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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other

Empowering youth and future voters in Australia”

“Youth, along with Indigenous Australians, continue to be the most underrepresented segment of Australian society on the electoral roll”.
NewsLetter A key feature of the Australian electoral system is COMPULSORY VOTING. Despite this, and whilst the rate of youth participation in federal elections has improved in recent times, the challenge of engaging young people in the Australian democratic process remains significant. In a positive development, the number of unenrolled Australians reduced significantly in the same period. However, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) attempts to have a positive impact in this area by addressing some of the natural barriers to participation through the implementation of:
• A well-considered program of school-aged democratic education,
• Enrolment processes suited to Australia’s compulsory electoral system,
• A comprehensive ‘last minute’ election communication campaign to encourage participation.
These endeavours attempt to combat the issue of participation in the voting process but in very different ways and according to different time frames.

Future Voters
The AEC’s education program consists of in-school election resources, electoral education training for teachers, electoral education resources and products (for classrooms and the community) and the National Electoral Education Centre. At the education centre, students are provided with electoral education on Australian government and democracy, federal electoral processes and the democratic responsibilities of citizens. A 90 minute session features a multimedia presentation that explores the history of Australian democracy, hands-on activities that help students to understand enrolment, voting and representation as well as voting in a simulated election.
The AEC’s in-school election program, Get voting, helps primary and secondary schools conduct in-school elections for real positions, such as representatives on student councils.

Enrolment processes
The challenge of engaging youth is made more difficult by the requirement for an enrolment transaction to occur when they reach voting age or move house. As per the Laws passed by the Australian Parliament in 2012, the AEC allow to directly enrol eligible electors or update their details on the electoral roll based on information from other government agencies.
The applicability of direct enrolment processes to young people can be particularly challenging given the higher likelihood of conflicting data due to more frequent residential movement.

Election campaign
Each election, the AEC undertakes a comprehensive communication campaign in an effort to provide final participation reminders to the Australian electorate. These campaigns have several key audience groups that are catered for by carefully selecting communication channels, including channels directly target to young eligible electors.

Indigenous Australians
Research tells us that Indigenous Australians who make up three per cent of the population are much less likely to participate in the electoral process than other Australians. This provides a distinct target youth audience with over half of all Indigenous Australians aged under 25. The AEC operates a dedicated Indigenous Electoral Participation Program that is delivered across Australia by 20 Community Engagement Officers, the majority of whom are Indigenous. Program staff works directly with communities or in partnership with other organisations to deliver services in ways that meet cultural and regional needs of Indigenous Australians. During the 2016 federal election, the Program developed a range of culturally targeted educational and engaging materials included videos, posters, websites and brochures featuring Indigenous branding and the tagline ‘Our Vote, Our Future’. The Program utilised digital channels including a dedicated Indigenous Facebook page as well as YouTube to appeal to youth.
The youth parliament not only benefits the participants but can help spread positive messages among Indigenous communities by involving friends and families, it can also help to dispel myths about the electoral process, and for some it can replace a negative experience about voting and governments with a positive one.

Tom Rogers ,
Australian Electoral Commissioner