Advocating for human rights can often seem a daunting task, particularly when we look at systemic advocacy. How can you influence government on the matters that affect your service and your clients? One way to do this is through writing submissions.
Submissions are generally called for by governments, both federal and state. Submissions may be called in a number of ways and for a number of reasons. Often, there will be a significant issue in the community or media, or a member of parliament wants to introduce a new Act or change an existing one.
Some examples include:
The way in which submissions are called will depend on what the matter is about, and how the entity that is running the matter has been established. You can check our submissions process guide to help you understand where your submission fits.
Making a submission presents an opportunity for you or your organisation to let the entity know what is happening on that issue for you and your clients. It is also a good opportunity to let the entity know how your client’s human rights have been affected. It might be that a proposed change in legislation might have an unintended consequence for your clients.
Good questions to consider include: how would this affect their rights? Is the change reasonable and proportionate? A submission process might also provide an opportunity to recommend how the proposed change could support your clients who may be disadvantaged without the change being made?
A submission doesn’t have to be long. This is your opportunity to talk to what you have seen, your client’s experience, and to support your clients to have a voice on the matter. You can talk to one specific issue that might affect your organisation, or to all the issues or questions being asked. You might also be able join with other organisations that do similar work to yours and make a joint submission.
Make sure that you are only providing information that is factual and correct. Both quantitative and qualitative data can be helpful in illustrating your point in a submission. If your organisation collects data, then this is helpful to use, just as providing case studies to tell the stories of people affected by the matter is also vital. If you are sharing stories of clients, it is important to get their consent.
If required, you may also de-identify them by using a different name or setting (you can explain what you have done in your submission). This ensures that you are being human rights respecting and considering a client’s privacy. It is important to remember that not everyone wants to tell their story, and a person can change their mind even if they have previously said agreed.
To help with writing a submission, we have prepared a 5-step workflow that details each part of the process.