NSWEC Action Plan 2014-16: Multicultural

Issue date: October 2014

Electoral Commissioner's Foreword

I am pleased to present the New South Wales Electoral Commission's Multicultural Action Plan 2014-2016.

The New South Wales Electoral Commission (NSWEC) acknowledges that the state of New South Wales is one of the most culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse states in Australia and we are committed to meeting the needs of all NSW electors in relevant, accessible and inclusive ways.

This can be achieved by implementing the principals of Multiculturalism under the Community Relations Commission and Principles of Multiculturalism Act (2000) in the planning and conduct of state and local government elections in New South Wales. The NSWEC Multicultural Action Plan 2014-2016 enshrines these principles and sets out specific strategies for meeting the broader goals of ensuring that:

  • multicultural policy goals are supported by senior management and integrated into overall planning and review mechanisms;
  • policy development and service delivery is informed by research, evaluation and community consultation;
  • the capacity of the agency is enhanced by employing people with linguistic and cultural expertise;
  • staff are trained to work in a culturally diverse environment; and
  • barriers to the accessibility of services and information for people from culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse backgrounds are identified and programs, services and communications are developed to address them.

This plan will be reviewed after the 2015-2016 election cycle to identify areas for improvement and inform the development of a new action plan for future state and local government elections.

I look forward to working in partnership with multicultural organisations throughout New South Wales to ensure that all electors, no matter what their culture, language or religion, can participate fully in the democratic process by being able to enrol and vote with knowledge, confidence and ease.

Colin Barry
Electoral Commissioner

New South Wales Electoral Commission (NSWEC)

The NSWEC's role is to provide high quality election services that are impartial, effective, efficient and in accordance with the law.
Our main functions are to:

  • conduct elections and by-elections for the State of NSW, local government and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council;
  • conduct statutory elections for registered clubs, statutory bodies and state registered industrial organisations;
  • manage the New South Wales electoral roll in partnership with the Australian Electoral Commission;
  • provide administrative support to the Election Funding Authority;
  • research electoral issues; and
  • provide advice to the relevant Minister on matters relating to the administration of enrolment and elections in NSW.

Our stakeholders include: the people and electors of NSW; the Parliament of NSW; local councils; the NSW Aboriginal Land Council; election candidates and participants; registered political parties; industrial organisations; registered clubs and statutory bodies; the Election Funding Authority and the media.

The NSWEC recognises the diversity of the New South Wales community and the demand for high quality electoral services to meet a wide range of needs, expectations and levels of understanding of the democratic system.

"Our Future Directions 2013-2016" document outlines our vision, mission, values and goals and provides direction and guidance for the organisation in order to conduct our business in an ethical and professional manner. Our values include the upholding of the principle of equal access to democracy for all NSW citizens and our first goal is to foster participation in the democratic process by championing the importance of democracy through public education, better processes, responsive services and clear communication.

Elections are conducted in a high profile environment where impartiality, accuracy, reliability and efficiency are essential and the NSWEC's work is undertaken within a strict legal framework. Under the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912 key aspects of the conduct of elections is clearly defined including the timeframe for conducting the election, entitlement to pre-poll and postal voting, the way to cast a valid vote, and the format of the ballot papers. The NSWEC has no discretion in these matters.

The Multicultural Action Plan 2014-2016 will provide improvements to electoral services that comply with the prescriptive provisions of electoral legislation.

Development of the Plan

In 2014 the NSW Electoral Commission formed a reference group consisting of peak bodies, not for profit and government organisations. This group
has been established to provide guidance, information and feedback to the NSW Electoral Commission in relation to electoral services for electors from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

This culturally and linguistically diverse reference group reviewed the Multicultural Action plan 2014-2016 and will continue to work with the NSWEC to ensure accessibility barriers to services are identified and solutions to these barriers are reflected in programs and services.

The following organisations are currently represented on the reference group:

  • Arab Councils of Australia
  • Australian Chinese Community Association of NSW
  • Community Migrant Resource Centre
  • Ethnic Community Council of NSW
  • Greek Welfare Centre at Newtown
  • Local Community Services Association
  • Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association of NSW
  • Multicultural Youth affairs Network - MYAN
  • NSW Community Relations Commission
  • Settlement Council of Australia
  • Sydney Multicultural Community Services
  • TAFE Multicultural Engagement program
  • Vietnamese Community in Australia – NSW chapter

Principles of Multiculturalism

The principles of multiculturalism are defined in the Community Relations Commission and Principles of Multiculturalism Act (2000). Multiculturalism is founded on the following principles:

We are diverse and accepting: the people of New South Wales are of different linguistic, religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds who, either individually or in community with other members of their respective groups are free to profess, practise and maintain their own linguistic, religious, racial and ethnic heritage.

We have shared values: all individuals in New South Wales, irrespective of their linguistic, religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds, should demonstrate a unified commitment to Australia, its interests and future and should recognise the importance of shared values governed by the rule of law within a democratic framework.

We participate and contribute to NSW: all individuals in New South Wales should have the greatest possible opportunity to contribute to, and participate in, all aspects of public life in which they may legally participate.

We respect diversity in an Australian setting: all individuals and institutions should respect and make provision for the culture, language and religion of others within an Australian legal and institutional framework where English is the common language.

We ensure access to programs and services: all individuals should have the greatest possible opportunity to make use of and participate in relevant activities and programmes provided or administered by the Government of New South Wales.

We consider diversity an asset: all institutions of New South Wales should recognise the linguistic and cultural assets in the population of New South Wales as a valuable resource and promote this resource to maximise the development of the State.The NSWEC's role is to provide high quality election services that are impartial, effective, efficient and in accordance with the law.

Planning and Evaluation

Goal 1: Multicultural policy goals are integrated into overall corporate and business planning and review mechanisms.

STRATEGIES

  1. Develop a Multicultural Action Plan for 2014-2016 with specific and achievable outcomes.
  2. Ensure that NSWEC corporate planning, policy and review documents recognise the agency operates in a culturally diverse environment.
  3. Improve the integration of community education, information, and resources for culturally and linguistically diverse electors into election operations planning and arrangements.

Goal 2: Policy development and service delivery is informed by research, staff expertise, data analysis, evaluation and community consultation.

STRATEGIES

  1. Use ABS data and other research to identify electoral districts and local government areas in NSW, and suburbs within those areas, where there are large culturally and linguistically diverse populations for:
    • targeted employment of bilingual staff as election officials; and
    • targeted dissemination of multilingual information
  2. Analyse ABS data and other research to identify the main languages, other than English, spoken throughout NSW to inform requirements for translated information.
  3. Research the most appropriate delivery of advertising and information to culturally and linguistically diverse communities in relevant community languages.
  4. Review and research what other electoral bodies are doing in regard to provision of information for culturally and linguistically diverse electors.
  5. Consult with culturally and linguistically diverse organisations and experts for feedback and suggestions on the development of information resources and services for culturally and linguistically diverse electors.
  6. Seek feedback from electors and community organisations after the election about the usefulness and availability of information for culturally and linguistically diverse electors.

Goal 3: Senior management actively promote and support the principles of multiculturalism within the agency and in the wider community

STRATEGIES

  1. Leverage the skills and knowledge of Community Education specialists to maximise outcomes.
  2. Participate in projects across electoral jurisdictions that promote and support services for culturally and linguistically diverse electors.

Capacity Building

Goal 4: The capacity of the agency is enhanced by employing people with linguistic and cultural expertise.

STRATEGIES

4.1 Identify expressions of interest for electoral work from people with bilingual skills and place these workers in appropriate polling places to assist culturally and linguistically diverse electors.

  1. Leverage the skills and knowledge of internal staff to maximise outcomes.
  2. Identify bilingual staff from NSWEC and the Australian Electoral Commission to assist in the delivery or review of electoral information in-language.
  3. Distribute information on employment opportunities to community organisations to encourage bi-lingual community members to apply to work at the election.
  4. Provide and promote a telephone interpreter service for electors who need information in their language.

Goal 5: Staff are trained to work in a culturally diverse environment.

STRATEGIES

  1. Provide training for Returning Officers (ROs) and other election staff in cultural awareness.
  2. Provide specific information, training and advice to ROs, in districts identified as having large culturally and linguistically diverse populations, on working with and providing services to culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
  3. Provide all ROs with information on the main languages spoken in their districts.
  4. Provide the opportunity for relevant staff working in the community information and education area to attend workshops, conferences or meetings with other community educators to improve their knowledge and expertise.

Programs and Services

Goal 6: Barriers to the accessibility of services for people from culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse backgrounds are identified and programs and services are developed to address them.

STRATEGIES

  1. Develop relevant and accessible electoral information for culturally and linguistically diverse electors.
  2. Ensure language, photographs and graphics are culturally sensitive and inclusive in all NSWEC publications and on the website.
  3. Ensure that electoral information that is not available in community languages is written in plain English.
  4. Deliver election and voting information to multicultural communities in the lead up to the 2015 State election.

Goal 7: A range of communication formats and channels are used to inform people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds about enrolment, elections and voting.

STRATEGIES

  1. Make available and accessible a variety of translated enrolment and election information through the NSWEC website and distribution to community organisations.
  2. Improve visibility of culturally and linguistically diverse information on the NSWEC website.
  3. Provide translated audio information on the website as well as printed translated material.
  4. Ensure culturally and linguistically diverse electors and community organisations are made aware that translated information is available.
  5. Provide voting information in relevant community languages to every Returning Officer's office, voting centre and polling place in NSW.
  6. Provide additional copies of voting information in relevant languages to polling places in areas with high culturally and linguistically diverse populations.
  7. Place election advertising for culturally and linguistically diverse electors in appropriate media in appropriate languages.
  8. Review and revise community information materials, formats and channels based on elector and community organisation feedback.