Advocating to Government - CanAct | Cancer Council NSW

Advocating to Government

Politicians have the power to make decisions and laws on our behalf. Therefore, a basic understanding of Australian government systems is important for effective advocacy. Below, you will find an overview of federal, state, and local government contacts and bodies, with helpful links to find further information.


Federal Government

The Department of Health

Develop and deliver policies and programs and advise the Australian Government on health, aged care and sport. Working with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure better health for all Australians.

The Hon. Greg Hunt, Minister for Health and Aged Care

Appointed Minister for Health and Sport in January 2017. Greg is incredibly passionate about the health portfolio and his vision is to ensure that Australia has the best health care system in the world. To achieve this Greg secured ongoing funding of Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme through the establishment of the Medicare Guarantee Fund .

Cancer Australia

Established by the Australian Government in 2006 to benefit all Australians affected by cancer, and their families and carers. Cancer Australia aims to reduce the impact of cancer, address disparities and improve outcomes for people affected by cancer by leading and coordinating national, evidence-based interventions across the continuum of care.

Australian Government Directory

A guide to the structures, organisations and key people in the Australian Government.


NSW State Government

NSW Health

Ministerial department of the New South Wales Government. NSW Health supports the executive and statutory roles of the Minister for Health, the Minister for Medical Research, and the Minister for Mental Health. The Ministry also monitors the performance of state-wide health organisations that collectively make up NSW Health. It is primarily responsible for the public health system in New South Wales, particularly through public hospitals as well as associated agencies and statutory authorities, such as the NSW Ambulance service.

The Hon. Brad Hazzard, NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research

Responsibilities include all hospitals, health services, and medical research in New South Wales. Supported by the Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women, Bronwyn Taylor. Together they administer the health portfolio through the Ministry of Health, its Office of Medical Research, and a range of other government agencies. Both ministers are responsible to the Parliament of New South Wales.

NSW Government Directory

This is where you will find the contact details for all government departments, agencies, offices and entities within New South Wales.

Local Health Districts

Eight local health districts cover the Sydney metropolitan region, and seven cover rural and regional NSW. Each LHD is led by a Chief Executive and a Health District Board and provides local health services.


Finding information on your issue

The Parliament of Australia and Parliament of NSW websites contain a wealth of useful information for advocacy including access to Hansard, the official record of the proceedings of parliament. Search Hansard to find out if anyone has been talking about your issue in parliament.

Access to information

There are laws governing public access to information at both the federal and state government levels. Access to this type of information can be very useful during advocacy campaigns.

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act)
  • Gives everyone the right to access copies of documents (except exempt documents) held by the Australian Government and its agencies
  • Requires Government agencies to make FOI decisions and provide access to any documents released online in a FOI disclosure log
  • Requires Government agencies to publish a broad range of information under the Information Publication Scheme (IPS).

Example: Cancer Council NSW has previously obtained information from the NSW government about tobacco retailers who are listed on the government’s register to use for a tobacco control campaign.

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 NSW (GIPA Act)

Came into force on 1 July 2010, replacing the Freedom of Information Act 1989 in NSW. The guiding principle of the GIPA Act is public interest. Government agencies must disclose or release information as requested, unless there is an overriding public interest against doing so. The GIPA Act means it is compulsory for agencies to provide information about their structure, functions and policies.

The Information and Privacy Commission NSW (IPC)

An independent statutory authority that administers legislation dealing with privacy and access to government held information in NSW.

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)

The Privacy Act, and other federal laws, confers responsible for privacy functions to OAIC. Under the Privacy Act a person can make a complaint to the OAIC about the handling of their personal information by Australian, ACT and Norfolk Island government agencies and private sector organisations covered by the Privacy Act. Headed by the Australian Information Commissioner (AIC), the AIC has a range of powers and responsibilities under the AIC Act, and exercises powers under the FOI Act, the Privacy Act and other laws.

Keep an eye on the media

Stay up to date with what’s happening in the media to understand what coverage your issue is receiving. Governments use media to inform the public of what they are doing. For example, public consultations and inquiries are often advertised in the metropolitan newspapers, such as The Sydney Morning Herald.


Working with government


Can be a great way of gathering and demonstrating public support for an issue and engaging the interest of the media. The Coalition Government in NSW has promised that the subject matter of a petition which has been signed by 10,000 or more people will be set down for discussion by the Legislative Assembly as a ‘matter of public importance’. The NSW Parliament will only accept petitions received in a particular format. The Federal Parliament will sometimes accept petitions that are not in the set form.

There are two ways to petition the government: paper petitions and online e-petitions. Below are some helpful tips and links if you are looking for a suitable platform to setup an e-petition for your campaign:

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to advocacy and to be effective we need to pick the best strategy to suit the issue - whether it’s talking directly to Ministers, meeting with senior bureaucrats, participating in government policy processes or campaigning with the community.
Question time

Time is set aside, on each day parliament sits, for questions to ministers. Government, opposition, and cross bench members take turns, but it is often dominated by the Leader of the Opposition. Question time is a good way of seeking information and exposing problems, and often focuses on what’s in the media that day. You can approach non-government MPs to ask questions of ministers in this way.

Questions on notice are written questions, signed by MPs, that require a response from a minister. These types of questions are particularly useful for seeking information about an issue as answers must be provided within 35 days. As a constituent you can approach an MP to write a question on your behalf. Although, your MP may find it useful if you can help frame the question.

Parliamentary committee’s and inquiries

Federal and state parliaments appoint members to parliamentary committees to assist in their work. These committees often increase public awareness and debate on issues under consideration by parliament and benefit a community by reviewing proposed laws, facilitating more informed policymaking and ensuring greater government accountability. Parliamentary committees are valuable vehicle for the receiving and giving of information and provide a direct link between members and the Australian community. The public can lobby committee members to initiate inquiries and focus on certain issues or points of view during an inquiry.

For a full list of parliamentary committees and inquiries visit the following websites:

Community cabinet

These meetings are an opportunity for individuals and community groups to meet face to face with government ministers and to have their say on issues affecting their region. To find further information on Community Cabinet meetings visit the following websites: