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The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), on behalf of the PIANZEA (Pacific Islands, Australia, New Zealand Electoral Administrators) Secretariat, conducted consecutive, identical BRIDGE workshops in Brisbane, Australia on 4-7 November 2013 and 11-14 November 2013. Funding for this capacity building program in electoral administration was provided by the Australian government aid program.

The aim of the workshops was to further develop knowledge and capacity of Pacific Electoral Management Body (EMB) staff to administer elections, to result in higher standards of electoral management and professionalism which produce more credible elections in the Region, and to provide further opportunity for members to network and share experiences with a view to collaboration and peer support across the Pacific region in the future.

Both workshops explored aspects of the Voter Information and Gender and Elections modules, a decision based on the PIANZEA Advisory Group decision to use the Integration Plans submitted from PNG, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Samoa.

Participants attended the workshops from Papua New Guinea (4), Vanuatu (2), Timor Leste (4), Samoa (4), Tonga (2), the Federated States of Micronesia (3), the Republic of Marshall Islands (2), the Cook Islands (2), Kiribati (5) and Niue (1). Thirteen AEC Queensland State Office staff also participated in the workshops.

The workshops were facilitated by Brian Latham (AEC), Rothina Noka (Vanuatu), Michael Miller (AEC) and Alice Lupalau Guguna (PNG). Jiv Sekhon (AEC), also attended and supported both workshops as the new PIANZEA Program Manager.

Both workshops were officially opened by Anne Bright, AEC State Manager for Queensland, whose inspiring words set a positive and thoughtful tone to the workshops. The second workshop also saw the valued participation of and input from the AEC’s Kevin Kitson, First Assistant Commissioner, National Office, Canberra and Gabriel Paten, Assistant Commissioner, Strategic Capability Branch, National Office, Canberra.

The workshops consisted of two days each of selected activities from the Voter Information and Gender and Elections module respectively. Areas covered in the Voter Information segment included definitions, rationale and principles of voter information; preparation, designing and planning a voter information program; and voter information program implementation, issues and evaluation. Areas covered in the Gender and Elections segment included democracy, gender and women’s participation; elections, gender and women’s participation; the legal framework; access for women to participate and vote; women’s representation, electoral systems and quotas; voter education; and EMBs and women’s participation.

There was a most enjoyable atmosphere created in the workshops, with participants taking an effective, positive and participatory approach, getting involved and seeking to benefit from the experience. There was much useful, animated discussion throughout the four days of each workshop.

Participant feedback on both the workshop content and facilitator presentation was very positive. There was a particular appreciation of the ability to network and share the experiences, knowledge and points of view of participants from the different countries and electoral systems involved. Some established understandings were challenged, some changed, but all considered in a accepting and interested environment.

Some feedback included:

– This course far surpassed my expectations.  I really enjoyed it!

– Great course, great people.  Well done.

– I learned different points of view on Gender from all environments and will apply it to my own EMB.

– Great to learn from a range of electoral experience from around the Pacific

– I would like to convey my word of thanks to you all our facilitators for your excellent and unforgettable techniques in delivering these sessions.

– Thank you for the wonderful training.  I have learnt much to help with the development of my electoral office.

– I will aim to go home and implement aspects of what I have learnt not only for work that I do at the EMB but other work areas I am involved in.

– The way BRIDGE is presented is the best way for me to learn.  I love the drama and hands on learning.

– SEE YOU AT THE NEXT BRIDGE!!!

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