Photographer : Pippa Collin
Sitting down and writing an original letter to a politician isn’t as convenient as sending a form letter or email composed by someone else, but it is much more effective and much more likely to receive a personalised response.
1) Start broad. Work out what the issue is you are passionate about. Now get specific. What change do you want to see? What message do you want to deliver?
2) Do background research. This will help you to refine your thinking on the issue and will give you information to support your view and argue your case.
3) You might want to try and find out:
- Statistics—has any relevant research been done which could support your case? For example: if you were writing a letter to the Minister for Health about banning smoking in clubs and pubs you might want to find out how many people have suffered health problems as a result of second hand smoke.
- Who has done what. What actions have been taken by the government? By the opposition and minor parties? By organisations who are passionate about the issue?
- Who thinks what? What’s the government’s view? Where do the opposition and minor parties stand on the issue? What views are presented by key organisations?
- Any other interesting facts? Has there been a recent demonstration? Has the issue received any media attention?
4) Ideas for where to search:
- The website of the government department responsible
- Federal or state parliament websites. Here you can search Hansard, which is the transcript of parliament. It’s great for finding out who said what. You can also find out about any Bills (laws) that are being introduced that affect your issue. The easiest way to learn about a Bill is to read the Minister’s Second Reading Speech or the Explanatory Memorandum (EM). Both should clearly explain what the Bill is about.
- Political party websites.
- Websites of key organisations involved in your issue.
5) Which politician? Make sure you address the letter to the right politician. There are heaps of tools in the ActNow government toolkit
that will help you work this out.
Tips for writing the letter
Use formal language but remember you are expressing your point of view, so phrases like ‘I feel’ and ‘I want to see’ are good to include.
Being abusive or offensive won’t do you any favours—you can be firm and state your case without being rude.
- Include your name and contact details in the top right-hand corner of the page
- Include their name and contact details underneath on the left-hand side of the page
Form of address:
- Dear Prime Minister
- Dear Premier
- Dear Minister
- Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Dr (surname)
- State what the issue is
- State what you want done about it
- Focus on two or three main points which support your view. Use examples from your research as evidence.
- Reiterate your view expressed in the introduction
- Pick one strong example from your letter to back up your point
- Ask for the politician to respond to your letter
- Conclude with a salutation, e.g. regards, yours sincerely