Engaging with your Member of Parliament (MPs) is an effective way to advocate for positive changes to reduce cancer risks and improve cancer care. To help you, here are the steps for engaging with your local MP.
1. Get to know your MP
A good place to start is the NSW Parliament website, where you’ll find information about all state MPs. Read their recent media statements and view or follow their social media accounts. Knowing an MP’s interests and priorities will help you approach cancer issues with them. Contact your MP regularly, not just when you want something, because this will build rapport.
2. Know your issue
You don’t need to be an expert, but you need to speak confidently about an issue. If you are presenting on behalf of Cancer Council NSW, you will be provided with relevant documents and information. Familiarise yourself with policies and the impacts and benefits of proposed changes. Find out your local MP’s position on an issue. If they oppose it, what might convince them to change their mind? If you’re sharing your story, practise it with someone.
3. Organise a meeting with your MP
When organising a meeting with an MP, be clear and specific about your reason. Examples include:
an update on an issue that the MP is interested in. “I know that you’re interested in obesity in children. New research on the issue has found that …”
an update on an issue affecting the MP’s constituents. “COVID has impacted on Cancer Council’s ability to transport cancer patients in the region which will mean either higher cost for the cancer patients in the area and potentially some may even miss cancer treatment. We are seeking your support to ask the Government to help us address the loss of transport to treatment service in this area ….”
providing information on an issue that the MP raised in Parliament or the media or on their social media feed. “I understand that you’re interested in the issue of e-cigarettes. I wanted to update you on the latest advocacy efforts to protect the health of children and young people from the harms of e-cigarettes…”
advising on a new service or change in service or new research that will impact or benefit the MP’s constituent. “I would like to let you know that our latest support service will help cancer patients in your area. Cancer Council would like your assistance to distribute information on this latest support service ….”
MPs are busy people, so be flexible and accommodating with the timing and locations of meetings. If you can’t meet an MP, meet with electorate staff instead.
4. Prepare a summary
Create a one-page summary of all the information that you want to present to the MP. Even if you have been provided with a document to give to the MP, it’s helpful to create another summary that’s in your own words.
5. Be confident and clear
When you meet your MP, clearly and concisely talk about your issue and why you want the politician to change a policy. This is where your prior research and practice will pay off.
Advocacy is a two-way conversation, so make sure you allow time for general discussion. Ask the politician what they think of the proposed change to policy. Do they agree or disagree? Is this issue relevant and important to them currently? Remember to stay focused on the issue, including when discussing opposition to your position, and only talk to evidence-based points. If you are unsure of any questions an MP raises, let them know you will get back to them with the correct information.
7. Say thank you.
End your meeting by thanking the MP for their time and handing over your summary document. Let them know that you will send through any other information that was discussed.
8. Follow up with an email
After your meeting, send an email to the MP – and any electoral staff – thanking them and including information on concerns or queries raised during the meeting. If an MP has participated in fundraising activities, share how much money was raised and what it’ll be used for, especially how it’ll help the MP’s constituents.
CanAct offers free advocacy training to help you advocate for positive changes improve cancer outcomes. Find out more.