How to talk to politicians about migraine

We all need to become advocates to help get migraine out of the dark. One of the most effective things you can do is talk to your local MP or candidates in your area for the upcoming election. They work for you, and they're asking you for your vote, so don't feel shy about talking to them about what matters to you, and what they plan to do to help bring migraine out of the dark. Here are a few tips for talking to politicians.

Prepare!

Contact your local MP

Email template

Talk to opposition candidates

Go to a local election forum

Connect with candidates or MPs on social media


1. Prepare!

Firstly, do you know what electorate you live in? Many people don't, and the borders do shift around a bit, so don't feel bad if you're not sure. 

Go to the 'Find my electorate' tool on the AEC website https://electorate.aec.gov.au/ pop in your suburb or town name, and it will tell you your electorate.

If by chance you happen to be in a suburb that is in more than one electorate, you can look yourself up on the AEC website’s ‘Check my enrolment’ service https://check.aec.gov.au/. Put your details in, and (most of the time) it will tell you what electorate you are in. It's a little bit more fiddly because you have to put your full name and street address in as it is on the electoral roll, so try the 'Find my electorate' tool first. 

The other thing you want to do to prepare is read the materials on the Out of the Dark section of our website. We are working on a sheet of talking points you can take with you and it will be available soon. 


2. Contact your local MP

Your local politicians work for you. And one of the things local MPs do is listen to what is on the minds of their constituents. You can either email or mail them, or make an appointment at the electorate office to talk to them face to face.

You can contact your local MP right now - you don't need to wait for the election to be called or the other candidates to be announced. 

Firstly, you need to find out who your local MP is. The fastest way is to go to this page https://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Guidelines_for_Contacting_Senators_and_Members and pop your postcode or your electorate name in the search box towards the bottom of the page. That will bring back your local MP, plus your state’s Senators. Look for the green photo for your MP.

On your MP’s profile page on the APH website, there should be office contact details on the first tab. Most will have a ‘connect’ tab, which will have links to websites, social media, and their email address. Some are annoying and don’t put the information in, but we have a spreadsheet with all the details if you can't find it on the website.

The easiest thing to do is to send them an email. You can also post on their social media page, but social media posts don't always get responded to. 

Alternatively, meeting in person is very powerful. If you have friends in the area with migraine, or there are a few of you in your local Migraine Warriors Support Group that would like to join forces, you can go together to meet your MP. All you need to do is look up the electorate office, call or email to make an appointment, go and tell your story. Make sure you take a photo so you can share it on social media!

If you want to send an email, make it *personal* but direct. (You can also send a letter in the mail, or attach a letter to an email - it makes little difference, pick the one that you are most comfortable with). There’s a template below to help you out.

Politicians don’t have a lot of time, so get to the point, and be clear. Whether meeting in person or sending a letter, it helps if you have what we call in the biz ‘an ask’ - something you either want them to take on board, or you want them to do. This can be as simple as ‘will you help us to bring migraine out of the dark?’ or 'will you meet with some local people with migraine so we can tell you our story?'.

Or it can be something more specific, like if you’ve been rejected from the NDIS, or rejected for DSP, and want them to find out why people with migraine are being denied disability supports. Or maybe you're one of the people who has done really well on Aimovig (but failed Emgality and Ajovy) and want to ask for Aimovig to be put on the PBS too. Or perhaps you're really passionate about research, and want to ask specifically about the Centre of Research Excellence for migraine.  

It doesn't matter, just be clear, and to the point. 

Most importantly, be confident, but polite and respectful. And be yourself. And do not lie, that always backfires! 

THE EMAIL TEMPLATE

WARNING: if your email looks or sounds like a form letter, you will not get an answer of any kind. So use this template as a guide, but be sure to make it your own. Don’t forget to include your contact details so they can write back!

Dear Ms Smith,

I am writing to you as my local member about migraine. <Add your 'ask' here! Eg: I would like your support to help bring migraine out of the dark>.

I am one of the 5 million Australians who lives with migraine. The type of migraine I live with is <insert your sub type here, like hemiplegic migraine> which, for me, causes <insert YOUR symptoms>.

I would like to give you an idea of what living with migraine is like for me. <Tell your story! What’s a typical day like? Can you work? What do you have to give up because of migraine? Do you have migraine related anxiety? Try to keep this bit to no longer than three average sized paragraphs, and if you can do it in one, great.>

Migraine is a complex, genetic, spectrum disorder. Each of us has a unique experience of migraine, but all of us need more help and support. I would appreciate it if you <repeat your ‘ask’ here! Eg: would let me know what you and your party will do to help bring migraine out of the dark>.

I look forward to hearing from you soon about <repeat the main point of your ask, example: making managing migraine a national priority>.

Yours faithfully,

<your name>
<your address - email or street>
<your phone number>


3. Talk to the other candidates

Finding out who the candidates are in your electorate can be tricky, particularly before the election is called. 

There is a Wikipedia page already started. As candidates are announced, they will sometimes be listed on their party websites. For example, Most of the Greens candidates have been announced and are profiled on their website here

Once the election is called and the nominations close, the ABC (and other sites, but the ABC is the best) will put up their election guide which has a little bit of information on all the candidates. We'll do a similar guide on this site to help you connect with all the candidates too. 

Talking to an opposition candidate can be a bit hit and miss. Some are fantastic, give you lots of time, are genuinely interested and will engage with you just like you would expect from an MP. Others won't want to talk to you, and may send back a form email or just recite their party-approved talking points. If they are just doing the party a favour by putting their name on a ballot, they are unlikely to respond to any calls, messages or emails and unlikely to show up to any election events. Don't take that personally, they're snubbing everyone. 

You can ask them the same things as you would a sitting MP, including using the same email template above. 


4. Go to an election forum

Local election forums are a great way to ask all the candidates at once what they plan to do to bring migraine out of the dark! They can have lots of names - forum, candidate debate, meet the candidates night, Q and A, town hall and so on, but they all give you a good opportunity to compare candidates and ask questions. Most electorates will have one or two, some will have lots of events. If you have a few to choose from, pick one that doesn't have a theme (like for example, don't go to the one that's about Climate Change, go to one that's just for anyone). 

You'll need to follow the rules of the event. Some will ask you to submit your question before the event. Others will just invite you to come forward to a microphone. 

Consider writing the question out in full beforehand, and practice saying it a couple of times so you don't have to worry about stumbling or sounding dumb. The more confidence in your voice when you ask, the more serious a response you're likely to get. 

Here's a really easy question anyone can ask:

"I'm one of the five million Australians that live with migraine. Migraine is the most ignored and underfunded medical condition there is; what are you going to do to make sure migraine gets its fair share?"

Adding a personal anecdote, like 'It took me 10 years to find a doctor who would take me seriously and didn't dismiss my symptoms as anxiety or just a headache" gives real power to your question, but remember to get to the point quickly. 

If you don't get the opportunity to ask your question during the event, it is perfectly acceptable to approach candidates afterwards while everyone is mingling and chatting, and ask them then. 


5. Connect with MPs and Candidates on Social Media

Social media is the great leveller, and for those who are a bit shy or can't deal with a public forum, can be a great option. You can ask the same kinds of questions you would in person or by email. You can link to this campaign - www.migraine.org.au/outofthedark. You can share posts from the Migraine Australia page. All that is good!

However, it's worth keeping in mind that many candidates and MPs do not manage their own social media channels. Staff or volunteers are likely replying to you, if you get a reply at all. But, as social media interactions are all public it's a good way to raise awareness of how we need to get migraine #outofthedark. 

The other thing you can do is use the reply from one candidate to bait another into replying. So lets say you get a reply from your local member who is a Liberal Party member. A really effective thing to do is to take a picture of that reply (make sure your address isn't visible) and post it on another candidates page or tweet at them with a message that asks them to do better! Nothing like a little competition to get election candidates paying attention. 


No matter what you decide to do, make sure you report back to the community and let us know what responses you get! Either post on social media publicly with the hashtag #outofthedark (and tag us @migraineaus if you like), or post privately in the Migraine Australia Chat Group! 

Showing 1 reaction

  • Raphaella Kathryn Crosby
    published this page in Out of the Dark 2021-11-02 12:45:49 +1000