House of Representatives Committees

Contents

Chair’s Foreword
Membership of the Committee
Terms of reference
List of abbreviations
List of recommendations
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Young people’s civic engagement
Chapter 3 Young people’s civic knowledge
Chapter 4 Inspiring future civic participation
Chapter 5 Indigenous Australians
Chapter 6 Migrant citizens
Appendix A Submissions to the inquiry Exhibits presented to the inquiry
Appendix B List of hearings and witnesses, including school visits
Appendix C Learning from initiatives overseas

Chair’s Foreword

As one of the sixth longest continuous democracies in the world, Australia has a proud history and solid foundation of democratic principles. A basic understanding of our political and voting systems is fundamental to a vibrant participatory democracy.

It is of some concern to the Committee that surveys have shown that Australians between the ages of 15 and 35 typically have limited knowledge of Australia’s political history and political system, and have little interest in Australian political affairs.

Young people are not alone in this feeling of disconnection: evidence suggests that Indigenous Australians and migrant citizens also experience some difficulties in their interactions with the democratic process.

The Committee’s inquiry sought to examine the reasons for low rates of electoral participation amongst young people, Indigenous Australians and migrants, and to find more meaningful ways to encourage citizens to participate more directly in Australian democracy, primarily based on their poor English language skills.

The terms of reference for the inquiry were very broad, enabling us to hear from a diverse range of Australians, from school children and teachers to community leaders, academics and practitioners. The Committee conducted 11 public hearings which included hearings in every state and territory.

The Committee also visited ten schools (both primary and secondary) and held two school forums, during which it held discussions with 244 students and 47 of their teachers.

The Committee has made a series of recommendations which we believe will contribute to a healthier democracy with more citizens who are informed, involved and engaged in the issues that are important to them.

While many of the Committee’s recommendations focus on matters regarding the provision of civics education, we also recommend a number of practical measures aimed at reducing the disenfranchisement of eligible voters.

I take this opportunity to thank my fellow Committee members, including the previous Chairman, Peter Lindsay , for their dedication to the inquiry. I also acknowledge the support the Australian Electoral Commission provided to the Committee throughout the inquiry.

Finally, I wish to thank all groups, organisations and individuals who gave their time to prepare submissions and appear as witnesses before the Committee.

 

Sophie Mirabella MP

Chair

Membership of the Committee

Chair

Mrs Sophie Mirabella MP (from 26 /2/07 )
Mr Peter Lindsay MP (to 24/1/07 )

 

Deputy Chair

Senator Glenn Sterle (from 6/12/06 )
Mr Michael Danby MP (to 6/12/06 )

 

Members

Mr Steven Ciobo MP

Senator Judith Adams (from 26/2/07 )

 

Mr Michael Danby MP

Senator George Brandis (to 26/2/07 )

 

Mr Alan Griffin MP

Senator Kim Carr

 

Mr John Forrest MP (from 14/02/07 )

Senator Fierravanti-Wells (from 26/2/07 )

 

 

Senator John Hogg (to 6/12/06 )

 

 

Senator Brett Mason (to 26/2/07 )

 

 

Senator Andrew Murray

Committee Secretariat

Secretary

Stephen Boyd

Inquiry Secretary

Sonia Palmieri (to 9/3/07 )
Justin Baker (from 10/3/07 )

Research Officer

Tegan Smith

Administrative Officers

Doris Cooley
Cameron Carlile

Terms of reference

A healthy democracy needs citizens who are informed, appreciate and participate in the various elements of our representative democracy. Civics education, including electoral education, is a key part of this goal and helps to ensure that citizens are adequately informed and able to participate effectively.

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is inquiring into the adequacy of electoral education focusing on but not limited to:

List of abbreviations

AEC

Australian Electoral Commission

AFSSSE

Australian Federation of Societies for Studies of Society and Environment

AISSA

Association of Independent Schools of South Australia

AMEP

Adult Migrant English Programme

ATSIEIS

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Electoral Information Service

BTN

Behind The News

CEF – A

Constitution Education Fund – Australia

CEIO

Community Electoral Information Officer

CVP

Citizenship Visits Programme

DEST

Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training

DIAC

Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Citizenship

DRO

Divisional Returning Officer

ETR

Education Travel Rebate

HREOC

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

ICT

information communication technology

IEA

International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement

LGANT

Local Government Association of the Northern Territory

MCEETYA

Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs

NCETP

National Capital Educational Tourism Project

NESB

non-English speaking background

OMI

Office of Multicultural Interests (WA)

PACER

Parliament and Civics Education Rebate

SCG

Southern Cross Group

SOSE

Studies of Society and Environment

TAFE

Technical and Further Education

 

 

List of recommendations

2 Young people’s civic engagement

Recommendation 1 (para 2.62)

The Committee recommends that in the lead up to the expected 2007 federal election, the Australian Electoral Commission should keep a detailed record of the number of electoral commission birthday cards sent to Australian secondary students and report on the success of this rollout in its submission to the Committee’s inquiry into the conduct of that election.

Recommendation 2 (para 2.64)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, through the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, encourages the cooperation of state and territory education authorities, including boards of secondary school studies, in providing the Australian Electoral Commission with appropriate data for the purposes of electoral enrolment.

Recommendation 3 (para 2.68)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Electoral Commission determine the feasibility and costing of the following initiatives, and implement these initiatives where possible:

3 Young people’s civic knowledge

Recommendation 4 (para 3.113)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Electoral Commission, in collaboration with the State Electoral Commissions, develop a short, focused electoral education unit to be delivered to either Year 9 or 10 students, and Year 11 and 12 students, in all secondary schools.

The Australian Government—through the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs—should ensure that the delivery of this unit is incorporated into all secondary schools.

Recommendation 5 (para 3.114)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Electoral Commission be granted sufficient funds to create several electoral education officer positions in each state and territory with responsibility for the development and presentation of electoral education teaching resources.

Recommendation 6 (para 3.115)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Electoral Commission provide an assessment of statistics regarding the delivery of civics education, which includes both students and teacher training, for inclusion in its submission to the Committee’s regular inquiries into the conduct of federal elections.

4 Inspiring future civic participation

Recommendation 7 (para 4.47)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government re-assess the Parliament and Civics Education Rebate as it affects students from the remotest parts of Australia.

Recommendation 8 (para 4.54)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government provide additional support to both the Parliamentary Education Office and the Australian Electoral Commission in their efforts to access additional space so that a greater number of students and schools who want to participate in relevant programmes can do so.

5 Indigenous Australians

Recommendation 9 (para 5.59)

The Committee recommends that State and Territory education authorities develop induction strategies incorporating the delivery of civics education for pre-service teachers bound for regional and remote communities.

Recommendation 10 (para 5.61)

The Committee recommends that a modified civics education website be created for an Indigenous audience.

The website should be established through collaboration between the Office of Indigenous Affairs and the Department of Education, Science and Training, and should be developed in consultation with local governments in remote and regional areas.

Recommendation 11 (para 5.76)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Electoral Commission provide adequate training and guidelines for polling officials in communicating with Indigenous Australians.

6 Migrant citizens

Recommendation 12 (para 6.68)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Electoral Commission review the languages it currently translates its materials into and consider introducing languages spoken by more recent migrant arrivals to Australia.

Recommendation 13 (para 6.69)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government urge migrants and candidates for citizenship to undertake as much language training as is currently made available to them by the Government.

Recommendation 14 (para 6.70)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government amend the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code to include the additional mandatory requirement that during citizenship ceremonies there be a presentation regarding the notion of citizenship, voting rights and obligations in Australia, including the opportunity for enrolment at the ceremony.

Recommendation 15 (para 6.73)

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, in consultation with the Australian Electoral Commission, develop a programme of electoral education, to be implemented through migrant resource centres.

Recommendation 16 (para 6.74)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Electoral Commission prepare a professional development seminar for migrant resource workers to enable them to deliver this programme of electoral education.

Recommendation 17 (para 6.75)

The Committee recommends that the Australian Electoral Commission provides a programme of electoral education in the lead up to federal elections which specifically targets areas of high informal voting including those with a high proportion of voters from non-English speaking backgrounds and those in areas where there are different voting systems in place for State elections.

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