Talking Democracy is a civic education kit for people studying English as an Additional Language or other courses.
By using this kit, students will learn about:
- electoral keywords and concepts
- three levels of government in Australia
- how to enrol to vote or update your details
- who can vote in Australia
- how to vote correctly.
Access the animations, facilitation guides and other resources below. You can also request hard copies by contacting our Education and Inclusion Team on 131 832 or emailing us.
This resource was produced in partnership with Carringbush Adult Education. We are grateful for their expertise and assistance.
Part 1: Three levels of government
Mohammed is an English language student. He is doing homework on government and elections in Australia. He calls the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) for more information. In this video he finds out about the three levels of government.
SONIA: Good morning this is the Victorian Electoral Commission. My name is Sonia. How may I help you.
MOHAMMED: Hi, my name is Mohammed. I am a student and I have homework about the Australian government and elections my teacher told me to ring you for information. Can I ask you some questions?
SONIA: Hi Mohammed, yes I can give you the information you need. What would you like to know?
MOHAMMED: Why does the teacher say that voting is important in Australia?
SONIA: Because Australia is a democracy. We vote for people who make laws and decide on services for us. That is why voting is very important.
MOHAMMED: How many levels of government are there in Australia?
SONIA: In Australia there are three levels of government: federal, state, and local.
This is Australia's Parliament House. It has two houses: House of Representatives or Lower House, and Senate or Upper House. The federal government is in Canberra. It makes decisions for all of Australia, for example: immigration, tax, Centrelink, Medicare and defence. The leader of the Federal Government is the Prime Minister.
MOHAMMED: What about the State Government?
SONIA: This is Parliament House Victoria. It also has two houses: Legislative Assembly or Lower House, and Legislative Council or Upper House. The Victorian Government is in Melbourne. It makes decisions for the state of Victoria, for example schools, hospitals, public transport, housing and police. The leader of the State Government is the Premier.
MOHAMMED: And local government?
SONIA: Local government or local council. You vote in the council area in which you live. Local councils make decisions about local issues. Councils look after rubbish collection, parks, community centres, childcare, parking, libraries, swimming pools, youth centres, cultural festivals and other services. The leader of your local council is the mayor.
[SCREEN:] On the next video: learn more about the VEC, how to enrol and how to vote.
Part 2: Enrolling and voting
Mohammed continues his phone call with the VEC and finds out how to enrol and vote correctly in the Victorian State Election.
SONIA: Let's learn more about the VEC, how to enrol and how to vote.
MOHAMMED: What does the Victorian Electoral Commission do?
SONIA: The VEC is an independent organization. We are not a government department. We run state and local government elections and other community polls. We teach people how to vote correctly. We also look after the electoral roll
MOHAMMED: What is the electoral roll?
SONIA: It is a list of Australian citizens aged 18 and over who have enrolled to vote. It shows their name and current address.
MOHAMMED: Who can vote in Australia?
SONIA: All Australian citizens aged 18 and over must enrol and must vote at every Federal, State and local council election. Non-citizens who pay council rates can enrol to vote at council elections only. This is a special rule. Are you enrolled to vote?
SONIA: Are you an Australian citizen and over 18 years old?
MOHAMMED: Yes I am. How do I enrol?
SONIA: You can get an enrolment form from a post-office. Fill it in and send it to the VEC. If you want
help to fill in a form, please ring us on 131 832 - or on an interpreter line 9209 0112. You can also get one from our website: vec.vic.gov.au.
MOHAMMED: Thank you for the information, I will get an enrolment form after this conversation.
What happens if I move house?
SONIA: It is very important that you let us know if you move to a new place or change your name. You can use an enrolment form to update your details and send it to us.
MOHAMMED: How do I vote?
SONIA: in Australia we use numbers when voting. let's look at how to vote in Victorian state elections. You get two ballot papers: a smaller one for the Lower House and a bigger one for the Upper House. To vote for the Lower House, write one next to the name of the candidate you would most like to win the election, then write two for the candidate you like second, three for the one you like third, and so on until every box is numbered.
To vote for the Upper House, you can vote above the line or below the line. To vote above the line pick one party who you want to win and write the number one in a box next to the party's name above the black line. To vote below the line you need to pick at least five candidates. Write the number one in the box next to the candidate you would most like to win the election, then write two for the candidate you like second, three for the one you like third, four for the one you like fourth, and five for the one you like fifth. You can number more candidates if you wish but you must choose at least five candidates.
MOHAMMED: Can the VEC teach us how to vote?
SONIA: Yes we can. Please contact us. We can come to you and teach your community how to vote
MOHAMMED: Do I have to vote if I'm overseas?
SONIA: When there is an election you are encouraged to vote but you will not be fined if you do not vote. Please keep your tickets to show us that you were overseas
MOHAMMED: OK I think I can do my homework now. Thank you very much for your help.
SONIA: If you need more information you can visit our website: vec.vic.gov.au, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or ring us again [131 832]. We also have an interpreter line 9209 0112, or contact us on 133677 through the National Relay Service. We'll be happy to help you.
MOHAMMED: Thank you, bye.
SONIA: Bye Mohammed, good luck with your homework.
Find out more or book a session
Contact us by phone on 131 832 or email us if you would like to:
- order a hard copy of this resource
- book a free voter education session in English or some community languages - we can provide interpreters.
- provide feedback on our resources.