Year in review

AEC overview

Report on performance: Program 1.1 Electoral roll management

Report on performance: Program 1.2 Election management and support services

Report on performance: Program 1.3 Education and communication

Management and accountability

Financial statements



Communication strategies and services

Updated: 18 October 2011

On this page:

Develop the AEC's communication strategy to support its conduct of the next federal election.

Make greater use of contemporary technology to deliver modern products and services in line with community preferences for more online services.


To promote knowledge of and participation in Australia's electoral processes, as required by the Electoral Act, the AEC:

  • conducts communication activities before and during federal elections, and
  • provides a range of information services, including the AEC website, telephone and email enquiry services, translating and interpreting services, publications, the federal election call centre and Virtual Tally Room.


Table 30 summarises the AEC's results against the performance information set out for communication strategies and services in the 2010–11 Portfolio Budget Statements.

Table 30 Key performance results for communication strategies and services
Key performance indicators Results
Audience feedback is positive for effectiveness of specific advertising campaigns and public awareness activities through surveys, market research, and stakeholder consultation. Advertising campaign market research showed high levels (98%) of awareness of the obligation to enrol and vote as well as high levels of confidence in the AEC.
Support materials developed and field work program commenced for the Indigenous Electoral Participation Program. Program designed, staff selected and trained, support materials developed and field work commenced. Achievements measured against the timeframes and outcomes listed in the new policy proposal.

Election-specific communication activities

The 2010 federal election was a primary focus of AEC communication strategies and services in 2010–11. The AEC's federal election communication activities aim to increase elector understanding of and participation in the electoral process, focusing on three key issues: close of rolls, voter services and formality. They included:

  • an advertising campaign
  • media and public relations activities
  • the AEC website and Virtual Tally Room
  • publications
  • call centre and email information services.

Advertising campaign

Pre-election advertising consisted of online advertising only. The objective was to prompt people to visit the AEC website to update their enrolment details before the close of rolls. The advertising continued the theme of 'three easy steps' which had been developed for letters used in the Continuous Roll Update program.

The election time advertising campaign commenced on the announcement of the election on 17 July and ran through to election day on 21 August 2011. This campaign was an update of the 2007 federal election campaign, which had been developed with the intention of using it for at least two elections. The campaign theme 'Your vote is a valuable thing' was rolled out in three phases, focusing on:

  • close of rolls – to promote awareness of the deadlines for enrolling to vote and updating enrolment,
  • voter services – to raise awareness of the availability of early voting services for those unable to vote on election day, including the availability of remote mobile polling, and
  • formality – to inform and remind voters how to cast a formal vote.

The online advertising campaign operated in two ways:

  • digital – placing advertisements on websites chosen for their high reach into the target audience (mainly young people or movers); and
  • search – promoting the AEC website by increasing the visibility of the AEC in search engine results. When people used search engines to look for information about moving house or anything election-related, the results screens would include timely, relevant reminders about enrolling to vote and/or updating address details, with links to the AEC website.

Ipsos–Eureka Strategic Research evaluated the effectiveness of the 2010 advertising campaign through a number of telephone-based surveys, each involving a national sample of more than a thousand electors. The surveys found that the advertising campaign and messaging were effective.

The research found that the majority of the Australian electorate are well served by the AEC. They have a positive perception of the electoral process, are knowledgeable about what they are required to do, and believe the AEC operates in a fair and impartial manner. This suggests that most AEC communications and activities are broadly on track and are successfully meeting their stated objectives.

Beyond the core group of voters, the findings identified distinct groups of people for whom further steps need to be taken to engage them so that they successfully vote in future elections. The groups were people aged under 25; people who have recently moved house; people from non-English speaking backgrounds; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Media and public relations activities

Extensive media and public relations activities were implemented for the election, starting well before the issuing of the writs. Consistent with the practice adopted at the 2004 and 2007 federal elections, the AEC engaged a service provider to establish a national network of public relations affiliates in capital cities, to boost the dissemination of key election information and messages.

In the lead-up to the election, the Electoral Commissioner and senior AEC staff conducted media briefings for senior editors and political reporters in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The purpose of the briefings was to provide senior press staff with an overview of the AEC's pre-election and election period messages. Background information was provided on the state of the electoral roll and the range of factors that affect the speed of the vote counting, including the differences between ordinary votes and declaration votes.

After the election was called, the AEC worked with the contractor to provide media releases and other information materials; audio releases; photo and filming opportunities; pitching of specific story angles; pitching of interview opportunities for AEC spokespersons; and proactive contact with media outlets and journalists. In addition, the AEC's website provided comprehensive information for the media, including all national media releases, fact sheets, media contacts, information backgrounders and photographic images.

In total, during the election period:

  • More than 50 national media releases were distributed, supported by state, territory and divisional media releases and radio releases.
  • AEC spokespeople appeared on radio and local and national news and current affairs television programs to discuss the close of rolls deadlines, the conduct of the election and counting arrangements.
  • Information accessibility issues, particularly voting arrangements for people who are blind or have low vision, was promoted through RPH Australia's radio network, with assistance from Vision Australia.

Media interest continued after polling day, because of the closeness of election results. The volume of election-related media enquiries to the AEC was noticeably higher in 2010 than in 2007.

Targeted initiatives

The AEC's communication strategy for the 2010 federal election included targeted initiatives to maximise the electoral participation of members of groups with particular needs, as summarised in Table 31.

Table 31 Election communication activities for special target groups, 2010
Group Targeted activities
Indigenous electors General press and radio advertising was adapted and placed in Indigenous media; the radio advertising was translated into seven languages. Field visits to Indigenous communities by staff of the AEC's Indigenous Electoral Participation Program were supported by a targeted media relations program.
Culturally and linguistically diverse electors Advertisements were translated into 21 languages for ethnic press, 24 languages for ethnic radio and six languages for ethnic television. Publications and media releases were adapted and translated into more than 20 languages, made available on the AEC website and included in packages distributed to 600 migrant resource centres, community organisations and media organisations.

The AEC offers interpreter services for telephone enquiries, through VITS LanguageLink (VITS). A total of 16 399 calls were handled by VITS in the 35–day period from the announcement of the election to election day.
Electors with disabilities A version of Your official guide to the 2010 federal election including additional information on accessibility issues was:
  • distributed in accessible formats to individuals and to approximately 110 disability organisations (17 340 copies were distributed this way),
  • made available through the AEC website in HTML, audio MP3 or CD, e text and large-print PDF formats, and
  • provided in braille on request.
Election information was available in accessible formats (e text, large print and HTML, and audio or braille on request) via a dedicated section of the website.

Information on accessibility issues, particularly voting arrangements for people who are blind or have low vision, was broadcast through RPH Australia's radio network, with assistance from Vision Australia. Advertising and announcements were also broadcast by RPH Australia.
Electors in rural and remote areas, including those who 'fly in and fly out' for work Advertisements promoting specific voting services in rural and remote areas were placed in regional press, television and radio channels where available, and supported by media releases and radio interviews.
Electors who had moved house Advertising targeting 'movers' who had changed address since the 2007 federal election was run online, from before the election was announced until the close of rolls.
Electors who would be overseas during the election Information for eligible electors who live overseas was provided through online advertising and the AEC website.

An advertising campaign for travellers was linked to relevant forms and information on the AEC website, both directly and through other sites commonly accessed by Australian travellers. The AEC website linked to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website and listed more than a hundred diplomatic missions and embassies that provided details of overseas voting arrangements.

AEC website

The AEC website played an integral role in the election communications campaign. It was the main referral point for information about enrolling and voting, and assisted people to check their enrolment status, fill in enrolment or postal voting forms, or find polling place locations.

To enhance self service through the website, the home page was redeveloped and organised into user streams. By the time of the announcement of the 2010 federal election, the site had specific, easily identified entry points and customised information for members of the media and for people who:

  • needed to enrol or update their enrolment
  • would be overseas during the election
  • wanted to work on the election
  • wanted to nominate as candidates.

During the 2010 federal election period, had approximately 30.2 million page views and almost 4.2 million visitors.


The Official guide to the 2010 federal election was produced and delivered to approximately 9.5 million Australian households before election day, and made available online in 22 languages (including English). Other publications to assist electors to vote correctly included coloured press advertisements, fact sheets, and A2 sized posters for polling place display. A How to vote booklet was produced in 22 languages and distributed for use in polling places across Australia.

Virtual Tally Room

Part of the AEC website, the Virtual Tally Room (VTR) publishes election results as they occur.

On the evening of the 2010 federal election, the VTR received approximately 6.3 million page views and 151 000 visitors, providing rapid access to approximately 300 unique results screens. Almost 11 million House of Representatives votes were counted, and the results published on the VTR, on that night alone.

Media organisations and interested third parties also had access to a media feed system from the VTR on polling night. The feed delivered uninterrupted, real-time election information and enabled media organisations to analyse and present the information according to their format and production requirements.

The VTR for the 2010 federal election was finalised in mid-October 2010 and remains accessible online as a detailed record of election results.

As was the case for the 2007 election, in 2010 the VTR proved to be robust and reliable in handling the large volume of traffic it received during the election period. The system and infrastructure which support both the VTR web pages and the media feed had been extensively tested to ensure that they would have enough capacity to meet expected demand.

The media coverage of the close outcome of the 2010 federal election brought to light some ambiguity in the terminology and labelling of information on the VTR, and revealed that the processes by which information on the VTR is updated and finalised were open to misunderstanding or misinterpretation. The AEC will review the appropriateness of some VTR screens in an effort to provide clarity to users about the information being viewed.

The VTR was a finalist in the service delivery category of the 2011 Excellence in eGovernment Awards.

Mobilise the Franchise

The Mobilise the Franchise project, which commenced in 2009–10, provides a fresh approach to the challenge of improving electoral participation. This approach aligns with the AEC's strategic planning priorities of modernisation, collaboration and investment in our people. In 2010–11 the AEC established small teams to identify activities to implement the strategies of the project.

One team explored the potential to engage with corporations and large employers to promote electoral enrolment to their staff, through a collaboration with Optus, the AEC's supplier of telephonic equipment. As described in a case study, the collaboration included a range of communications activities and a three-day visit by AEC staff to Optus's Sydney campus. The event achieved its objectives and received positive feedback from Optus employees.

Mobilise the Franchise approaches community engagement from the perspective of engaging with people 'in their space, language, format and time'. It is believed that this approach will help reduce barriers to participation and facilitate the active engagement of all eligible Australians in the electoral process. Work to embed Mobilise the Franchise principles and approaches in the AEC's ongoing business activities is continuing, with a particular focus on staff at all levels using Mobilise the Franchise philosophies to think about how they conduct, review and approach their work.

Information services

The AEC's interaction with the public by telephone and email continued to increase.

Calls to the AEC's general enquiry number (13 23 26) are diverted to the caller's nearest divisional office, and emails are sent to the nearest divisional office or to the general enquiry mailbox managed by National Office. The AEC responds in accordance with the AEC Service Charter.

VITS LanguageLink (VITS) provided 16 language-specific telephone lines, and a line catering for a range of other languages, for the AEC. VITS handled a total of 16 399 calls to the AEC lines during the year, a more than threefold increase compared to the 4 455 calls in the previous financial year. The number of calls taken in 2007–08, when the 2007 election was held, was 15 309.

The AEC received more than 57 600 emails to the general enquiry mailbox ( This was a significant increase compared to fewer than 20 000 emails received in each of the two preceding financial years, but is comparable to the approximately 60 000 emails received in 2007–08, the previous financial year that included a federal election. The subject matter of emails ranged from the receipt of enrolment forms and overseas notification forms to requests for information on electoral matters.

Other communication activities

In the periods between federal elections, the AEC's communications activities focus on promoting electoral enrolment. In 2010–11, these activities included:

  • support for the Continuous Roll Update direct mail program,
  • online advertising,
  • Famous People Vote Too – a campaign which used well-known Australians as ambassadors to promote enrolling to vote, and
  • partnerships with government agencies to provide enrolment forms and information.

The AEC also produced information briefings and media releases about the redistribution of electoral boundaries in Victoria and South Australia, and the annual release of financial disclosure returns.