These resources are provided to assist people to participate
in social action ministry. They are drawn from a number
of experienced sources, all of which are acknowledged.
may have good intentions and desire social change
based on the values of the Gospel and Catholic Social
Teaching, human history tells us that this does not come easily
Often it is a matter of being in for the long haul
and of developing the skills needed to influence positive outcomes.
happens as action unfolds, on the run! Further, in
today's world, public policy is often the mechanism for effecting
change. This involves engagement with the political
process in many social democracies, including Australia. For
participation in the political process, citizens
These resources are targeted at assisting people
to acquire some of the skills needed to participate in social
and/or to refresh skills. We hope that people will
find it a useful collection of resources to support social
to Michele Bourke who put this together. This was part of a project
of gathering resources to augment and support
people engaged in social action ministry. Other supports
include a data-base of political contacts and electorates information.
These are available from the Social Action Office.
to Dee Hunt for desk-topping and making this document user-friendly.
hope that this compilation of resources will be helpful. Feedback
Social Action Office Team
(Graphic by Grace de Jesus-Sievert, ClipArt
Vol.1 No.1, Isis International, Manila 1995)
HOW TO VISIT A POLITICIAN
Visiting a politician is one of the most powerful things you
can do. It carries much more weight than signing a petition,
sending a postcard or making a phone call, or even sending
a letter. It's not difficult to visit an elected local member,
yet very few people in Australia have done it. To make your
visit as successful as possible, here are some suggestions:
Before the Visit
Organise others who are concerned about the issue/concern
to form a delegation to meet with your local
member. It is good to visit the local member in a group. A maximum
people is appropriate.
Ensure that you know the
local member's names, electorate, and party.
Contact your local member's office. Tell the office
how many will be attending, the names of each person in the delegation
and the group/s they represent (if applicable).
likely length of the meeting. Half an hour is
normal meeting length.
If appropriate and if time permits prepare
a package of information
to send to the local member prior to the
delegation meeting. The information package may include the names
in the delegation, the group/s they represent
and material relating to the issue/s you wish to discuss and
recommendations for action.
Ensure that before the meeting all members of your
delegation are clear about the points to be raised, who will raise
and the action you would like the local member
to take. Appoint someone to be responsible for introducing delegation
to the politician and keeping time in the meeting.
that all delegation members know where the meeting is to be
held as well as parking arrangements or bus/train
locations. If necessary check that the meeting
venue is accessible to people with a physical disability. Ask
to meet outside the venue at least 15 minutes
prior to the scheduled meeting time.
On the Day of the Meeting
Arrive early at the meeting venue. This will give you time
to clarify the points to be raised and who will raise them.
appropriately. Politicians may react negatively to anyone dressed
in a messy, radical or unkempt way. This may
turn them against your cause, regardless
of the worth of your ideas.)
Be friendly, polite and patient and don't
Remember your outline and objectives and
make sure you get to raise the issues you intended to raise.
on the issue - this is important. Ask them
how their work is going. Be nice don't just push your own concerns.
the local member what they would be prepared to do. It is very
important that you are able to draw a commitment from
the local member what action they would be
prepared to take. Some suggestions include: make a public statement;
a minister on your behalf; write a letter raising
your concerns; ask a question in Parliament; raise the issue
at a party meeting.
At the end of the meeting thank the local member
for the visit and leave some information. Regardless of the outcome,
them again for the opportunity to meet with
them and to air your concerns. Leave a copy of the information
and recommendations for action.
After the Visit
Get together delegation members and debrief about the meeting
with your local member.
Organise for a member of your delegation
to write a letter of thanks for the meeting to your local member.
up with the elected member and make sure he/she honours any commitment
to you. If you don't hear anything within a
reasonable time period, phone or write, and
keep on it until it is resolved.
If the visit to your local member
is part of a broader campaign where others are meeting with their
local members in other
electorates, communicate with the contact person
who is organising the lobbying campaign and provide feedback
about your delegations
visit. This feedback is essential for a successful
Get ready for the next visit to your local
member. Now that lobbying has been shown to be a lot easier than
you first thought,
remember that it gets easier every time you
(Adapted from "How
to Visit a Politician" NET
ACT - A Project of Catholic Social Justice Welfare and Educational
HOW TO ACCESS AND
WORK WITH BUREAUCRACIES
The easiest way to get information is to ask for it. Ring
the Department or organisation
in question and ask for the public relations person or the information
officer. Ask for
any information they have and specifically
information regarding the structure of the organisation.
have a particular inquiry ask who would be the relevant
person to speak to. Remember too
that reports must be available either in libraries or directories.
Ask any librarian for clues.
Personalise the process. A large
bureaucracy makes it easier for people to hide. You must not
allow the people you are dealing
with to do it!
If you are given a name, keep it. If you are
not given a name ask the person for it. Address phone calls and
letters to a
particular person by name as well
as title where possible.
Aim for the top. Unless you are sure
of who the responsible person is and feel confident that addressing
that person will
achieve results, approach the Minister,
Head of Department or company Chairman directly.
way of 'covering your basis' is to address the letter to the
Minister and send photocopies to the relevant
lower level bureaucrats. Or vice
versa, address your correspondence to the bureaucrat and send
copies to the Minister and the Head
of Department with a brief cover
note. Also note at the bottom of the original letter, to whom
copies are being sent. (you
can do this simply by putting 'cc'
and the names/titles of the people receiving copies).
Do not be
put off. Do not accept vague explanations. Insist on details
in writing. If a promise is made but the letter
doesn't arrive or the response
is unsatisfactory, contact the person responsible again. If you
that the person you are
addressing is not in a position
to help, write or speak to the person in charge of that section.
you do not understand an explanation, say so and ask that it
be clarifies. Continue to do so until either you do understand
or you realise it is a hoax.
If possible make sure your own requests are specific.
but insistent. Abuse is counter-productive. It is often most
appropriate to suggest to the person 'out front'
that you realise they are not personally
to blame and that you can appreciate their likely discomfort
about the situation
but... then explain your need,
make your request.
Address your concerns to the right person. Generally
speaking, receptionists and clerks are not responsible for policy
Your concern about an issue may
be justified but it is most effectively channelled into action
at influencing the
(Taken from "Changing
You and I and Us - A Guide to Social Action" - Catholic Commission
for Justice and Peace, Sydney 1985)
Thornton rsm, NETWORK USA
TO A POLITICIAN
- PROTOCOLS AND SAMPLE LETTERS
'Correct' style is less important than careful
presentation. However, if
you are worried about how to write a letter, just drop in at
your local library and borrow an
English grammar book; the
librarian will be able to help you find one.
If you feel only
a little uncertain, the following
tips might be enough to see
There are no hard and fast rules on how to address officials
and bureaucrats as practice and personal preferences vary.'
Heads of State, such as Presidents, may be addressed as
Prime Ministers and other Ministers are generally addressed
as 'Dear Prime Minister' - 'Dear Minister' or simply as 'Dear
Mr' or 'Dear Ms'.
Ambassadors and High Commissioners always seem to be addressed
as 'Your Excellency'.
All other diplomats are simply 'Dear Sir' or 'Dear Madam'.
For bureaucrats, executives and other officials you can
open your letter with 'Dear Sir' or 'Dear Madam' or simply
by name ('Dear Mr...' or 'Dear Ms...')
To end your letter, you can use the simply 'Yours truly'
'Yours faithfully', or 'Yours sincerely' without fear of
Always write on the basis that the government, company
or official you are writing to is open to reason and discussion.
If there is something positive to say, say it.
It is always worth saying who you are and, of course,
why you are writing.
Be brief. On occasions a simple one or two line letter
will be adequate.
Whenever possible include a request that necessitates
(Taken from "Changing
You and I and Us - A Guide to Social
Action" - Catholic Commission
for Justice and Peace, Sydney 1985)
Sample Letter 1
live in the electorate of Mt Ommaney and I wish congratulate
your government on its commitment to job creation and
to the reduction of unemployment in Queensland. The
recent Issues Paper People and Places: a profile
of growing disadvantage in Queensland, presents
a disturbing picture of growing disadvantage in Queensland
and highlights the impact of housing costs on poverty
I support your Government's emphasis on jobs, jobs
alone will not overcome the difficulties faced by the
many Queenslanders who live below the poverty line.
believe that suitable, secure and affordable housing,
along with jobs that provide a living wage, are essential
ingredients in overcoming socio-economic disadvantage
in this State. It is imperative that the Queensland
Government maintain a commitment to developing public
housing stock for low-income people as this State is
below the national average in public stock as a proportion
of total housing stock. There are an increasing number
of vulnerable people with complex needs in our society
and housing support services must be expanded to ensure
that these people can maintain affordable tenancies.
acknowledge that Government resources are stretched,
but I urge your government to make provision of suitable,
secure and affordable housing a priority in the forthcoming
1999 State Budget. I also urge your government to adopt
more cooperative and creative inter-departmental programs
to deal more effectively with growing social need.
look forward to seeing a State Budget for 1999 which
reflects your Government's pre-election commitment
to bring 'social rationalism' into balance with 'economic
rationalism' and which reflects a 'whole of government'
approach to the significant problem of growing social
and economic disadvantage in Queensland.
urge the Democrats to consider the impact of any form
of Goods and Services Tax on those people who are the
most economically disadvantaged in our community.
I acknowledge your attempts to reduce the negative
impacts on the poor by exempting food from the GST
I believe that the tax to be imposed on services will
also hit hardest those people who are already struggling
to make ends meet.
you for considering my concerns.
WITH THE MEDIA
Writing a Media Release
The best way to attract the attention of all
media is by a well-written media release. A media release is
relatively easy to write if you follow a few simple
Your Media Release must answer the questions:
What? Where? When? Why? And How? Aim to answer these questions
in the first paragraph.
Ten key style elements:
Create an attention-grabbing headline.
Be clear. Be brief. Try to restrict yourself to one page.
Use short sentences/paragraphs. Use double spacing.
Use positive words and phrases.
Clearly date the release.
Attribute all statements to the organisation or to a particular
person. The media are unable to use newsworthy quotes unless
News media love quotable quotes, sayings or comments which
stand out for their originality and simplicity.
Emphasise the local angle.
Avoid cliches. No religious or church jargon. End the
release with a contact person (preferably two contact names),
listing business and after-hours phone numbers. They MUST
be there if the phone rings!
If you are contacting the Catholic media, they would appreciate
an accompanying clearly-labelled photograph.
Keep language simple and easy to read.
It is essential that the contact person is competent,
confident and able to provide accurate, immediate information.
the event is "news" and you wish
live coverage by press or television, send your Media Release
prior to the event.
The distribution and timing of the release should
be keyed to the deadlines of the media that are to receive
(Taken from the article entitled How
a Media Release in 'Australian Religious')
Sample Press Release
Church Solidarity with MUA Families
"The Church cannot ignore the
fundamental human rights issues involved in the current
waterfront dispute" Ms
Coralie Kingston of the
Social Action Office,
Conference of Leaders of
Religious Institutes said
She said that the fact that a company
can shift millions of dollars worth of assets and
then claim not to have the resources to pay its workforce,
arguably, may be legal but it is not moral. It is
an unprecedented attack upon workers and sets a dangerous
precedent in employee-employer relationships in this
country. The basic right to work cannot just be taken
from people in this way.
"This shows just how important
trade unions are in protecting the jobs of ordinary
Church groups in Brisbane will host
a solidarity gathering in support of MUA workers
and their families on 27 April from 7.30 pm at St
Mary's Catholic Church, South Brisbane. This is intended
to give the MUA workers and their families the opportunity
to tell their side of the story and to balance the
Reith-Corrigan-McGauchie public relations exercise
which has cast these workers in negative working
For further comment:
Ms Coralie Kingston, Social Action Office (07) 3891 5866
Mr Gary Everett, Catholic Justice
and Peace Commission (07) ...
The best person to contact for coverage of a
news story depends on the type of media:
A large newspaper: The Chief of Staff or a specialists
editor, such as Sports Editor.
Local and regional newspapers: The Editor or Assistant
Television and radio news: The News Director.
Radio talk-back programmes: The Producer or Research
Television Current Affairs: The news Director for
a general news story, otherwise the Producer or Research
Approximately two hundred releases per day are
sent to each individual media outlet. Ninety percent of them
go in the bin, therefore a media release should never be just
sent - it should always be preceded by and followed up with
a personal contact direct to the addressee.
(Taken from Notes for Workshop on Media at
the National Vocations Conference, presented by Maureen McDaniell)
Graffiti - West
Writing a Letter to the Editor
- Guidelines and Sample Letter
Identify two or three points you wish to make
Write in short simple sentences
Try to limit what you are saying to around 300 words
commend your newspaper for its recent coverage of environmental
issues such as vegetation clearance, land salinity
and habitat loss. These matters affect us all, not
just people on the land. They are relevant also for
the well-being of future generations. With the information
provided to us in recent editions of The Courier-Mail we
can no longer claim ignorance.
a society we all need to work together to find solutions
to the crises facing the environment. We also expect
our State Government to give strong leadership in this
and urge that this be forthcoming especially in relation
to vegetation clearance which is occurring in Queensland
at an alarming rate.
Pauline Coll sgs
Social Action Office
Talk-back Radio - Seven
Easy Steps to Action
On your way to the phone, work out the one or two points
that you want to make. Jot down some catchy ways of saying
The first challenge is to get on. Perseverance is the
key. Talk-back is a hit and miss affair really - just keep
pushing the redial button.
You've got the dial tone - they are answering. Usually
you will get the producer first. They will screen you by
asking what comment you want to make. If you sound interesting
and coherent, they will put you through to the presenter
and flash up some of your key words on the screen in the
studio. So - be passionate or coolly analytical - whatever
is appropriate - but be interesting.
The producer will also tell you to turn your radio off
so they don't get 'feedback' - that screechy noise. You must
do this or you'll be off-air before you start. If you want
to record your moment of glory, put a tape in and turn the
volume right down.
Speak clearly right into the mouthpiece - your telephone
handset doesn't reproduce the voice all that clearly, so
you need to help the technology along.
Right! You're on and going hell for leather, and blast
it, the announcer's just interrupted you and the brilliant
flow of rhetoric. With the technology used, the moment the
announcer speaks into the microphone, a little instrument
called the 'ducker' cuts you out and only the announcer's
voice can be heard by listeners.
All you need to do is stop speaking, listen to what the
announcer is saying to you, and either continue your line
of thought if that's appropriate or answer their question
once they have stopped speaking. Unfortunately you can't
interrupt the announcer while they are speaking. But you
do still have some control. You don't have to answer questions
you don't want to - just say something like 'that's a very
good point - but first let me tell you about (whatever you
(Taken from Notes for Workshop
on Media at the National Vocations Conference, presented
by Maureen McDaniell)
Some General Tips for Working
with the Media
People are more interesting than policy statements. In
working out how to raise an issue with the media, remember
that people are more interesting than issues. Most media
organisations are trying to appeal to a mass audience - and
the general public is more interested in people than intellectual
debate. People with an interesting personal story or accounts
of people-centred events are more likely to make the media
than policy statements.
Think visually. The press and television are visual media
and decisions on which stories to run and which not to run
are made both on the content and the photographs or television
footage which comes with them. When you promote a story to
a media outlet, think of the visual images which can help
to back it up. Let the media outlet know if you can provide
a photo opportunity.
Organise an event. Consider organising some form of "media
event" - a people-focused event that may make an interesting
newspaper photograph or television footage. Perhaps involving
young people in street theatre, staging a protest, organising
a vigil, organising an unusual kind of meal (a meagre rice
meal to make a point about hunger), presenting an unusual
Timing of a media event is crucial. Be aware of the way
in which your local media operates, because this will give
you a clue to the best time to organise an event. The general
wisdom is that, when dealing with the major metropolitan
media, quiet days like Sundays are best. In the main regional
centres with TV news and daily newspapers, weekday mornings
are best (to give plenty of time to make the evening TV news
bulletin). Where only weekly newspapers exist, the quietest
times are in the day or two after the last publication has
been published (to give plenty of time for the article to
be written for the next publication).
Respect deadlines. Find out about the deadlines of various
media organisations (ring and ask) and respect these deadlines.
If you want something published, don't leave your run too
Think locally. Media statements spelling out an organisation's
view can work - particularly if the opinion is interesting
and controversial and has a clear "local flavour".
To have a local flavour, it must be clearly the action of
local people (with local people being quoted) and/or related
to local circumstances. Never forget the parochial nature
of the suburban, regional and country media. If it doesn't
have a local angle, it generally won't be used.
Provide background. Always try to provide a media release
or background information. Even if an interview takes place,
the media release gives the journalist some accurate quotes,
an understanding of the points you are making and the correct
names of people and organisations.
Fax first and then phone. In the initial contact, fax
the information first and follow it up with a phone call.
Remember that faxes in a busy newsroom can easily go astray,
go to the wrong person or go to someone less inclined to
act. A follow-up phone call will also give you a fair idea
of whether the particular media organisation is likely to
give you any coverage.
Make contact. Personal contact can make the difference
of whether your media release or event gets coverage or not.
Faxes and letters draw responses sometimes but follow-up
phone calls greatly increase the chance of publication or
broadcasting. If you don't know who to speak to, ask when
you ring up.
Remember the breadth of the media. Don't be limited in
your choice of media to approach. Send you media releases
and invitations to events to all media in your area. Coverage
can potentially come from: metropolitan and regional daily
newspapers, smaller country town newspapers, free weekly
papers in suburban areas and larger towns, diocesan church
newspapers, ABC and commercial radio news services, radio
talk-back and current affairs programs, community radio (local,
Christian, ethnic and alternative stations), TV news and
current affairs programs. If you don't know all of your local
media, find an up-to-date media guide (always available in
local libraries if you can't find one elsewhere).
Borrow good ideas from others. If you are unsure about
how to write a media release, don't be afraid of copying
others. Collect any examples of media releases or press clippings
which you regard as effective in their communication - and
copy the style. Keep sentences short and to the point. Don't
be afraid of making controversial statements (as long as
they are appropriate). Controversial or imaginative comments
are more likely to be published - and to capture the attention
of the general public.
Send a letter to the editor. Letters to the editor are
an excellent way of getting across a point of view on a particular
issue. Many newspaper surveys have shown that the letters
pages are among the most widely read sections of the paper
(often the most widely read section). To have a hope of getting
a letter published in a major metropolitan daily, your letter
needs to be very timely (e-mail and fax are the best ways
to send a letter in response to emerging issues) and very
pithy. Many regional, country and suburban newspapers publish
most of the letters they receive - but some local papers
want to restrict letter to issues with a local angle. Where
this is the case, find a way of relating the issue to the
Don't forget radio talk-back programs. If you are sending
media releases to radio stations, make sure that both the
news journalists and the radio presenters receive it. If
you are trying to interest a radio presenter in an interview,
make sure that you have a competent and willing interviewee
lined up. The talk-back format of many local ABC stations
and some commercial stations provide good opportunities for
organisations keen to get their views across. These talk-back
programs need a variety of interesting issues to cover. Your
topic might just grab a radio presenter's attention.
Remember regional differences. If you are working across
a Diocese, be aware of the regional differences in the local
media. For instance, the local Diocese of Wollongong, has
four district regions in which the media operate - based
on the towns of Wollongong, Campbelltown, Nowra and Bowral.
As Wollongong is the base of the two local TV stations and
the main daily newspapers, it is the best location for major
media events. However, to get coverage in the other regions,
the event or statements to be promoted need to be localised.
Having a regional spokesperson in each of the regions greatly
increases the chances of an issue being covered - as does
localising the information.
Take your own photos for small papers - but not for larger
ones. Provide photos for small publications and think of
photo opportunities for others. Newspapers which employ photographers
always give preference to photos taken by their own photographic
staff. (Photographers quickly complain where their photos
are overlooked in favour of contributed photos.) But remember
that the media (particularly the suburban and regional media)
doesn't work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Between 9am and
5pm weekdays is usually the best time to organise a photo.
Ask for help. Seek advice from people who know about the
media - especially local media officers and any journalists
(Adapted from the handout by Paul Power,
Wollongong Diocesan Justice, Development and Welfare Network,
A BROCHURE OR LEAFLET
Some helpful hints for designing a brochure or
leaflet to promote your group and/or campaign:
- Short words
- Short sentences
- Familiar words
- A positive approach
- Concrete terms
- Simple typeface (font) 10-12 point type size
- Dark print on light background colour
- An expert or publicly known person to endorse message
- Less than 3 different typefaces (fonts)
- Moderate line length (not less than newspaper column)
- Paragraphs (not all one block of text)
- Titles (at top of text)
- Headings (for paragraphs)
- Pictures and graphics and place near relevant text
- Realistic illustrations
- Roman numerals
- Negative statements
- Probability statements
- Blocks of Italics (one word alone is OK)
(Adapted from The Development
of a Checklist of Content and Design Characteristics for Printed
Health Education Materials by Christine L Paul, Selina Redman
and Robert W Sanson-Fisher, in "Health Promotion Journal
of Australia" 1997;
OF A POSTCARD CAMPAIGN
to the Queensland Government Internet Resources
Commission of Queensland
Electoral Lobby Australia Inc
Resources for Australian Activists
Party of Australia
National Party of Australia
Aid Abroad - Oxfam Australia
Council for International Development (ACFID)
The Social Action Office acknowledges
the sources from which most of the material in this document