WESTIR Limited attended a workshop run by NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) and the NSW Legislative Council in March 2019. The workshop focused on the NSW parliamentary inquiry process and how the community can maximise the influence during this process.

After formal welcomes and introductions, Yael Frisch from NCOSS began the workshop discussing why it was important to participate in parliamentary inquiries. She spoke about several benefits of participation, including incorporating the unique lived experiences of community members into the democratic process and informing decision-makers on how best to respond to social issues. She encouraged participants to think strategically about which parliamentary inquiries they participate in given the limited time and resources of many non-government organisations and groups.

Rhia Victorino and Stephanie Galbraith from the NSW Legislative Council then spoke about the NSW parliamentary inquiry process and the committees involved in the process. The role of committee inquiries is to provide a detailed investigation of public matters of interest, facilitate public participation in parliamentary process and place a range of views on public record. The ultimate goals of the inquiry process are to hold the government to account and to prompt policy and legislative change.

Workshop participants were then privileged to hear from Nationals MP Hon Trevor Khan MLC on his experience with various NSW parliamentary inquiries such as medicinal marijuana, assisted dying and defence provocation. He highlighted that not all inquiries are effective as others, but that MPs will often surprise us in putting their differences aside to work constructively for the common good.

The final part of the workshop focused on writing submissions and being an effective witness during the hearing process. Sarah Dunn from the NSW Legislative Council gave participants seven main tips for writing an effective submission including:

  • Tip 1: Use structure well
  • Tip 2: Provide introductory information
  • Tip 3: Address the terms of reference
  • Tip 4: Write to persuade
  • Tip 5: Be concise
  • Tip 6: Write responsibly
  • Tip 7: Make recommendations

This workshop is highly recommended for those working in advocacy and those that are interested in being involved in the NSW parliamentary inquiry process. You can keep up to date with the various parliamentary committees by visiting the Parliament of New South Wales website and The House in Review blog. For future training opportunities, please see the NCOSS website.

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