The BRIDGE Voter Information, Civic Education and Election Study Program held in Darwin 21-27 August this year with participants from East Timor’s CNE (Commissão Nacional de Eleições) and STAE (Secretáriado Técnico de Administração Eleitoral) was my first experience as a BRIDGE facilitator.
Having only completed my TtF in February this year I was nervous about my first time facilitating and working with translation. I can honestly say I could not have asked for a better group of participants and fellow facilitators.
The workshop made use of components of the BRIDGE Civic Education and Voter Information Modules and was organised by Michelle Moss, AEC; conducted by Expert Facilitator Cate Thompson, AEC; Accrediting Facilitator Augusto Pereira, AEC in-country East Timor Officer; Workshop Facilitator and East Timor Translator Ivo Rangel; and myself, a then Semi-Accredited and now proudly fully accredited Workshop Facilitator, Michael Miller, AEC.
As part of a series of activities funded by AusAID the goal of the program was to engage the participants in sessions that would directly relate to, and compliment, their observation of the Northern Territory Election.
Participants worked enthusiastically and had many questions especially for guest speakers Bill Shepheard (NT Electoral Commissioner) and Shane Stringer who took them through the NT Electoral commissions Civic Education and Voter Information materials and strategies.
Interest in an IEPP (Indigenous Electoral Participation Program) presentation by the AEC NT Manager, Robert Pugsley and Ruth Walker, AEC was received with great interest and a repeat performance was requested on the last day of the program. Robert was joined by Ameina Brunker, AEC, who also provided a personal Indigenous perspective.
The highlights of the Election Observation component were revealed in the participant’s comments particularly in regard to the concept of early voting after a visit to an Early Voting Centre and the contrast between participant’s expectations and the reality of an Australian tally room.
On a personal note I’d like to end in saying that my impression of the group and the people of East Timor is that their wonderful capacity to overcome adversity and look to the future with abundant positivity is matched only by their voracious appetite for rice!