Australia is a representative democracy, with Government at three levels: local, state and federal. If there’s an issue you’re passionate about, you can contact the decision maker responsible, or the politician who represents your area. These are Councillors (local level), your Member of Victorian Parliament or Victorian Government Minister (state level), or Australian House of Representatives Member (federal level).
In Victoria, local government is made up of 79 councils, each representing a different area. Councils manage local area services and plan for the community’s needs. Councils are made up of democratically elected members (Councillors), whose job is to represent the interests of people who live and work in the area. The Councillors elect a Mayor, who chairs meetings and carries out formal Council duties. Councils employ staff teams or departments to deliver their services. For more information about what councils do and how they work, check out this guide to local government.
First, find your local council. Then click onto their website and look for an ‘About Council’ section. You should be able to see a list of Councillors and their contact details. Work out which Councillor represents your ‘ward’ (your neighbourhood area). If you want to contact someone about a particular service or issue – like your library, or the footpath outside your home – see if you can find the relevant department’s details on the council website. If not, use the ‘contact us’ section to email or ring them.
The Victorian Government is (you guessed it) the government that represents the whole state of Victoria. It provides major services across the State, like education, hospitals, transport and the Police. You can use Vic.gov.au to find all Victorian Government information and services, but some of the different agencies or departments are:
Go to the Parliament of Victoria website and enter your postcode or suburb in the "Find a Member of Parliament" search box.
The different Government agencies and departments are overseen by different Ministers. They are often the best people to contact as they are the top decision-makers for a particular department.
You could also contact the appropriate Shadow Minister - the member of the Victorian opposition who closely follows (or 'shadows') the activities of the relevant government Minister.
Parliamentary committees investigate certain issues and consult with the public to gather evidence. Contacting a parliamentary committee that’s related to your issue can be a good way to highlight your thoughts or concerns. Learn more about committees by watching the video below.
To find out who represents you in the Australian House of Representatives, you need to know your federal electorate area. Go to the Australian Electoral Commission electorate search page and enter your town name, suburb or postcode.
When first contacting a Councillor, MP, or Minister it’s usually best to write them an email. Check out Youth Central’s tips on how to email a politician. Some politicians use social media, so you might be able to contact them there – just remember to be as polite and formal as you would be in an email.
If you’re contacting your Councillor or MP about a particular issue, you could invite them to discuss the issue with you or your group. Or you could try arrange to meet them at their office (most MPs hold regular meetings for local residents called ‘surgeries’). This process is called lobbying – you can use it as part of a campaign or action.
Before contacting an MP or Minister, find out their political party’s views on the issue. Be aware that most MPs will have to stick to the official party policy.
Whoever you want to contact, you should always do some research first to check they are the right person to speak with. Not sure who you should be contacting? Youth Central can help you work out who does what.
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