Arranging an election

The rules of registered organisations must explain how office-holders are elected to office. How elections are conducted is set out in the rules of the organisation and in the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (the RO Act).

When an election is due under the organisation’s rules, the registered organisation or branch must lodge prescribed information with the Commission (unless an election exemption is held, which is discussed below). Prescribed information triggers the Commission to issue a decision which then commences the election process. 

Prescribed information must be lodged with the Commission at least two months before nominations in an election are due to open. It must include:  

  • the name of each office or position (and how many are being elected)
  • the reason for the election
  • the electorate for any required ballot
  • the dates and times for the opening and closing of nominations
  • the day provided for in the rules on which the roll of voters is to be closed
  • the voting system to be used
  • any non-office positions for which an election is required. 

The prescribed information must be signed by an officer of the organisation or branch who is authorised under their rules to sign documents lodged with the Commission.

Read about how to prepare prescribed information in our elections fact sheet.

Registered organisations and their branches are encouraged to use a template to prepare and lodge prescribed information:

Most organisations and branches use a template as it ensures that all relevant information is included. This both minimises the chance that an amended prescribed information may be required and assists the timely completion of the election arrangement. 


The conduct of elections

Once a decision is issued, it is the AEC’s role to conduct the election. The AEC will appoint a returning officer to oversee the election. 

Some actions in relation to the conduct of elections are an offence, including:

  • using organisation or branch property or resources to assist one candidate over another
  • hindering or obstructing an electoral official in the conduct of the election
  • interfering with the election process
  • offering or accepting a bribe 
  • the making of threats in relation to the election. 

There are steps that registered organisations and branches can take to support the ROC and the AEC to oversee an efficient election process.


After an election has been run

On completion of an election, the AEC will issue a post-election report to the organisation or branch and also to the Commission. The registered organisation must notify its members that a post-election report is available from the AEC or from the organisation or branch upon request.  

A post-election report will describe how the election has been run. It includes:

  • the declaration of the results of the election
  • the number of written allegations (if any) of irregularities made to the AEC during the election, and any action taken by the AEC about the allegations
  • any irregularities identified by the AEC and any action taken.

The report may also include information that an election rule was ambiguous or difficult for the AEC to interpret or apply. In these circumstances, the organisation is required to respond to the AEC’s report and notify its members. The organisation’s response to the AEC’s adverse report is required within 30 days.

If as a result of the election, new office-holders are elected to office the registered organisation will need to:

  • update its records about the current office-holders
  • lodge a notification of change(s) with the Commission within 35 days of the change occurring
  • organise for new office-holders to complete financial management training (if the office holder has financial management duties) within six months of assuming office, or apply for an exemption. 


Election exemptions

There are benefits for registered organisations and their branches in having the AEC conduct their elections, including the Commonwealth paying for the costs of running the election and having access to the skills and expertise of an agency that specialises in elections. 

However, some registered organisations and branches hold election exemptions which allow them to:

  • conduct their own elections either in whole or in part
  • have a direct voting system election that is not conducted by postal ballot. 

Election exemptions for an organisation to conduct its own election are granted by the General Manager of the Commission (or their Delegate).

Email any questions about elections please to regorgs@fwc.gov.au

What we do


Your turn! Practice what you’ve learnt

Question 1: Changing rules


Your registered organisation is due to lodge prescribed information for an upcoming election. Your organisation also has an application to change your election rules. 
Once the rules are certified some of the offices in the scheduled election will be abolished.

Question: What steps can you take to comply with your election requirements and contribute to an efficient election process?

You must lodge prescribed information at least two months before nominations open, and the information must match your rules at the time of lodgement. Use the prescribed information template to ensure you lodge all the information required for an election to be arranged. The template will remind you to advise the Commission about how the changes are likely to affect the upcoming election. This will help the Commission explore options with you about the election, your rule changes and potential timelines.

Question 2: Electing a non-office position 


Your organisation’s rules allow for a non-office position of CEO to be elected. You know the process for a non-office position is different to elections of offices.

Question: What must you do to prepare for the election?

We recommend you use the prescribed information template that includes non-office positions. It’s been designed to step you through the additional requirements for arranging a non-office position election. You must write to the AEC requesting the election of your CEO (the template includes a sample letter you can use). You must attach a copy of the letter you sent to the AEC when you lodge the prescribed information.


Back to the dashboard


Go to module 7: The duties of officers