Advocacy case studies

What is advocacy?

“Advocacy” is a broad term that captures a wide range of activities designed to influence decisions.  What will work for a particular issue can depend on timing, location, who the decision maker will be, who the opponents will be, current levels of public awareness or support for an issue, and available resources.

Advocacy activities include:

  • Contributing to government or industry consultation processes
    For example, making submissions, attending community consultation meetings, and completing council surveys seeking public input
  • Meeting with decision-makers
    For example, meeting with a politician to raise concerns about a proposed reform, meeting with Departmental staff about a funding decision, meeting with local councillors about a proposed development, asking the CEO of a large company to publish more information about their emissions, or meeting with the Board of a sporting club to encourage them refuse sponsorship from a fossil fuel company
  • Participating in parliamentary processes
    For example, appearing at inquiries, submitting information or questions to Senators to assist them to ask questions at Budget estimates, attending community parliament sessions, submitting or promoting a parliamentary petition, or attending local council budgeting sessions
  • Building community awareness and capacity
    For example, hosting community workshops on a proposed local development, holding local meetings to gather support for a community power initiative, community “Voices” groups, building local skills on how to have persuasive conversations or effectively debunk misinformation
  • Using the media
    For example, publishing open letters in a national paper, doing TV or radio interviews, submitting opinion pieces, writing letters to the editor
  • Legal actions
    For example, challenging environmental approvals through courts or tribunals, referring misleading environmental claims to the ACCC
  • Investment decisions
    For example, divesting from banks or superannuation funds that invest in fossil fuels, using your shareholder power to call for action on climate change or better reporting of nature-related impacts
  • Procurement decisions
    For example, encouraging businesses to buy from local farms, discouraging restaurants from offering fish that is not sustainably harvested, supporting and promoting businesses that buy from First Nations suppliers
  • Direct action
    For example, organising public events, attending rallies and protests
  • Research and information
    For example, funding research and science communication initiatives to improve the information base for decision making, improving public access to research data

    Helpful resources

Case studies

Protecting the right to protest and advocate for change

The Minerals Council made a public call for environmental advocacy to be reduced, and to restrict an organisation’s advocacy spend to just 5 per cent of its overall budget. The rest had to be spent on on-ground work like tree planting. I knew we couldn’t let that happen.

Saffron Zomer, former ACF Campaigner, now CEO of Australian Democracy Network

In 2015, the federal government established a parliamentary inquiry into the register of environmental organisations, following calls from the mining industry to strip eNGOs of their ability to receive tax-deductible donations. The Minerals Council argued these organisations were using public donations to advance their political agendas and should be restricted to “on ground” activities.

The inquiry followed the introduction of gag clauses in community legal centre funding agreements, cutting all funding to EDOs across Australia, and new restrictions preventing NGOs from using Federal funding for advocacy activities.

AEGN and its members supported the collaborative efforts of Hands off Our Charities and the Places You Love Alliance to co-ordinate a multifaceted response. They made submissions, met with politicians, put a spotlight on the issue in the media and galvanised charities and their supporters to oppose the changes. The campaign was successful and eNGOs retained their DGR status and ability to advocate on environmental issues.

When the government proposed new reforms in 2017 that would restrict advocacy and fundraising, Hands Off Our Charities (now the Stronger Charities Alliance) was able to regroup and again succeeded in defeating the proposal.

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Challenging fossil fuel Interests

As significant donors we write this letter to make clear to the university, that we, and many like-minded others, will not support a university who would choose as their leader someone who is determined to build new coalmines when most of the world is determined to reduce fossil fuel use.

Open letter published in Newcastle Herald, 18 June 2021

In 2018, the University of Newcastle announced that it had appointed Mark Vaile, then chairman of Whitehaven Coal, as the university’s new Chancellor. A group of philanthropists, including AEGN members, signed an open letter saying that the appointment conflicted with the university’s net zero commitments and they would not donate to the University while Mr Vaile was in the role.  

The letter received significant media attention. Several days later, Mr Vaile announced that he was stepping down as Chancellor.

Listen to our podcast with Sue & John McKinnon about that campaign and how AEGN members can help to shift power and remove barriers to climate action.

Tree clearing in Queensland

[There are] one million very good reasons to make our land clearing laws much better and more effective in protecting native wildlife. Today we are launching an alliance of organisations from across the state united in their efforts to stop this terrible destruction

Dr Tim Seelig, Queensland Conservation Council, 21 May 2017

The Campbell Newman government in Queensland relaxed land clearing regulations, leading to a huge increase in tree clearing. Between 2012 and 2016, one million hectares were cleared, killing millions of wildlife and increasing sedimentation in Great Barrier Reef catchments.

In the lead up to the 2017 election, and the environment sector saw an opportunity to lock in reforms that could turn that around.

Supported by a generous matched-giving commitment (Purves Tree Clearing Challenge), an alliance of eNGOs, led by The Wilderness Society, WWF and the Queensland Conservation Council, developed an effective campaign plan. This collective advocacy used public communications initiatives, citizen science, strategic partnerships, and lobbying of politicians.

The campaign secured an election commitment from Queensland Labor to end deforestation and introduce strong protections for forests and bushland. That commitment resulted in new laws in 2019, and a new $500 million Land Restoration Fund.

For more information about the tree clearing campaign, click here. In 2022, the Queensland Forest Alliance was launched to continue the work initiated by this campaign.

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It’s been exciting to see the growth in sophistication of how the AEGN operates. For the benefit of all.

Hayley Morris, Morris Family Foundation