AEC Annual Report 2016–17

Public awareness

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In 2016–17, the AEC’s advertising, communication and public relations strategies focused on the final stages of the 2016 federal election (including the counting period), before returning to communication about enrolment, redistributions and other supporting federal electoral processes.

Advertising campaign – final 2016 federal election messages

In the final days of the 2016 election voting period (1 and 2 July 2016), the AEC’s communication campaign delivered election advertising through television, radio, press and online channels.

Angela Murphy, Holly Castro and Phil Diak receive the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s excellence award from Division President (ACT), Heike Philips.

This final advertising complemented previous phases of the campaign and concentrated on formal voting instructions as well as directing voters to the AEC website for polling place details.

The AEC’s campaign ‘Your vote will help shape Australia’ was the winner of the Government sponsored campaigns category at the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s (PRIA) ACT awards for excellence. The campaign was also highly commended at PRIA’s national awards for excellence.

Further information regarding the 2016 public awareness campaign was provided in the AEC’s 2015–16 Annual Report.

AEC online tally room – election results

The online tally room is the official record of federal election results and provides progressive tallies from election night through to the finalisation of counting. The 2016 election results are available at

The AEC produced a redesigned online tally room for the 2016 federal election, which for the first time at a federal election, provided a responsive design for users to access results easily via a mobile device.

Media feed

The AEC’s online tally room was complemented by a simultaneous feed of raw results data to subscribing broadcast media outlets.

The media feed service enabled media outlets to import progressive official results through their own software and to display this information in a format of their choosing. The service began at 6pm AEST on election night, and continued until counting was complete.

2016 federal election counting period – media relations

Media liaison played a key role in keeping the public updated on counting progress at the 2016 federal election.

This included providing regular updates via the AEC website’s homepage, issuing media statements, posting messages via the AEC’s Twitter account and organising media access to counting centres. In addition, the Electoral Commissioner and AEC spokespeople delivered a range of television and radio interviews to provide insights into the AEC’s counting process and significant results.

Most of the remaining 2016–17 media liaison, both proactively and reactively, coincided with the key electoral activities of redistributions, financial disclosure, event readiness and party registration.

In 2016–17, the AEC distributed a total of 40 national media releases.

Education services

National Electoral Education Centre

The National Electoral Education Centre at Old Parliament House in Canberra provides education programs for students visiting the national capital as part of their civics and citizenship studies.

During the year we:

  • hosted visitors from 149 electoral divisions
  • held 2,517 sessions
  • had 87,564 participants, of which:
    • 72,671 were primary students
    • 7,149 were secondary students
    • 7,744 were adults
  • collected 265 new electoral roll enrolments.

In 2016, the AEC renovated parts of the centre to modernise both the presentation content and program spaces. The most dramatic change was a complete make-over of the foyer area using a blend of recent election information and historical items. The theatre presentation was updated with information to reflect the changes to Senate voting. In response to visitor feedback, the AEC also introduced new student activity books to encourage higher order thinking.

Outreach and online education

The website, AEC for schools, provides a range of education materials for classroom use. The site averages 9,000 visits a month. The new publication, ‘Voting in Australia’, remains the most requested resource.

The core education outreach program is ‘Get Voting’, which provides materials for schools to conduct their own election, teaching students about electoral processes through participation. In 2016–17, Get Voting had:

  • 12,978 online visitors
  • 248 requests for election equipment packs
  • school elections for 35,064 students.

Professional learning for teachers

The AEC delivers training to help teachers develop the knowledge and skills needed to teach electoral education in primary and secondary schools.

For example, in 2016–17 the AEC held:

  • seven workshops with 87 participants
  • two civic education conferences with 43 workshop participants.

In 2016, the AEC also developed a one-hour online professional learning tool for teachers called ‘Voting in the classroom’. This module was launched in July 2016 and equips educators to run a classroom election that will help their students understand the decision-making processes of an election. This year, about 60 educators successfully completed the module.

Given 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the 1967 constitutional referendum, a new initiative has the AEC working with other National Education Institutions in Canberra to provide a one-day workshop for teachers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history.

A display at the National Electoral Education Centre.

Special counts in Western Australia and South Australia

In 2016–17, the AEC undertook special counts of Senate ballot papers in both Western Australia and South Australia, as ordered by the High Court of Australia, to fill a Senate vacancy in each state. While not a formal party to either court case, the AEC responded to media and public enquiries to provide information about the AEC’s role in conducting the special count.

AEC communication included providing information through the AEC website. Once the special counts were formally approved by the High Court, the AEC provided full results through an updated 2016 federal election tally room website.

AEC website

The AEC website,, continues to be the main external communication platform of the agency and employs a responsive design to ensure it is usable on any device (for example, desktop computer, tablet and mobile phone).

On election day, the AEC website had 1.8 million users generating 4.4 million page views. The AEC tally room website, which provided real time election results, serviced over 200,000 users on election night (from 6pm to midnight) generating around 3.7 million page views.

Following the conclusion of the 2016 federal election, the AEC website continued the geographical customisation of the homepage introduced for the event. This allows users to insert their postcode and have personalised homepage information displayed automatically. Filtered homepage information includes the name of their division, the current member and division details. Once a user has selected their division, the AEC website will remain customised on their next visit from the same device, as well as prioritising deeper content such as the contact details of their division and past election results.

AEC social media

In 2016–17, the AEC’s social media presence continued to include Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Each social media channel complemented the AEC website. Social media allowed the AEC to liaise with the media, stakeholders and electors in a timely manner, as well as both proactively and reactively.

At 30 June 2017, the AEC Facebook page had more than 28,000 page likes, the Twitter account more than 14,800 followers and the AEC YouTube account more than 1,400 subscribers.

The AEC’s Twitter account (@AusElectoralCom) continued to be used throughout 2016–17, and its followers included a substantial media audience. In the latter stages of the election period, including the counting process, the AEC’s Twitter account was important for updating the media and the public, as well as providing helpful links to new material on the AEC website.

In total over 2016–17, the AEC proactively posted 198 tweets on its Twitter account. Following the conclusion of the 2016 federal election, the account was used to provide information about particularly newsworthy federal electoral matters, including party registration, redistribution processes and financial disclosure.

National online and telephone enquiry services

The AEC receives enquiries and feedback from the public and other stakeholders through a range of contact channels, including telephone, web form, email, social media, facsimile, postal mail and in person.

The AEC’s national telephone service (13 23 26) provides information and receives queries from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. People with hearing or speech impairment can contact the AEC via the National Relay Service, Text Telephone (TTY), Speak and Listen and Internet relay.

In 2010, telephone voting was trialled for voters who are blind or have low vision

Assisting Australians with diverse needs

As voting is compulsory in Australia, the AEC endeavours to meet the needs of a diverse range of people when managing electoral events and preparing information for the public. We use a variety of education and communication initiatives for meeting the needs of Australians with disability (such as hearing, sight or communication impairments), people suffering disadvantage (such as homelessness), and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

People with disability

In addition to supporting the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, the AEC uses a number of initiatives and outreach activities to improve awareness of, and access to, electoral services.

To support the participation of Australians with disability in the 2016 federal election, the AEC held a dedicated information briefing for representatives of the peak disability organisations, providing specific information on the range of services. This also provided an opportunity for representatives of the disability sector to discuss matters related to the election.

Translation services

The AEC provides a translation 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.

VITS operated 16 dedicated language-specific telephone interpreter information lines and a multi-language information line. It handled 3,034 calls in 2016–17. A total of 1,766 callers used the translator service to speak directly to AEC staff. The top three languages used were Mandarin (1,121 calls), Arabic (346 calls) and Cantonese (307 calls).

For new citizens who speak a language other than English, the AEC also provides translated information on our website about enrolment and voting in 26 languages.

Service for voters with a hearing or speech impairment

The AEC also provides a service for voters with a hearing or speech impairment. The service is operated by the National Relay Service, which is managed though the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Services for Indigenous Australians

Indigenous Electoral Participation Program

Historically, Indigenous Australians are far less likely to enrol and vote than other Australians. The AEC’s Indigenous Electoral Participation Program aims to increase electoral knowledge, enrolment, turnout and vote formality levels for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The program is delivered in urban, regional and remote areas by the AEC’s Indigenous Community Engagement Officers, the majority of whom are Indigenous. Under the program, AEC staff work directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their local communities, or in partnership with other organisations, to deliver electoral services in ways that meet cultural and regional needs.

In 2016–17, activities included:

  • conducting the third National Indigenous Youth Parliament in May 2017
  • providing electoral information sessions at key community events, meetings, conferences and forums to raise awareness of enrolment, voting, vote formality and democratic processes
  • raising public awareness for federal, state, and local elections
  • contributing to the AEC’s Reconciliation Action Plan, cultural awareness training and staff development.

National Indigenous Youth Parliament 2017

The third National Indigenous Youth Parliament was held in May 2017. The week-long program in Canberra included a two-day parliament in the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, meetings with the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Members of Parliament, a reception at Government House and a special parliamentary reception with campaigners from the 1967 referendum and the families of the Mabo plaintiffs.

The youth parliament provides the 50 participants with an opportunity to develop their leadership skills to advocate on important issues for closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage. Issues debated during the mock parliament included Indigenous youth mental health, human rights and race discrimination, and improving access to drug and alcohol rehabilitation services. In the adjournment speeches, youth parliamentarians spoke on issues important to their communities, told their stories, and spoke about their concerns with the disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians.

The Indigenous youth parliament was held at Old Parliament House

The participants travelled from all over Australia and the Torres Strait to Canberra for the event. The AEC worked closely with the YMCA and the Museum of Australian Democracy to deliver a successful program.

Indigenous electoral participation in the 2016 federal election

The Indigenous Electoral Participation Program supported the AEC’s provision of services to Indigenous Australians at the 2016 federal election with a range of activities. Information regarding these activities was provided in the AEC’s 2015–16 Annual Report.

Since completing the election, the AEC has undertaken an internal evaluation of the program’s 2016 federal election activities to inform the program’s national plan for 2017–18.

Preparation of the 2017–18 plan began in late 2016–17.

Assistance to overseas electoral authorities

The AEC undertakes international electoral work in accordance with section 7(1)(fa) of the Electoral Act, in close cooperation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

While most funding for the AEC’s international work is provided by DFAT, the AEC also works closely with counterparts in the Asian, Pacific and Southern African regions, and with other providers of international electoral assistance, including the:

  • International Foundation for Electoral Systems
  • United Nations Electoral Assistance Division
  • United Nations Development Programme
  • International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
  • Commonwealth Secretariat (an intergovernmental organisation of which Australia is a member).

The AEC is also a partner in ‘BRIDGE’ – the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections modular professional development program. In 2016–17, the BRIDGE partnership began to update and consolidate the BRIDGE modules. The program is available online at

In addition, the AEC delivers DFAT-funded electoral support programs in Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga.

Pacific Island countries

In 2016–17, the AEC supported Pacific Island electoral management bodies both through bilateral assistance programs and through the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators network (PIANZEA). The PIANZEA Advisory Group provides strategic direction and oversight of network activities. It represents key PIANZEA regions Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia as well as Australia and New Zealand.

In 2016–17:

  • AEC officials provided technical assistance for the Tongan Electoral Office, specifically on voter education planning ahead of the elections in 2018.
  • The AEC conducted a BRIDGE workshop in Honiara, the Solomon Islands in February 2017, on further understanding the electoral process and the role of political parties. In May 2017, the AEC also conducted a pilot BRIDGE electoral operations planning workshop, in addition to providing broader support and capacity building for the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission.
  • The AEC and the Fijian Elections Office signed a memorandum of understanding in March 2017 to establish a mutually cooperative relationship in election administration.
  • The AEC ran a BRIDGE workshop on Boundary Delimitation in Canberra, in November 2016. The workshop included PIANZEA representatives, with participants from the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau and Tuvalu.
  • The AEC assisted the PNG Electoral Commission with policy manuals on key election processes (nominations, polling and count) as well as associated training manuals.
  • The AEC provided ongoing support for the Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner as it prepared for the Bougainville elections. Program planning and stakeholder consultations have commenced.


The Australian Electoral Commission has a longstanding relationship with the Election Commission of India. In January 2017, the Australian Electoral Commissioner visited India to participate in the Indian National Voters Day celebrations and attend a seminar. During the visit, the AEC and Election Commission of India signed a memorandum of understanding on electoral cooperation. This marks an important milestone in the strengthening of the relationship.

The 2016 Australian Federal Election Visitor Program

Over the 2016 federal election period, the AEC hosted an Election Visitor Program. This provided an opportunity for foreign representatives from election management bodies to experience an Australian election.

A total of 42 delegates (and one interpreter) attended the program, 35 of whom were senior international delegates representing 17 foreign election management bodies. One senior representative from a foreign government department, one regional multilateral agency, one international non-government organisation and four staff from DFAT also attended the program.

The program included a series of briefings from key AEC business areas, a visit to the AEC’s National Electoral Education Centre, visits to two urban and one rural polling station to see polling day activities and the start of the count, and a reception at the AEC offices on election night. A debrief and networking opportunity concluded the program.

Overall, the 2016 program showcased the AEC as a professional electoral body and provided an opportunity for international delegates to better understand the Australian system. It also helped participants form connections and strengthen relationships in the broader network of international electoral management bodies, government departments and non-government organisations.

Hosting international visitors

In 2016–17, the AEC hosted international study programs, delegations and visitors from 25 different countries, including Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Myanmar, Kiribati, Fiji, Cook Islands, Nieu, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, China, New Zealand, Botswana, Kenya, Korea, Canada, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Vanuatu, as well as from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Building capacity in our region

In 2016–17, the AEC maintained its commitment to capacity building in the Asia-Pacific region by deploying personnel and providing technical support to a number of countries hosting electoral events.

This included assisting with preparations for the 2017 Papua New Guinea National Election, held from 24 June to 8 July 2017, as well as developing management capability within the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission.

Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers and AEC staff with Union Election Commission participants Win Thuzar Khaing and Khine Thandar Myo
Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers and AEC staff with Union Election Commission participants Win Thuzar Khaing and Khine Thandar Myo

In addition, the AEC assisted with preparations for the Myanmar by-elections, deploying materials and staff to work with the Union Election Commission of Myanmar.

Following the by-elections, the AEC hosted a study program for two early to mid-career female employees from the Union Election Commission, identified as having potential for career advancement. The program lasted for six weeks and gave participants the opportunity to spend time in the AEC National Office in Canberra, the Victorian State Office and a number of divisional offices.

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