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The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) recently hosted 78 officials from Pacific Island countries under the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-funded and AEC-led, Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators Network (PIANZEA) in Brisbane. Spanning across two separate weeks the event encompassed a senior officials meeting and three concurrent BRIDGE workshops.

The event attracted Ministerial-level participation, with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, meeting leaders from electoral management bodies on the final day of the three-day senior officials meeting. The Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston hosted a welcome dinner for leaders.

The three BRIDGE modules included:

Voter and Civic Education facilitated by Peita Mamo AEC, Gary Tavoa Vanuatu Electoral Office, Ana Mataiciwa Fijian Elections Office

Legal Framework facilitated by Ross Attrill AEC, Michelle Aisake Cook Islands Electoral Office, Vitilevu Simati Office of the Electoral Commissioner Samoa

Operational Planning facilitated by Cate Thompson AEC, Asenaca Kolinivala Fijian Elections Office, Takiakia Maati Electoral Office Kiribati

Participants included representatives from Australia, Bougainville, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Reflections include:

The PIANZEA extravaganzia was a wonderful opportunity to work alongside colleagues from throughout the Pacific, and to take the next step on the BRIDGE journey following my recent completion of the TtF. The Legal Framework group included participants with no legal background through to those with decades of experience, and it was great to see how much sharing of knowledge and experience there was amongst the participants. PIANZEA is a terrific network to be involved with, and special thanks to the BRIDGE lead facilitators for their expertise and support. Jen

The workshop was worthwhile.  Participants engaged throughout the sessions, sharing ideas and experiences were extremely fantastic as the group had a good mixture of age, gender as well as election experience.  As a facilitator having three workshops running all at once was wonderful.  Participants were able to talk to each other, sharing what they learnt during breaks; it was far beyond expectation with knowledge sharing, experience and enthusiastic abilities ensuring that all participants were satisfied with all their learning and able to take home what deserved to be shared.  Asenaca

These successful and important workshops give us tools, information and knowledge.  This training is not only essential in our election work but can be applied through life’s long career by anyone who loves learning new ideas, to improve self and share with others.  Thank you very much for the opportunities.  Bennie

Organisers, facilitators and participants all agree the unique experience of the PIANZEA BRIDGE allowed each individual attending to take home positives including developing new collegiate relationships which extend across the vast Pacific, increasing specific electoral knowledge and finding or renewing enthusiasms and passion for the important and rewarding life of an electoral administrator.

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