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



Electoral education

Updated: 18 October 2011

On this page:

Continue to deliver a variety of electoral education services.

Greater use of online technology to deliver supporting resource material.

Collaborate and partner with other government and non government instrumentalities in the delivery of quality civics education.


The AEC's electoral education program aims to raise the level of participation in electoral events among members of the Australian community through various programs, workshops and education sessions.

While the AEC considers all electors and future electors to be part of its audience, the electoral education program targets two sectors of the community that have the lowest rates of participation in elections:

  • young people – because research shows that early experience of sound electoral processes helps young people to form the 'voting habit', the AEC focuses on educating and engaging the interest of primary and secondary school students; and
  • people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds – because electorates with a large proportion of electors from such backgrounds tend to have high rates of informal voting, the AEC helps such voters to understand the mechanisms of voting and the importance of making their votes count.


Table 28 summarises the AEC's results against performance information set out for electoral education in the 2010–11 Portfolio Budget Statements.

Table 28 Key performance results for electoral education
Key performance indicators Results
78 000 visitors to National Electoral Education Centre (NEEC) per annum. 87 245 visitors attended sessions at the NEEC.
2 000 NEEC sessions delivered per annum. 2 463 sessions were delivered at the NEEC.
100 000 participants in AEC education outreach services. 102 894 school and community members participated in outreach programs.
1 200 participants in teacher professional development sessions. 2 678 students from 17 universities participated in teacher professional development sessions.
New service delivery options, including partnerships that promote public awareness of electoral matters. Two new programs were trialled: parallel elections for high school students and formality workshops for CALD communities.
New online education resource material that responds to curriculum needs. The procurement process to develop online learning modules related to the national history curriculum was completed.
Participant feedback indicates 90% satisfaction with AEC education services. More than 98% of participants are satisfied with NEEC programs.

More than 98% of participants are satisfied with professional development sessions.

85% of participants are satisfied with education sessions delivered by AEC staff in schools.

CALD = culturally and linguistically diverse.

National Electoral Education Centre

School students, new citizens and community groups visit the National Electoral Education Centre (NEEC) in Canberra. By participating in a simulated election or referendum, visitors gain experience of voting and learn about the electoral process, the concept of democracy, and the history of Australia's federal system of representative government. The AEC's website provides a range of resources for follow-up learning.

The NEEC operated at full capacity during most of 2010–11. Demand exceeded the AEC's ability to supply sessions.

Feedback from NEEC visitors in 2010–11 was very positive. The NEEC ranked highly in a comparison of visiting school groups' experiences of educational attractions in the Australian Capital Territory and surrounding region, as detailed in a case study.

Figure 12 shows trends in visitor numbers over the past 10 years, while Table 29 provides details of the numbers for the past three years.

Figure 12 Trends in National Electoral Education Centre visitor numbers, 2001–02 to 2010–11

Figure 12 Trends in National Electoral Education Centre visitor numbers, 2001–02 to 2010–11

Text description of Figure 12

Table 29 Visitors to the National Electoral Education Centre, 2008–09 to 2010–11
Visitor group No. of visitors No. of sessions
  2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
Primary students 67 002 72 602 71 459 2 059 2 159 2 147
Junior secondary students 4 602 6 108 5 294 156 203 187
Senior secondary students 3 862 3 764 2 648 139 132 101
Adult participants 214 253 315 17 21 28
Accompanying adults 6 951 7 403 7 429
Total 82 631 90 130 87 145 2 371 2 515 2 463

Education outreach services

For those who cannot make it to the NEEC, the AEC provides education in schools and tertiary institutions, to community groups, and by taking part in community events.

A major component of the AEC's outreach services is the School and Community Visits Program (SCVP). During 2010–11, outreach activities under the SCVP reached 104 541 participants. The number decreased by 54.06 per cent, from 227 567 in 2009–10, because for a portion of the year AEC staff were focused on conducting the 2010 federal election.

Parallel election pilot

Immediately prior to the 2010 federal election, the AEC piloted 'parallel elections' in two secondary schools: St Mary Mackillop College, Canberra, and St Aidan's Anglican Girls' School, Brisbane. As described in the following case study, a parallel election replicates a real election, with the students voting for the candidates who are contesting the actual election in the electorate in which the school is located. The pilot was based on research showing that students who 'practise' voting in their formative years are more likely to engage in elections as adults.

Participating students approached the activity with interest and maturity and enthusiastically took on the roles of electoral officials and voters. Feedback from participating students and teachers was positive, and many lessons were learned from the pilot. The pilot will inform the AEC's national education policy for schools and community groups.

Formal voting workshops

The AEC conducted a pilot program of workshops for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups in electorates that had high rates of informal voting at the 2007 federal election, to increase knowledge of the importance of casting a formal vote. The workshops were held in 10 electorates in western Sydney.

Consultants were engaged to provide access to the network of established CALD community groups and to presenters fluent in community languages, as well as venues for the workshops. The AEC planned the session content, provided resources for the workshops and trained the presenters. AEC staff provided 'technical' advice in most sessions. Overall, 1 772 CALD community members participated in 90 workshops for 13 main language groups, including Arabic, Cantonese, Greek and Vietnamese.

The program was well attended. Feedback was positive and showed that participants felt the program was educative and worthwhile. Demand for the workshops far exceeded expectations and could not be met.

A new program to address the high rate of informal voting in CALD communities will be developed, drawing on useful learnings from the 2010 pilot program.

Teacher professional development sessions

The AEC provides resources for teachers to use in delivering civics education in schools or tertiary institutions. This includes:

  • responding to requests for printed product made via a dedicated AEC email information service (450 requests were received in 2010–11),
  • making materials available for download from the education section of the AEC website, and
  • maintaining a subscriber list for teachers and educators, to disseminate AEC publications and provide information about AEC initiatives in electoral education.

The Your Vote Counts sessions, an 85.3 per cent increase from 1 445 in 2009–10. The rise can be explained by increases in both the number of tertiary institutions visited and the numbers of students enrolled in education courses in those institutions.

Participants in 2010–11 benefitted from improvements to workshops and content that were made in response to previous participants' feedback. Participants were encouraged to evaluate Your Vote Counts sessions. Of those who provided feedback, 98.0 per cent stated that they were satisfied with the program's curriculum relevance, and the same proportion indicated satisfaction with the session overall.

Education sector activities

The AEC continued to contribute to the national agenda for civics education, through the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). ACARA was established in 2008 to develop and administer a national school curriculum. The AEC aims to help shape the future of civics education through its ongoing interaction with ACARA and reviews of ACARA activities.

The AEC is a founding member of the newly created National Capital Civics Education Group (NCCEG), which had its inaugural meeting on 4 February 2011. The National Archives of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, Museum of Australian Democracy, High Court of Australia, National Capital Authority and National Capital Education Tourism Project are also members.

The NCCEG's purpose is to share ideas and information, and to collaborate on projects that capitalise on the many connections between member agencies and their stories, to enhance the civics education experience for visitors, including school students, family groups and adults.

Current projects of the NCCEG include the development of a walking tour, based on new technologies, to link the various attractions in the parliamentary triangle. The AEC is driving an NCCEG working group to make submissions to ACARA to contribute to the shaping of the new national civics and citizenship curriculum.

The AEC also helped to facilitate the annual schools constitutional conventions held at state and national levels in 2010–11.