For a NFP advocate/ government relations role

  • Be able to persuade inside your Organisation and know the people to influence in government to get traction
  • Judgement - what you say carries risks, trust your gut on how far to push.
  • Be connected – social media, etc.
  • Journalist training ideal - learn to set the pitch right
  • Get a start via public policy studies, learn from others in a large org,
  • Ensure you pick an Organisation you want to champion as you must believe in their work and have values aligned to be credible.
  • Hard to find people to take on the NFP roles as pay is much higher in commercial sector.
  • Govt relations group meets regularly in Canberra to share knowledge every six weeks

For a government advisor role:

  • Able to synthesize/quickly distil information and communicate. They know a little about a lot.
  • Good communicator
  • Ability to wrote a brief fast
  • Multitasker
  • Flexible
  • Be a generalist and a specialist - know just enough then have a network in Organisation to provide subject matter
  • Be willing to be wrong and change position
  • Get a start in young liberals/labour etc.; teacher; state government role; uni
  • Change of government good time to pick up a role.


  • Government roles can change fast. Government or Minister change means staff lose their jobs overnight
  • Politics cyclical - out today, back tomorrow – a good time for NFP to pick up good people
  • Hard role & long hours, a lot of travel and a lot of time in Canberra, work is poll driven,
  • Minister’s office powerful, high pressure, intense, fruitful, dynamics grads get great experience

Typical day - no such thing! - Driven by media cycle; Key are parliamentary issues of the day so change fast, submission and approvals

MPs = Advice on getting to meet them

  • Follow on Twitter & Facebook & use networks and google research to find out MP interests before approaching them - first speeches, committees they serve on, etc.
  • Call and speak to appointment/diary secretary to get an appointment and be clear on what you want to talk about
  • Be aware they will background check and google you and if you have said something derogatory about them, their Ministers or the party you will not get an appointment
  • Be clear on who to speak to - don’t ask feds for state funding!

Parliamentary Friends groups not very useful as preaching to the choir. Can be educative for MP’s with time but they are not the ones with influence. People move fast in politics so relationships made today disappear but may resurface later.

Know the difference between Prime minister and Premier vs backbench, government and opposition where resources and staff size significantly smaller to develop policy

Biggest challenge - backing yourself through job losses and having to juggle family and children

How to open doors & motivate the MP/Senator you want to meet

  • Bring CEO if it’s a senior person
  • Ensure you know WIFFThem and have a clear aks - vital
  • Use people actually suffering from the issue e.g. a deaf person or someone working on the program to make change
  • Understand the bureaucracy - you won’t get an email to the Om - who is their advisor.
  • Know the policy perspectives and shape the message to be of interest
  • Work out who to talk to and who to meet - may meet advisors first. Then politician, for an election issue or a new policy will get you through
  • Use your NFP networks to Work out who to talk to on an issue, who has an interest in it

Small organizations have few resources or people so use networks and volunteers - CBM has 100**

Coalitions such as vision2020, international groups, cross Organisation groups

DFAT posts - identify gaps f Om others in orgs


Advocacy is a long game, needs clear goals, so if reactive stuff comes up measure value of action against strategic goals, Ideal is to engage Volunteers - online petitions have little real impact on government action. Get everyday Australians to write, meet and visit MP in electorate office or in Canberra

Diary managers are key - they are gatekeepers

When calling for an appointment have a summary and fact sheet ready to send so they know why you are visiting. Ideally one page maximum 2 that synthesizes the issues.

They are cold call receptive, but be articulate and informed, and be clear on what you want. Be fast you’re not just there for tea!

  • Be strategic it’s not always about money - get commitment and focus on issues
  • Friends groups useful - join and talk, meet advisors,
  • Be aware of budget process and cycle – no point asking if deadline five years away
  • After meeting send the advisor a follow up email on the issue

Advisors react to Advocacy - No predictability on content, sector, issues, case studies

Information they receive is huge and across multiple issues - multiple organizations and NFPs. Challenge is how to translate yours as vital and be brief – they need to know what’s needed and why it’s important to the MP

  • Consultants/ lobbyists charge $10k to get a meeting with a chief of staff by using connections. Constituents get one more easily at no cost.
  • Aim to deliver message again and again, be able to work with bureaucracy
  • MP’s are opinion poll driven so get social media activity

Exposure Programs

Spend time with MP’s and Senators especially backbenchers who may be promoted in future, know who is likely to be next in line.

Take them to your projects to change their minds: e.g. Save the Children - Australian Aid parliamentary program to take MP’s for personal exposure to see aid in action in region and see who benefits.

Great for MP’s who are curious and have no international exposure so they can see need overseas compared to domestic need in Oz.

Select those who will become influential, some lose seats but still influence opinion in community

MP’s have seen value of the program and are referring other MP’s to go

Excellent example of advocacy

  • Juvenile diabetes.
  • Kids in the House event - takes kids with diabetes to meet pollies then get articles in local media
  • Knew who to target
  • Clear focus and ask - got &151m in 5 years for insulin lumps for kids.
  • Long term vision, professional people


  • Being young, finding way around Parliament House - it’s huge!
  • An all women issue is being taken seriously, need to get confidence right in working with men- be authentic not over confident to be successful
  • Being made redundant on maternity leave
  • Fake it till you make it!