Annual Report 2013–14

Report on performance

Education and public awareness


Maintain an impartial and independent electoral system for eligible voters through active electoral roll management, efficient delivery of polling services and targeted education and public awareness programmes.

Programme 1.3 Education and Communication

Informed Australians through the provision of information services on electoral matters.

The AEC delivers education and public awareness programmes to ensure that all Australians have sufficient knowledge and understanding of their electoral responsibilities.


This chapter reports on the AEC’s performance in:

  • providing electoral education services to schools, students, teachers and the general public
  • delivering public awareness programmes to help Australians to understand and fulfil their electoral obligations
  • delivering targeted programmes so that all eligible voters can participate in Australian democracy regardless of individual background or circumstances.

2013–14 performance highlights include:

  • welcoming the millionth visitor to the National Electoral Education Centre in Canberra
  • facilitating school elections involving 50 358 school students through Get Voting
  • delivering a broad-sweeping public awareness campaign to help eligible Australians to comply with their enrolment and voting obligations at the 2013 federal election
  • producing the Official guide to the 2013 federal election, which was delivered to around 10 million households across Australia
  • deploying 332 voter information officers – a new role introduced for the 2013 federal election – to help Indigenous Australians and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to understand how to cast a formal vote
  • holding the second National Indigenous Youth Parliament to educate Indigenous youth leaders on democratic processes.

The chapter includes a table of key performance results over three years and a case study on the second National Indigenous Youth Parliament, held in May 2014.


In 2013–14 the AEC provided education services to schools, universities and community groups through a variety of channels and programmes.

National Electoral Education Centre

The AEC’s National Electoral Education Centre (NEEC) at Old Parliament House in Canberra provides electoral education on Australian government and democracy, federal electoral processes and the democratic responsibilities of all citizens. While the majority of visitors are school students, the centre also conducts sessions for adults, including new citizens. For visitors aged 16 or older, the sessions include the opportunity to enrol to vote.

In 2013–14 the NEEC hosted visitors from all 150 Australian electoral divisions and delivered 2 542 education sessions to 87 065 participants. The centre also welcomed its millionth visitor since moving to its current location at Old Parliament House in Canberra.

The NEEC also began a comprehensive evaluation of the goals and outcomes of its programmes. The final evaluation report and recommendations will be delivered in 2014–15.

Get Voting

The AEC’s national school education programme, Get Voting, helps primary and secondary schools to conduct in-school elections for real positions, such as representatives on student councils. These authentic election experiences help students to understand the federal electoral system and prepare them to fulfil their democratic responsibilities as adults.

Get Voting provides online resources and planning tools for teachers. Free election resources, including ballot boxes, posters and other equipment, are also distributed to schools. AEC divisional staff support the programme, providing advice on good electoral practice.

In 2013–14 the Get Voting website:

  • received 11 764 unique visitors
  • logged 386 requests for election equipment packs
  • was used to deliver school elections for 50 358 students.

This year, the AEC developed an evaluation framework to systematically measure the short- and long-term outcomes of Get Voting, which is still a relatively new programme. The framework includes an automated feedback process after each Get Voting election and staged research with teachers, such as in-school interviews and online surveys.

The evaluation framework will be fully implemented over the next 12 months and will help the AEC to better understand how Get Voting resources are used in schools and what their impact is on students, and to identify ways to expand the reach of the programme.

Assisting teachers and future teachers

Your Vote Counts

Your Vote Counts is a workshop presented by AEC staff to university students studying education. The programme aims to develop the skills and knowledge needed to teach civics education in schools.

During 2013–14 more than 2 000 university students from eight tertiary institutions participated in Your Vote Counts. This programme is currently in transition to other delivery methods to reach the wider education sector.

Making a Nation

Making a Nation is the AEC’s online interactive learning tool for senior history students.

In 2013–14, Making a Nation was linked to the Australian history curriculum through the educators portal Scootle. Scootle allows teachers to find appropriate learning activities to achieve the specific outcomes of the history curriculum.

Civics education

In 2013–14, the AEC also contributed to:

  • consultations on a new national civics and citizenship curriculum and collaborated with universities and others in the education sector to develop and trial professional learning for classroom teachers
  • the Australian Government’s National Schools Constitutional Convention and the National Capital Civics Education Group – the peak forum for Canberra-based civics and citizenship institutions.

Online education resources

The AEC provides a range of information and education resources to schools and the general public through its website. It also offers a dedicated email service and subscriber list for teachers and educators.

Public awareness campaigns

In 2013–14 the AEC’s advertising, communication and public relations strategies focused on the 2013 federal election and the 2014 Griffith by-election and Western Australian Senate election. In particular, AEC public awareness campaigns sought to ensure that all eligible voters were correctly enrolled, understood their voting options and were able to cast a formal vote.

Phased public awareness activities were delivered in a variety of ways to maximise reach and impact in as cost-effective a manner as possible. Traditional media advertising was supported by social media and community engagement events. Detailed information was delivered through a mix of online and printed materials.

Federal election 2013

Before each election the AEC implements a range of communications and education activities designed to maximise voter awareness. Traditionally the AEC plans and structures the public awareness campaign over three phases from announcement to election day. The campaign aims to ensure that voters:

  • understand how to enrol or update their enrolment details
  • are aware of their voting options, including ways they can vote if they will not be able to attend a polling place on election day
  • understand how to cast a formal vote.

In the first half of 2013 the AEC had a unique opportunity to take advantage of an announced election date of 14 September to add a pre-election enrolment reminder phase to the overall campaign. When the election date was changed to 7 September this phase was reduced by a week.

Each phase of the campaign included a mix of advertising, public relations activities and online and printed information products.

Phase 1: pre-election – May to August 2013

The pre-election enrolment campaign sought to give an early reminder to eligible Australians of the requirement to enrol or update their enrolment details. The campaign involved a multi-pronged mix of community engagement activities, advertising, media, public relations and social media marketing. A number of activities were targeted at Australians aged 18 to 25, who traditionally have lower levels of enrolment compliance. Table 19 outlines the activities delivered in this phase of the campaign.

Phases 2 to 4: close of rolls, voter services and formality – July to September 2013

The AEC mass media election advertising campaign began on 14 July. The campaign, titled Your Vote is a Valuable Thing, was rolled out in stages to build rapid and increasing awareness of voter rights and responsibilities. Each phase focused on a different message relevant to the particular point in the election period.

The first campaign stage (close of rolls) was delivered in two parts. In the first three weeks, from July to August, the message to voters was not to wait but to enrol or update their details before the election date was announced. In the final week, following the election date announcement on 4 August, voters were again reminded that they needed to enrol or update their details before the close of rolls deadline at 8pm on 12 August.

The voting services stage advised people who would not be able to vote on election day to vote early, and told them about alternative voting options. This phase began on 21 August and continued until 6 September.

The final stage, focused on formality, ran in the week leading up to election day and informed voters how to correctly complete House of Representatives and Senate ballot papers.

Each stage of the advertising campaign used a mix of television, radio, press and digital advertising and was translated into 28 community languages and 10 Indigenous languages.

Public awareness campaign outcomes

AEC research indicates that the pre-election campaign, in conjunction with new online service delivery options and the strong motivation provided by the election itself, contributed to an overall increase in enrolment from 91.2 per cent to 92.3 per cent in 2013–14.

Independent market research conducted by Ipsos Strategic Research Institute found that those aged 18–24 were more likely to recall AEC enrolment messages than older Australians, indicating that the early phase of the campaign contributed to growth in the rate of young Australians enrolled from 76.3 per cent to 78.5 per cent.

The research also found that awareness of the fundamentals of the Australian voting system remained high through 2013–14 and that the Your Vote is a Valuable Thing campaign played a role in increasing knowledge in the lead-up to the federal election. However, the research also shows the impact of the campaign has lessened since it was first used at the 2007 federal elections and again at the 2010 federal elections.

Official guide to the 2013 federal election

The AEC delivered the Official guide to the 2013 federal election to around 10 million households across Australia. The guide supported the advertising campaign by providing specific information on where, how and when Australians could vote, including what to do if they could not get to a polling place on election day. It also provided information on how to correctly complete ballot papers to cast a formal vote and linked to additional information on the AEC website, including a practice voting tool. The official guide was available in 26 languages and accessible formats including Braille, large print, audio and e-text.

Official guide to the 2013 federal election

AEC website

The AEC provided comprehensive information about the 2013 federal election on its website. Staged updates to the home page complemented the staged key messages of the public awareness campaign. Material was available in languages other than English and in other accessible formats.

On election night and in the following weeks, the AEC provided election results on the Virtual Tally Room. A parallel feed of election results data was available for media outlets seeking to tailor this information to their own display formats and graphics. The 2013 results are now stored with results from previous elections on the AEC website.

Social media

The AEC uses Facebook and Twitter to respond to public enquiries, distribute enrolment and election messages and support its communication campaigns. Social media are fully integrated into all AEC external communication strategies, campaigns and activities.

During the 2013 federal election, the AEC Facebook page reached almost one million people through a combination of sponsored page posts, paid advertising and page interactions. The page had more than 19 000 page likes and more than 90 000 daily engaged users, and posts on it were seen more than seven million times. AEC Twitter had more than 5 500 followers, received more than 2 000 direct enquiries and had more than 3 300 retweets, which reached well over one million people.

During the 2014 WA Senate election, the AEC Facebook page reached over 2.2 million people. It had more than 20 000 page likes, almost 12 000 daily engaged users and almost 1 000 page comments. AEC Twitter had more than 7 100 followers, 686 retweets and 428 direct enquiries.

2014 Griffith by-election

The AEC produced a range of similar communication products to support the conduct of the Griffith by-election in February 2014. These ranged from newspaper advertising and media releases to an official election guide delivered to more than 74 000 households in the Division of Griffith.

2014 Western Australian Senate election

In its public information campaign for the WA Senate election, the AEC again used the message Your Vote is a Valuable Thing but targeted it to voters in Western Australia. Preparation of the campaign began in late 2013 to ensure that it could be on air the day the writs for the election were issued – Friday, 28 February 2014.

The campaign used the same staged approach as for the federal election – close of rolls, voter services and formality – and was translated into eight community languages and five Indigenous languages. An official guide to the WA Senate election was delivered to more than one million households in WA.

The AEC launched the 2014 WA Senate election web page once the writ was issued. The web page complemented the staged key messages of the public information campaign and served as a central source of election information.

The AEC also implemented media and public relations activities for this election, with a focus on ensuring that WA voters understood they had to be enrolled for, and vote in, the election. It used its contracted public relations agency to help with a range of activities, including photo and filming opportunities and proactive contact with media outlets and journalists.

Assisting Australians with diverse needs

The AEC implements a range of education and communication strategies to enable all eligible Australians to participate in our democracy, regardless of circumstance. This includes community education and products for Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; for those suffering disadvantage, such as homelessness; and for those with disabilities.

The AEC also has specific outreach programmes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, delivered primarily through the Indigenous Electoral Participation Programme.

Community formality initiatives

The 2013 federal election presented the opportunity to trial new initiatives to reduce the level of unintentional informal voting. Activities included face-to-face electoral education for culturally and linguistically diverse communities in electorates with high rates of voting informality.

For the 2013 federal election the AEC contracted 10 bilingual community education officers in Sydney and two in Melbourne to deliver targeted electoral education over a five-month period. They delivered 138 community workshops to a total of 3 598 participants in Sydney and Melbourne.

Voter information officers

Under its voter information officer (VIO) programme the AEC recruited, trained and deployed polling officials dedicated to helping voters to understand how to complete formal ballot papers for the House of Representatives and the Senate. VIOs were deployed in selected polling places with historically high informality rates and where the voting population had low English proficiency or lacked familiarity with electoral process. Typically these were polling places with large proportions of culturally and linguistically diverse or Indigenous voters.

A total of 332 VIOs were employed in 225 polling places in all states and territories except Tasmania. VIOs also accompanied 26 mobile polling teams to remote areas.

A majority of voters who used VIO services said they found them helpful and 63 per cent of polling places that engaged VIOs had higher rates of voting formality.

Translated polling place material

At the 2013 federal election, in polling places with large culturally and linguistically diverse communities, the AEC displayed translated voting formality posters on House of Representatives and Senate voting.

The AEC also identified the top three languages spoken in over 400 polling places with a historically high rate of informality related to low English proficiency. It then supplied these polling places with translated formality posters, in relevant combinations of 35 languages, for display in voting screens.

Social inclusion

The AEC supports the Australian Government’s Social Inclusion Agenda and aims to provide accessible electoral services by:

  • ensuring access to voter services by providing accessible permanent AEC premises and polling places and alternative and assisted voting options
  • providing a range of products and information services, including a variety of alternative contact channels, accessible publications and an accessible website
  • implementing inclusive recruitment and workplace practices to educate staff about the benefits of diversity and to support staff with disabilities in the workplace.

Translation services

The AEC provides a translating service, which is outsourced to the Victorian Interpreting and Translating Service (VITS). This service can also be accessed through the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s Translating and Interpreting Service. During the 2013 federal election and 2014 Western Australian Senate election, the AEC extended the translating service to cover the same operating hours as the election contact (call) centre. This ensured that voters from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds could access electoral information throughout the election period.

VITS operated 16 dedicated language-specific telephone interpreter information lines and a multi-language information line. It handled approximately 10 000 calls in 2013–14; 7 000 of the callers used the translator service to speak directly to AEC staff. The three top languages used were Mandarin (3 000 calls), Cantonese (1 400 calls) and Arabic (1 000 calls).

Accessible publications

During 2013–14 the AEC developed three new products targeted at voters with diverse needs:

  • easy English guides for voters with an intellectual or cognitive disability or low English proficiency
  • a video on voting services for the blind and low-vision community and their advocates
  • a video in Australian Sign Language for the deaf and hearing-impaired community.

These new products provided a range of electoral information covering both enrolment and voting.

During the 2013 federal election, the 2014 Griffith by-election and 2014 WA Senate election, the AEC also provided a range of publications in accessible formats. These were available to order from the election contact (call) centre and for download from the AEC website. Some were also provided to Vision Australia and other organisations on the AEC’s Disability Advisory Committee for distribution to their members.

Services available on the AEC website, including the online postal vote application and online enrolment systems, have statements of accessibility for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Conformance Level AA from Vision Australia. In addition, the AEC’s website is optimised to display effectively on small-screen devices, its translated information is optimised to display in-language page titles and its YouTube-hosted videos are captioned and have full transcripts available.

Services for those who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment

The AEC provides a service for voters who are deaf or who have a hearing or speech impairment. The service is operated by the National Relay Service, which is managed through the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Accessible premises

All newly obtained and fitted out AEC tenancies are Building Code of Australia compliant and, where possible, existing premises meet Australian Standard AS 1428 (2010).

The AEC undertook physical inspections of all polling places used during the 2013 federal election, 2014 Griffith by-election and 2014 WA Senate election and, as far as was practicable, used polling places with full accessibility. Its polling place inspection tool incorporates the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards 2010, which is guided by the objectives of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

To ensure that voters could make informed choices about accessible polling places, for each election the AEC promoted the accessibility ratings of all premises using a searchable polling place locator service on the AEC website, advertising in major metropolitan newspapers and the election contact (call) centre. Where an accessible polling place was not available, alternative arrangements were in place, including:

  • postal voting
  • an assisted vote in a polling place
  • receiving ballot papers outside a polling place, such as in a vehicle
  • mobile voting in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities
  • telephone voting for voters who are blind or have low vision.

More information on AEC strategies to support those with disabilities is available in Managing resources and assets.

Services for Indigenous Australians

Services for Indigenous Australians

Indigenous Australians are less likely to enrol, less likely to vote and less likely to vote formally than any other Australians. The AEC’s Indigenous Electoral Participation Programme (IEPP) aims to close this gap. Under the programme, AEC staff at national, state and local levels work directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their local communities or in partnership with other organisations to deliver election services in ways that meet cultural and regional needs.

In 2013–14, a core IEPP objective was to increase Indigenous Australians’ awareness of the need to enrol and vote for the 2013 federal election and 2014 WA Senate election. Information and assistance on how to cast a formal vote were also provided. These election-focused activities were delivered in the broader context of the IEPP strategy and delivery of a flagship event: the second National Indigenous Youth Parliament, held in Canberra in May 2014.

Election communication to Indigenous voters

In the lead-up to the 2013 federal election the IEPP delivered a range of communication activities for Indigenous Australians. Specialised branding under the tagline ‘Our Vote, Our Future’ was developed for the Indigenous print and online communication campaign and used across key activities. These included:

  • launching the AEC Our Vote, Our Future dedicated Facebook page on 9 August 2013. Facebook promotions focused on outreach to Indigenous youth and on remote polling arrangements for the 2013 federal election
  • developing a set of election posters containing enrolment, turnout and formality messages for distribution during the 2013 federal election by internal and external stakeholders
  • providing in-language election materials for remote communities in the Northern Territory covering enrolment, turnout and formality during the 2013 federal election
  • placing targeted advertisements and editorial content in Indigenous press and online media
  • Indigenous and community engagement officers conducting enrolment and public awareness activities at community events around Australia.

All AEC Indigenous media and communication activities publicised the Indigenous portal on the AEC website. Visits to this page during the 2013 election almost tripled in comparison with visits during the 2010 election.

As for the previous two elections, the AEC adapted mainstream advertising activities during the 2013 federal election to meet the needs of Indigenous voters. However, the subsequent evaluation revealed that the Indigenous component of the mainstream campaign had either failed to reach target audiences or had only limited reach among them. These results indicate that there is value in delivering specifically targeted and culturally tailored communication.

Strategic partnerships to engage Indigenous audiences

Throughout the year the AEC worked in partnership with government and non-government agencies to help widen the delivery of election messages and services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This was particularly important in remote locations facing the additional barriers of distance and access.

Co-sponsored or collaborative activities included:

  • a service delivery agreement between the AEC’s Northern Territory office and the Department of Human Services to help provide voter services to remote Indigenous communities during the 2013 federal election
  • an Indigenous stakeholder kit containing media content, images and digital resources to help government and non-government agencies, such as the Department of Human Services and Reconciliation Australia, to distribute Indigenous enrolment, turnout and formality messages
  • a behind-the-scenes tour of election processes for four young Indigenous Australians, delivered in partnership with a local Indigenous youth programme run jointly by The Salvation Army and Gunya Meta in Logan City, south of Brisbane
  • an informal arrangement with a Wilcannia radio station to help deliver enrolment, turnout and voting reminder messages in the lead-up to the federal election
  • a partnership with the Museum of Australian Democracy and the YMCA to deliver the National Indigenous Youth Parliament 2014
  • sponsorship of key Indigenous cultural and sporting events to disseminate enrolment reminder messages, including the Murri Rugby League Carnival in Ipswich, the Festival of Indigenous Rugby League in Newcastle, the Brisbane Clancestry Festival and the 2013 Deadly Awards in Sydney
  • collaboration with the South Australian Wiltja Programme and the YWCA to deliver electoral education workshops to students from remote communities across the Central and Western Desert regions of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

These partnerships allowed the AEC to extend the reach and increase the impact of communication to Indigenous audiences. The Indigenous Electoral Participation Programme will continue to cultivate appropriate partnerships and collaborations to ensure that awareness programmes reach Indigenous Australians in urban, regional and remote locations.

Participants of the 2014 National Indigenous Youth Parliament held at the Museum of Australian Democracy, Old Parliament House
Participants of the 2014 National Indigenous
Youth Parliament held at the Museum of
Australian Democracy, Old Parliament House

National Indigenous Youth Parliament 2014

Building on the success and goodwill generated by the first National Indigenous Youth Parliament held in 2012, the second National Indigenous Youth Parliament took place from 28 May to 3 June 2014. Once again, this flagship event in the IEPP was the product of collaboration between the AEC, the YMCA and the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

Fifty young Indigenous leaders aged 16 to 25 years, chosen from more than 230 applicants, travelled to Canberra to learn how government works and how laws are made. They met with and learned from many of the nation’s leaders, including the Governor-General, ministers and their opposition counterparts, members of parliament, Indigenous community leaders, the United States Ambassador to Australia, senior government officials and representatives of the parliamentary press gallery.

A highlight was a two-day simulated parliament at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, where youth parliamentarians debated bills on matters important to them and to their community.

The National Indigenous Youth Parliament laid the groundwork for participants to further develop their leadership skills and professional networks and become local ambassadors for their communities.

More information on the National Indigenous Youth Parliament is provided in the case study ‘Making a difference at the National Indigenous Youth Parliament’.

Programme 1.3 Targeted Education and Public Awareness Programmes – key performance results 2013–14
  2011–12 2012–13 2013–14

78 000 visitors to the National Electoral Education Centre (NEEC) per annum.


87 717


90 400


87 065

2 000 NEEC sessions delivered per annum.


2 529


2 600


2 542

100 000 participants in AEC education outreach services (including Get Voting and community education).


131 876


100 717

Not achieved

83 025

Reduced number is due to the diversion of AEC operational capacity to election delivery throughout 2013–14.

1 200 participants in teacher professional development sessions.


2 527 students from 17 universities.


3 184 students from 18 universities.


2 079 students from eight universities.

New service delivery options, including partnerships that promote public awareness of electoral matters.


Get Voting piloted in SA, Vic and ACT.


Get Voting operating in all states.


Get Voting take-up in 127 divisions.

New online education resource material that responds to curriculum needs.


Designed education modules linked to new national history curriculum.


Delivered education modules linked to national history curriculum.


Education modules available through the national teacher resource portal.

Participant feedback indicates 90% satisfaction with AEC education services.


Over 90% satisfaction rate with AEC education programmes.


Over 90% satisfaction rate with AEC education programmes.


Over 90% satisfaction rate with AEC education programmes.

Public awareness

AEC communication strategies and services developed, implemented and reviewed as appropriate.


Developed communication strategies for special audiences.


Developed communication strategies for 2013 federal election including enrolment, pre-election, referendum and special audience strategies.


Implemented communication strategies for 2013 federal election, 2014 Griffith by-election and 2014 WA Senate election, including tailored delivery to special audiences.

Positive audience feedback on effectiveness of advertising and public awareness activities through surveys, market research and stakeholder consultation.


Market research supports effectiveness of Count Me In campaign strategy.


Market research supports effectiveness of Count Me In campaign enrolment publicity materials.


Market research supports effectiveness of election campaigns in raising public awareness.

Published information is timely and accurate, makes appropriate use of available technology and meets online accessibility standards.


Public information and key services (eg Count Me In enrolment campaign) delivered using mix of technology, including AEC website and social media.

Social media platforms adopted to extend AEC outreach.

Website accessibility strategy introduced to meet Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) National Transition Strategy standards.


Public information and key services (eg enrolment) delivered using online technology, including AEC website and social media.

Social media fully integrated into communication campaigns.

Website meets AGIMO National Transition Strategy accessibility standards.


Timely and accurate public information delivered through AEC website and social media for 2013 federal election, 2014 Griffith by-election and 2014 WA Senate election.

Website meets WCAG 2.0 standard to medium conformance level (AA).a

Indigenous Electoral Participation Programme (IEPP)

Evaluation shows the IEPP is meeting its objectives.

Not applicable

KPIs for IEPP were updated in 2012–13.

KPIs for years to 2011–12 available on AEC website.


Increased emphasis on urban and regional locations and on partnerships with government and non-government agencies in line with programme evaluation.

IEPP objectives mainstreamed into AEC business.


Evaluation indicates increase in electoral knowledge, enrolment and turnout by Indigenous Australians following mainstream and targeted services delivered for 2013 federal election.

Feedback from target audience on the IEPP shows the programme is well received.

Not applicable

KPIs for IEPP were updated in 2012–13.

KPIs for years to 2011–12 available on AEC website.


Positive feedback from audiences and stakeholders for new tailored education services and information products.


Positive feedback from Indigenous Australians for federal election initiatives.

Improved awareness among Indigenous Australians.

  1. Some legacy information (PDFs) is not yet fully compliant.