Another Federal Election is fast approaching! As a non-partisan organisation that advocates on human rights issues across the political spectrum, the Federal Election provides an opportunity for us to engage with MPs, Senators and candidates at a time when they may be at their most receptive.
Amnesty International Australia’s 2022 Election Agenda
Amnesty International Australia’s 2022 Human Rights Agenda provides activists, MPs and candidates with a comprehensive overview of Federal issues and policies that Amnesty International Australia (AIA) is calling on the next federal government to address. Working with this Human Rights Agenda, we can refocus the electoral conversation towards the Human Rights impacts of Government decisions.
The period leading up to the Federal Election provides an excellent opportunity for activists to meaningfully engage with MPs, Senators and candidates. This is a time when MPs, Senators and candidates are looking outward. Positive relationships created now can turn into lasting, productive relationships for many years. Fundamentally, all politicians are elected to represent their constituencies. As an organisation over 500,000 people strong we have an opportunity to use our collective power to create outcomes that will have positive repercussions for generations.
Almost every issue discussed, debated and campaigned on during a federal election has a human rights impact. Whether it be climate change, trade, or even the many challenges posed by COVID-19 and vaccine inequality, the fundamental impacts these have on the rights of people in our communities (globally and domestically) needs to be central to all decision-making . By identifying the intersection between these issues and human rights we can make human rights a central part of the conversation this election and beyond.
How to use this toolkit
This toolkit is designed to be as helpful as possible for activists of all skill and experience levels.
Below you will find key methods of engagement with the 2022 Federal Election campaign. If you are experienced in these methods the information contained within this document will provide you with the ideas and direction you may need to successfully get political candidates to positively engage with the 2022 Human Rights Agenda during the election period and beyond.
If you aren’t as experienced in an area or need more information, follow the links contained in each section for a deeper dive into how and why we can work together to create meaningful change. If you get to the end and are still unsure, check the Resources Index (all the links found in the document are listed here as well as some extra ones!).
If you have any further questions or require more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org Alternatively, contact your local ALC or Action Group to find out what activists are doing in your area, or identify any activists you could work with to increase your impact through collective action.
Theory of Change
1 – Make Human Rights part of the conversation
By engaging with MPs and candidates across Australia on a wide range of issues that intersect with human rights, AIA Activists will make Human Rights a key issue this election.
2 – Gain commitments and build positive relationships with MPs and candidates
Activists will work to gain commitment or pledges from MPs, Senators and candidates during this short, but unique period of increased engagement. By providing opportunities for election candidates to explain their personal/party position and encouraging broader discussions on the impacts of these issues on their communities/constituencies we will create positive working relationships.
3 – Leverage relationships and renewed interest in human rights into policy change
Activists will be able to productively engage with members of the next government. Directly addressing the issues that were an important part of the election campaign and enshrining human rights protections in law by introducing a Human Rights Act. In particular MPs or Senators who made a commitment or pledge to the Human Rights Agenda will have more motivation to create progress on these issues to keep their election commitments.
Before You Get Started
- Check in with your state’s ALC to find out what activists are doing with the Human Rights Agenda near you, or to identify an opportunity to work with other activists.
- Be prepared to be non-partisan. This can be tricky to navigate, particularly during an election campaign. To help you to be successful, read through this guide on maintaining Amnesty’s independence while engaging with MPs, Senators and candidates on-and-offline during the 2022 Federal Election.
- Decide what aspects of the Agenda are most important to you. You can use this resource pack to find briefs on all of Amnesty’s Human Rights Agenda items (if you want to use the entire Human Rights Agenda, that’s great too!).
- Identify who your local Federal MP, Senators and candidates are. There are a number of sources for this ranging from political party websites, the Australian Parliament House (APH) website and political/psephological websites.
- Sitting MPs and Senators can be found here and other candidates can be found on their respective political party’s website, the ABC’s 2022 election guide, or on election monitoring sites such as this one or this one.
- A number of MPs and Senators will be retiring this election. So before you decide who you are going to contact, check this list to find out if you need to be contacting a new candidate.
- Not all Senators will be up for election this year. Before engaging with a current Senator check this list of Senators up for re-election 2022.
- If you aren’t sure who is an MP, Senator or candidate in your area feel free to get in touch with email@example.com, and we may be able to assist. Noting that some candidates (usually independents and some minor parties) won’t be publicly known until nominations close (usually 10-20 days before the election).
- All political parties and independents that are currently in Federal Parliament have been sent a copy of the Human Rights Agenda for them to respond to.
- However, approach interactions with them assuming that they are not across all areas (it is possible they may not have read the agenda yet). If they do have a sound understanding of what AIA is calling for, that’s great too. Use that knowledge and understanding to build a common ground.
- If you haven’t completed the Activist Skills Module on engaging with a politician or need a refresher you can find it here.
- Need more information on how to prepare for an effective meeting or correspondence with your local MP, Senator or Candidate? Check out this guide.
- If you would like a hard copy of the AIA Human Rights Agenda and don’t have access to an activist centre please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange getting one sent to you.
- Decide which of the below actions/opportunities would be the most effective for you or your group and start to plan for them.
- Read the relevant party’s election platform. This can usually be found on their website and will provide a good way to identify any commonalities with the Human Rights Agenda. As a starting point here are some links to the platforms of The Greens, The Labor Party, The Liberal Party and The Nationals.
- Prepare questions designed to determine the MP/candidate’s position on the issues you want them to address. Remember, we aren’t trying to catch this person out. Rather, we are trying to give them an opportunity to demonstrate that we are on the same page so that we can work together productively through the next parliament and create meaningful change.
- Finally, before you reach out to an election candidate please let us know so that we can help you to ensure you have everything you need to make it successful. Simply fill out this form with the relevant details.
Let’s Get Started!
Make human rights part of the conversation
In the lead up to an election MPs, Senators and candidates are likely to make themselves more publicly available than at any other point over the next three years. By taking advantage of these opportunities we can ensure that our voices are heard and create meaningful working relationships with the next government of Australia.
There are unique opportunities for engagement that will arise during an election campaign period. Some of these are listed in this document along with an explanation on how you can use these to place the focus on Human Rights.
1 – Share The Agenda
Here are some engagement tactics you can use to share the agenda with the wider community.
When being canvassed by volunteers/candidates:
- Political parties and candidates will be out and about doorknocking and phoning people in increasing numbers until (and potentially on) election day.
- While their goal is to sway you to vote for them, they will be instructed to listen and respond to the issues that you raise.
- By positively engaging with the volunteer (no matter what political persuasion they take), you can ensure that the issues you raise are considered in detail.
- Take the opportunity to ask the volunteer to pass on any concerns or hopes to their respective candidate.
- If you aren’t canvassed by the candidate themselves, ask for them to get in touch with you to discuss further.
By engaging with community groups, friends and family:
- During a federal election campaign there will be many issues-based community groups out and about, working to create change and place many different issues on the electoral agenda.
- A lot of the issues groups will be campaigning on have human rights impacts, and by coordinating with each other you can increase the impact of your message.
- The most effective way to do this is to identify common goals and areas where human rights intersects with the issues being campaigned on. In doing so you can work together with mutually beneficial outcomes.
Networking idea: Visit your local markets. Other organisations and special interest groups will hold stalls at your local markets to inform the community about the issue they want action on. This is a great chance for you to, Identify who else is working in your area, Find areas of common interest, Build relationships and expand your networks, Identify potential areas of collaboration and Gain information on MP/Senator/Candidate responses to these issues.
At an event:
- Candidate forums and events will be increasingly common the closer the election gets. Take advantage of these opportunities to ask important questions and get answers on the public record.
- Take your AIA election agenda along with you and show it to candidates if you get the opportunity.
- If there are public markets within your electorate it is very likely that a political party will have a stall where you will have the opportunity to talk to staff, volunteers or candidates. Their objective will be to gain your support and possibly convince you to join their campaign, but you can use the opportunity to create a positive interaction on the issues that you raise.
At a public moment (shopping centre walkthrough etc):
- Many of us will recall some classic campaign moments created by public appearances at parks, shopping centres, beaches and more! These are all opportunities to get face to face with a candidate and have a good discussion on the importance of human rights in policy decisions.
- Some candidates will also hold “pop-up offices” or “café catch-ups” for constituents to engage with them. Keep an eye on your local candidate’s social media to know when these are coming up.
Tactic Idea: Strategic engagement with a ‘mobile office’
You’ve been keeping track of your local candidate’s Facebook page and noticed that they are going to have a ‘mobile office’ this weekend so that they can engage with the community at a popular public location. You think this is a great opportunity to organise some of your local group members to engage with the MP on your group’s key issue of interest from the AIA Election Agenda.
What you can do:
- Read through the election agenda again and create some key questions on your area of interest. Remember, you aren’t trying to catch out the MP you are trying to engage them with the topic so that they may have increased interest post-election.
- Visit the website of the party that the MP represents and try to gain a sense of the messages that are being broadcast by that party. This may give you a sense of if you are receiving a premeditated response or not.
- Determine how you will centre the conversation around human rights and possibly even allude to Australia’s lack of legislated protections.
- Reach out to some fellow activists and ask them if they might be interested in attending the event.
- Through a discussion with your group members, determine what you think the most effective method of engagement may be. For example, you may want to attend together as a representative group or at different times as individuals to reinforce your message or cover different topics.
- Be prepared to engage with a staff member or volunteer, understanding that the expected levels of detailed understanding will differ between an MP, Staff member and volunteer. If you don’t meet with the MP/Senator/Candidate directly, ask that your views are shared with the MP/Senator/Candidate. Leaving contact information for the MP/Senator/Candidate to get in touch with you can be useful as well. This will ensure that the issue is raised with the candidate when your details are passed on and that the MP/Senator/Candidate is more likely to engage with the issue to prepare for your conversation.
- Try to get the MP to engage on the issue with their own views rather than simply giving you their prepared party messaging. To be prepared for this, familiarise yourself with anything that the political party that you will be engaging with has made publicly available (links can be found in point 8 of “Before you Get started” above) on the issue that you are wanting to discuss.
2 – Request A Meeting
Contact your local Federal representative:
- It’s always good to get a response in writing. While this doesn’t allow for the back and forth that a conversation does, co-ordinated letter writing can represent the scale of support for an issue.
- In an election campaign, political parties may have an entire office of staff who are tasked with correspondence on election issues and surveys. This increases the chances that you will get a response and that the issues raised may be brought to a candidate’s attention.
- Request a meeting. Nothing beats a genuine conversation on these important issues. Whether it be in-person or online. Having a meeting with a candidate is a very effective way to put a community face to the issues you are raising and will go a long way to establish a long-term working relationship.
- You can find examples of letters and emails that you can use as a starting point here.
- Make your email or letter look more official by using AIA Brand resources that are available for download here.
3 – Host A Candidate Forum
Now that you (and your group) have engaged with candidates and brought the issues and purpose of the Human Rights Agenda to their attention. Why not take it a step further, try your hands at hosting a candidates forum. This will allow candidates to come together to share their different views on important human rights issues, bringing the focus to the Human Rights Agenda 2022.
You can reach out and partner with other community groups in your state or region, invite candidates to address the issues within the agenda in an Q&A forum either as an online event or in person.
4 – Use The Media To Get Your Message Out
Reaching out to the media can raise awareness on human rights and the intersection with popular election issues. Here are a couple ways you can engage the media in raising awareness on AIA’s 2022 Human Rights Agenda for the next Government.
Send a media release:
A media release is a relatively old-fashioned (but efficient) way to reach journalists. To write a media release, we recommend using the inverted pyramid- give all the important information in the first paragraph, and add details in subsequent paragraphs. You have to compete for the journalists’ attention, so you should always begin with what is new and with a headline. Then, you can send it to all the relevant media outlets and journalists in your area – TV, radio, online, and newspapers.
If you’ve never written or sent a media release before this guide has lots of helpful information to help you get started.
Need support with writing, editing or disseminating your media release? Get in touch with the Activist Communications Team by completing this brief.
Write a letter to the editor:
A letter to the editor of your local newspaper is a great way to raise awareness on human rights in the lead up to the election. It also signals to the paper what issues are important to people in the community. As with the media release, you are competing with others for the editor’s attention, so you need to make the letter compelling. See this guide (page 8) for tips on how to write a compelling letter to the editor.
For more information check out our “How to engage with media” training guide
Engaging with social media:
Social media is a critical tool offering a direct connection between candidates and voters. Here is a useful guide on using digital tools for activism. When engaging with MPs, Senators and candidates online, make sure you and your group maintain a non-partisan approach to uphold AIA’s independence. You can use this guide to learn the do’s and don’ts of engaging with politicians on social media during an election.
Other useful resources
- Events & Tactics: Part 1 Planning
- Events & Tactics: Part 2 Coordination
- How To Engage With Politicians
All resources linked to in the Human Rights Agenda Activist Toolkit can be found below (in the order that they appear above).
- Human Rights Agenda 2022
- Organising team contact – email@example.com
- ALC contact information
- Local Action Group contact information
- Guide on maintaining Amnesty’s independence
- Human Rights Agenda, issues resources
- Australian Parliament House (APH) website
- APH Sitting MPs and Senators contact information
- ABC 2022 Election Guide
- Poll Bludger Federal Election 2022 Guide
- Wikipedia list of Federal Election candidates
- List of all (currently known) MPs and Senators who are retiring or not contesting their current seat at the next election.
- List of all Senators up for re-election in 2022
- How to engage with politicians (Level 3: Activist Skills)
- Political party Election Platforms (in alphabetical order):
- Human Rights Agenda Action/Event Form
- Amnesty International Australia Brand Resources
- How to engage with the media
- Submit a form for assistance from activist communications team
- Using digital tools for activism
- Events & Tactics: Part 1 – Planning
- Events & Tactics: Part 2 – Coordination
- National Facebook group for activists
- National Activists Slack Channel
- Activity Feedback form
- Sustainable Activism and Self Care Guide
Let us know how it went!
- Share your pictures and success via the National Facebook group for activists or the National Activists Slack Channel!
- Let your local ALC know how you went, and fill in this feedback form, so we can continue to support your work to the best of our ability.
Safeguarding the wellbeing of yourself and others
Campaigning for human rights can be difficult. Burnout and vicarious trauma can happen and it’s important to keep a look out for the signs in yourself and your friends. You can check out our Sustainable Activism & Self Care guide as a starting point to ensure that you are looking after yourself and others while doing this important work. It examines how we can better take care of ourselves as activists and what you can do to make sure your activism is sustainable!