Write to your elected representatives
Why write to your MP?
MPs need to hear from their constituents. They depend on their communities to educate them about what issues are most important to them. Writing a letter ensures that the people who make decisions on your behalf know how you want to be represented.
While writing to the Minister or Prime Minister directly can be appropriate in certain circumstances, writing to your local MP is often more effective. This is for two reasons:
- You can educate your MP about issues impacting on the communities they represent. Even if your MP does not have direct portfolio responsibility, your letter provides them with an opportunity to learn about the issue and take action themselves.
- Writing to your MP greatly increases your likelihood of receiving a response. The vast majority of MPs will almost always respond to letters from constituents and will be happy to forward your request on to the relevant Minister (even if they disagree with you). In turn, the Minister will be obliged by Parliamentary convention to respond to letters from an MP.
What are the benefits of a personalised letter over a standardised template letter?
MPs and their advisors have confirmed that an original letter sent by one committed, passionate constituent is a far more powerful way to influence decision makers than a pile of identical letters or an avalanche of proforma emails.
Mass email actions and template letters tend to have less impact because MPs know that they only take a few seconds to complete and are not necessarily representative of the priorities of their constituents. Taking the time to craft a personalised and well-informed letter demonstrates to an MP that there are people in their electorate that care deeply about an issue. In turn, your opinions are likely to be taken more seriously.
While we’ve developed a template letter that you can use to write to your MP, we encourage you to adapt or personalise your letter to maximise the impact.
Tips for writing your letter
Be succinct – aim for your letter to be no longer than one and a half sides of A4.
Keep to the point – focus on one issue and don’t try and cover too many things in one letter.
Be polite – Don’t be afraid to show your passion and commitment to the issue, but make sure your letter is courteous. Being polite and respectful is far more likely to achieve positive results than being insulting or abusive.
Don’t forget to include your contact details and request a response.
Make sure you use the correct title – do you address your MP as Mr, Ms, Dr, The Hon? You can find out the correct title by looking up the guide for writing to MPs on the Parliament of Australia website.
Hard-copy letter or email are both acceptable, although parliamentarians receive a high volume of emails and some are more responsive to hard copy letters from constituents. An effective approach that may increase your chances of receiving a response is to send both an email and a hard copy letter by post. You can search for your local member and find out their postal and email address on the Parliament of Australia website.
Structuring your letter
If this is your first correspondence with your MP, you might want to start by introducing yourself, making it clear you are a constituent and noting any active involvement you may have in community groups or local activities that connect you to the issue (e.g. membership of Vinnies, or volunteer work with other local charities or community groups that assist or advocate for those in need).
If you are writing your letter shortly after a Federal Election, you may also want to open the letter by congratulating your MP on their election to Federal Parliament.
After the introducing yourself, a useful way to structure your letter is the following format:
- Engage your MP. Get your MP’s attention with a concise and clear statement. State what the issue is and start with a clear statement of the purpose of the letter.
- Explain the problem. Present the causes and consequences of the problem you are writing about. How widespread or serious is the problem? If you have a personal connection to the topic (e.g. witnessing the effects of the low rate of Newstart in terms of homelessness and/or financial struggle) then this is a great way of engaging your MP and conveying your passion and commitment, as well as illustrating the concrete effects of inadequate income support within your local community.
- Inform the MP about the solutions or policy change that is needed. Develop your solution by demonstrating why the change necessary and how it will benefit those living in poverty and the wider community.
- Call to Action. Now that you’ve engaged your MP, presented the problem and informed them of a solution, you need to let them know what you want them to do about it. Be clear on what concrete action you want your MP to take (e.g. raising the issue with their colleagues or the relevant minister or shadow minister; publicly speaking out on the need to immediately raise the rate of Newstart by a minimum of $75; and/or inviting them to meet with you and other members of the local community to further discuss the issue).
Finish the letter by saying that you look forward to receiving their reply, and sign off with an appropriate salutation (e.g. regards, yours sincerely, thank you).
You may also want to request a meeting with them to discuss the issue further. Make sure you provide your contact details so the MP can respond.
You have taken an important action to help generate the political will to end poverty. It is often persistence and a collective conviction that drives change and, by writing a letter, you have directly added to that collective effort.
Follow up with your MP
Be patient as you wait for a reply to your letter – politicians lead busy lives! If you haven’t had an acknowledgement of your letter after a couple of weeks, give your MP’s office a ring to check they have received your letter and politely ask when you are likely to receive a response. If you still don’t hear back from them for another two weeks, try again. Be both persistent and polite. Click here to download a follow up letter.
Share your reply
We want to know if you lobby your MP. If your MP responds or takes action, please tell us! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This will help us to track MPs’ positions and target them better, and you can also help to inspire others!