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Talk About It: Tools of the Democracy


  You've signed the petitions and seen the protests on TV. You know these are things people use to fight for a cause or belief or to see political action. But do they really even work? Well not with that attitude! The answer is yes and no. Sometimes these avenues enact change and sometimes they don't. Sometimes a hot date works out, sometimes it doesn't. Still, it's worth a try.

  LiveScience published an article highlighting 10 historical and significant protests, which you can read here. Likewise The Huffington Post published an article on successful petitions. So yes, sometimes these avenues have proven to work. The question then remains, where do we even begin to actually stage a protest or petition? What can we actually do to try and change the minds of political parties? Well I'm glad you asked...


>> Petitions. There are a few ways to go about petitioning your issue. Within Australia you have the right and ability to put forward a petition to your local, state and federal governments. There are proper procedures in place for you to be able to do this. You can go here to find the official guidelines on how to petition the Senate or the House of Representatives, and here to learn how to submit e-petitions. For local or state government procedures, or if you live in another country, have a look on the relevant government's website (if you have to Google this site make sure the web address is one that includes .gov - this indicates that it is an official government website. Websites that include .com, .co, .org, .net, etc., are not government websites).

  If setting up a petition from scratch seems too daunting there are organizations who have already done a lot of the legwork. Get Up! does a lot of work with petitions, promoting themselves as an organization that empowers Australian democracy. They are not affiliated with any particular political party, but rather they keep their fingers on the pulse of Australian society and push for issues they believe need change. You can get on board with the various work they do, including adding your name to petitions they have set up. Likewise specific charities, NGOs, political parties and movements will often times have ways you can get involved on their websites, including signing petitions. Here is an example of how Amnesty International enable people to take action for the issues they fight for.

  The above options are organizations that have set up petitions for specific issues. If none reflect the issue you want to push then Change.org is a great online tool. It provides a platform through which you can set up, tailor, promote and manage petitions according to an issue you want to address.

>> Protests. Protest laws (in Australia) are slightly less clearer than those regarding petitioning, but it is permitted as a generality within the law. You can read a good explanation of Australian law and the right to protest here. As such, while protesting is permitted it does need to adhere to laws that ensure public safety and security. Depending on where you live your local/state government may have established guidelines stipulating perimeters within which to stage a protest. The Australian National Capital Authority, for example, have released guidelines that you can find here (and these are good ones to follow if you are planning on heading to Canberra and petitioning the government!). As in the above point if you are Googling your local/federal government's website make sure the URL has .gov in it.

>> Contact your local government. If petitions and protests seem too much don't forget you can contact members of your local government. All local governments will have contact details on their websites. Write them a letter, send an email, follow the contact avenues they offer (some will hold meetings, interviews, etc.).

>> Don't forget about social media. Check out this article for more on how to leverage social media to promote your issues and effectively join the public discussion.


  Just like the hot date, maybe something amazing will come out of a petition, protest or contacting your local MP, or maybe something won't. Unlike a failed date though, failing to affect immediate change through a petition or protest doesn't mean you should call the whole thing off, go home, turn on Netflix and cry over a carton of ice cream. You've got this. At the very least your petition, protest or letter to your local government representative will add to the movement at large. Rome wasn't built in a day. The vote for women took years to achieve and in some places they are still fighting for it. Change takes time, and every little bit counts.

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