institutions and community groups and participate in community events. Additionally, AEC educators deliver professional development workshops on electoral education for teachers and student teachers.

Table 24 summarises the AEC's results against the performance information set out for Output 3. 1.2 in the 2008–09 Portfolio Budget Statements.

Table 24 Output 3.1.2 – School and community programs: performance results
Key performance indicators Targets Results
Participant feedback, including via surveys, indicate improved electoral knowledge obtained from AEC school and community and teacher professional development sessions 95% of participant feedback is positive and indicates improved electoral knowledge 88% of participants indicated satisfaction with the program.

86% demonstrated an improved electoral knowledge or a reinforcement of existing knowledge.
Number of participants in school and community visits sessions 100 000 137 699
Number of participants in teacher professional development sessions 1 200 1 485

Performance

Strong growth in demand for the SCVP during 2008–09 resulted, in part, from several initiatives launched by the AEC to deliver the program and other education resources more effectively. AEC staff also took part in a range of other activities to promote understanding of and participation in the electoral system among target audiences.

School and community visits program

During 2008–09, the SCVP reached 137 716 participants, in 2282 sessions. Participation numbers in SCVP increased by 92 percent from 71 569 in 2007–08. This significant increase is partly explained by the fact that 2008–09 was a non-election year, which gave AEC staff more capacity to deliver education and public awareness sessions. Further information is presented in a case study on page 85.

Several initiatives were introduced during the year to increase SCVP activity:

  • training in presentation skills and school liaison was delivered to staff in all divisions
  • a standard marketing approach was developed to ensure better coverage of all schools and consistent messages in promoting SCVP sessions
  • a mentoring scheme, in which more experienced presenters can assist their colleagues, was established.

Your Vote Counts, the professional development aspect of the SCVP, delivers workshops in classroom strategies for teachers and pre-service teachers involved in civics education. In 2008–09, there were 1485 participants in this program, a 15 percent increase compared to 1290 in the previous year.

An evaluation tool for all education programs was trialled and introduced during 2008–09. This tool measures program satisfaction, curriculum relevance and knowledge of the AEC's key messages. The results revealed that, of the teachers and students surveyed, 88 percent were satisfied, 6 percent were dissatisfied, and 6 percent were ambivalent about the program. Of these participants, 86 percent demonstrated an increase of electoral knowledge or reinforcement of this knowledge. The AEC presenters monitor any reports of reduction in knowledge and consider whether it is likely that the reports can be attributed to frivolous responses or to the quality of the sessions.

During 2008–09, the AEC developed and tested the Online School and Community Activity Report (OSCAR) for implementation from 1 July 2009. An information pack for staff was made available on the intranet. The system collects data and reports on the number and nature of school and community visits.

Figure 9 shows trends in SCVP participation over the past six years.

Figure 9: Participants in school and community visits, large community events and teacher professional development sessions, 2003–04 to 2008–09

Figure 9: Participants in school and community visits, large community events and teacher professional
development sessions, 2003–04 to 2008–09

Education Sector

In October 2008, the AEC commissioned education evaluation consultants to review all its education resources. The resulting report acknowledged the high standard and relevance of AEC education resources in teaching and learning about electoral issues in a civics education context. The report also concluded that there could be better recognition and uptake of AEC resources in the education sector, and recommended a shift towards online delivery of education resources. These two issues are being addressed.

The AEC's dedicated email information service for teachers and educators continued to be used for product and services requests, as well as for general inquiries about electoral education. In 2008–09, the service received 438 emails, a 56 percent decrease from 998 in the previous year. This is most likely attributed to the teachers having already obtained the resources they required and to reduced educational interest in electoral matters in non-election years.

The AEC also maintains a subscriber list for teachers and educators to keep the sector informed about AEC initiatives in electoral education. In 2008–09, there were 883 subscribers to the list.

During 2008–09, AEC staff were involved in education sector activities, including:

  • attending the Civics and Citizenship Education Annual Stakeholder meeting
  • participating in the inaugural Electoral Education Network meeting with colleagues from state and territory electoral commissions
  • attending a planning meeting with representatives of the Australian Capital Territory Government education department, as part of a cross-agency committee to scope a 'student vote' model for the Australian Capital Territory (in this model, students learn by running parallel elections which shadow the actual electoral events and culminate in their own vote)
  • assisting with facilitation of the annual schools' constitutional conventions held at state and national levels
  • attending the Western Australian Civics and Citizenship Education Workshop to provide information on AEC education resources and services
  • staffing displays at the Business Educators' Association of Queensland and Queensland History Teachers' Association conferences.

Young people

Young people remained a high-priority target audience for the AEC's enrolment promotion and public awareness activities in 2008–09. In addition to the SCVP sessions, AEC activities included the following:

  • In Queensland, staff attended four school-based constitutional conventions, including the convention held at Parliament House, Brisbane. Enrolment and voting information was provided to several TAFE colleges across Queensland, and displays were staffed at a TAFE-specific Careers Expo.
  • In Western Australia, to encourage democratic participation by students, AEC staff attended a youth festival at a community college.
  • In South Australia, AEC staff set up enrolment displays for secondary school students at various gatherings, such as the Festival of Opportunities and the JobsFest.
  • In Tasmania, staff attended the University of Tasmania Lawfest and gave a short presentation to law students on enrolment and voting obligations. A stall was also set up on campus to provide an opportunity for enrolment. To reach young people in regional areas of Tasmania, an article promoting enrolment was provided for the Rural Youth Newsletter.

AEC staff conducted enrolment drives for secondary school students at career markets and expos in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. They also attended university orientation days and market days to promote enrolment in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Through tertiary institutions' orientation week activities, 3018 enrolment forms were collected.

People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

AEC staff continued to meet and provide information to members of culturally and linguistically diverse groups during 2008–09. For example:

  • In New South Wales, staff attended meetings at Migrant Resource Centres in two locations in order to establish networks with migrant and culturally and linguistically diverse groups.
  • In Victoria, public awareness materials in community languages were provided to a number of groups.
  • In Queensland, staff conducted sessions at multicultural forums, including the Brisbane Multicultural Festival. Enrolment and voting information was provided to two regional multicultural associations.
  • In Western Australia, electoral education presentations were conducted for new citizens.
  • In South Australia, staff attended meetings with the Migrant Resource Centre to network with people from Middle Eastern and African backgrounds. Cooperation with the Australian Refugee Association led to a session with members of the Bhutanese community and an invitation to address other groups in the future. AEC staff also addressed new citizens at a ceremony in Refugee Week to highlight the importance of voting.
  • In Tasmania, staff attended the University of Tasmania's Multicultural Expo.
  • In the Northern Territory, staff delivered a presentation on democracy and enrolment to Migrant Education classes at Charles Darwin University. Staff also worked with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, providing language brochures to a number of culturally and linguistically diverse groups and organisations in settlement planning forums.

Indigenous Australians and people in rural and remote areas

AEC staff continued to deliver targeted public awareness activities for Indigenous Australian and people in rural and remote areas. Examples included attending cultural events in rural and remote communities, such as Indigenous Careers Expos in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia; and providing displays at NAIDOC Week events in Queensland and Western Australia, the First Contact Indigenous Sports and Cultural Festival in Queensland and the 'Vibe Alive' Indigenous Youth Festival in South Australia.

In Western Australia, numerous Indigenous communities were visited in the Pilbara and northern goldfields regions. Where possible, visits to pastoral properties and cattle stations were included in these field trips.

Staff in the Northern Territory conducted small group or one-to-one education sessions in 27 remote communities during 2008–09.

The AEC's North and Central Australia Remote Area Strategy (NACARAS) was established in 2005 to develop and coordinate nationally consistent policy and standards in electoral service delivery across regional and/or remote areas of northern and central Australia. The strategy covers the remote areas of Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory and northern New South Wales. The NACARAS working group consists of the state managers of New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

In 2008–09, the NACARAS working group reviewed the outcomes from the 2007 federal election as they related to the delivery of electoral services to remote electors. The recommendations from the review were used to update and refine the objectives of the strategy. The revised objectives are to:

  • increase enrolment participation
  • increase voter turnout
  • reduce informality rates
  • improve information capture and evaluation.

The working group proposes to achieve these objectives by:

  • evaluating the effectiveness of current remote fieldwork programs, including the Community Electoral Information Officer program
  • reviewing remote area mobile polling services to better target electors in an effort to improve voter turnout
  • expanding cross-border cooperation, which would include remote fieldwork and remote polling
  • developing strategies to better service remote mining communities
  • reviewing AEC advertising to remote Indigenous electors to improve messaging on enrolment, voting and formality.

Performance will be reviewed after the next election in order to measure the strategy's effectiveness.

Other groups

In 2008–09, the AEC conducted activities to raise awareness of electoral matters and AEC services among the members of a wide range of other community groups, including:

  • seniors organisations in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia
  • Rotary clubs and libraries in New South Wales
  • disability groups throughout Queensland
  • Homeless Connect in Western Australia
  • Street to Home in South Australia
  • Probus in Tasmania
  • staff of the Department of Defence in the Northern Territory.

Case Study: Training the trainers for school and community visits

The AEC's national School and Community Visits Program (SCVP) provides electoral education and information sessions and other enrolment promotional activities to audiences with diverse learning needs, in diverse environments. For AEC staff, conducting school and community visits is a demanding role that requires specific skills and confidence.

In early 2007–08, a new SCVP resource was distributed to all divisions to help AEC staff present programs and deliver consistent messages to their audiences. Catering for a range of learning styles and venues, the resource contains lesson plans that include electorate-specific information presented in different formats. The lesson plans are tailored to suit primary and secondary students, new citizens and other community groups.

While developing the resource material to support the presentation of SCVP sessions, the AEC identified the need for expert training to update divisional staff members' presentation skills and techniques for liaising with target groups. Planning commenced for a national training module designed to boost the quality and quantity of school and community visits.

To make best use of the limited number of trainers who could deliver a national program, a 'train-the-trainer' model was decided on. Each state selected staff members to be trained as program 'coaches' who, in turn, would deliver the training to divisional staff throughout their areas.

This approach was implemented in August 2008. Two sessions were held – one in Sydney and one in Melbourne – and a total of 26 trainee 'coaches' attended, representing all states. Over the subsequent six months, these coaches and AEC national office staff collectively trained 248 staff representing all divisions from every state and territory across Australia.

The AEC's evaluation of the sessions indicates that the training has helped give divisional staff the skills and confidence they need to successfully deliver SCVP sessions. There was a significant increase in the level of SCVP activity during 2008–09, and the comprehensive skills training undoubtedly contributed to that positive result.