Each electorate in Australia is represented by a Member of Parliament (MP). One of the most important parts of an MP’s role, according to the Parliament of New South Wales, is to “provide assistance, where appropriate, to constituents in regard to any problems they may be having with Government,” because after all, it’s their job to represent you in Parliament.
There are a number of reasons why you might want to contact your local MP, including to demand action on climate change, to address certain inadequacies in the healthcare system or to shed light on any other issues in your community.
How to make contact with your local MP
There are a few ways to get in contact with your local Member of Parliament including by phone, via email or physical mail or by scheduling a meeting with Member in person. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, it might be difficult to organise a face-to-face meeting at this time.
Instead, writing a letter is probably your best bet as well as an email. Sending your correspondence in a digital and analogue form will hopefully mean you’re getting some eyes across the issue. And, unlike a phone call, when you sent a letter you should receive one back from your MP.
Before you grab your laptop to start typing our your letter, head to the Parliament of Australia website and pop in your postcode in order to find out who your local Member is and their contact details. Now you’re ready to write.
How to write a letter to your MP
To begin your letter, write the name and address of the MP in the top left-hand corner. According to Oxfam, an MP’s name should be stated as follows: “Mr/ Mrs/Ms/Dr First Name Last Name MP”. If your local Member has been given a title like “The Honourable” you must also include this. For example, “The Hon. First Name Last Name MP”.
When you search for your local Member in the above database, it will tell you if your MP has a specific title that needs to be included.
The Parliament of Australia has also created a handy rundown sheet of how you should address Senators and Members in salutation and concluding sentiments. For example, when writing to a Member, the letter should begin with “Dear The Hon. Mr/Mrs, MP” and sign off with “Yours faithfully, Your Name”.
After you’ve written the above details, begin your letter by introducing yourself to your Member and state why you’re writing to them. The Climate Council recommends including that you’re a constituent of their electorate (and therefore a voter!) as “MPs tend to care more about the people they represent.”
Personalise the letter to tell the MP how the issue has affected you or your community. Including a personal experience or anecdote will help make it a tangible and relatable issue for your MP. For example, if you’re writing to your MP about climate change, you might include how your life has been altered by drought or bushfires.
Including stats and facts on this matter alongside these personal experiences is also helpful for a well-rounded approach. In the case of climate change, look to organisations like Climate Council for relevant and specific information.
Finally, make sure to be super clear on what action you want your MP to take. It might include making a speech in Parliament, raising the issue at a meeting or voting for or against something in Parliament. Whatever it is, be clear that is the action you would like to see your local Member take on your behalf.
End your letter by saying that you look forward to receiving a response to this issue and make sure to pop in your contact details so they can do just that.
Letter writing tips
A few things to keep in mind when writing your correspondence.
— Keep it brief
Your local Member’s office receives a lot of mail (as well as emails) so keep your letter brief, short and snappy and on one page — two pages at the most. Type your letter out or write it very neatly and sign your signature at the bottom.
Make sure to stick to just one issue per letter and lay it out in easy to read terms that clearly state the action you are hoping to see in regards to this matter. Oxfam recommends including an additional document that contains extra information if the issue is overly technical and needs further explanation.
— Be polite
While you might feel frustrated about the matter at hand, be direct but polite in your letter. Hurling abuse or negative comments at your MP isn’t helpful and is sure to make them feel less receptive to the cause.
— Follow up
The Climate Council recommends waiting a month after you have sent your letter, then follow up with a call to the MP’s office to remind them of said letter and enquire as to when you’ll hear back from your Member. “If you still don’t hear back from them for another two weeks, try again. Be both persistent and polite.”