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A day in the life of a young political staffer

Adam Pulford

Engagement Manager, Climate and Health Alliance
The life of a young political staffer can be intense, challenging and fulfilling or just cruisy and pretty well-paid – and it all depends on who you work for.

Your day as a political staffer could see you writing a speech on penalty rates for your boss to give in Parliament; patiently listening to a long-winded phone call from a concerned voter on the dangers of smart meters; running into a stakeholder meeting to hear how proposed education law changes will affect them; and then driving your boss to a local community group event to get a pic of them speaking to post on Facebook & Twitter.

Or it could see you rock up to work, gradually chip away at your long-term research paper on the benefits of medical marijuana and head home at 5pm on the dot, leaving the rest for another day.  

Which of the above days is yours as a political staffer doesn’t just depend on how ambitious your politician (let’s call them MPs for Members of Parliament) boss is or which party they work for, it can also depend on which Parliament they’re in and whether they have any special roles.

Here’s how.

Once elected, your potential future boss is allocated staff, paid for by the public – a fact your tax-paying mates in business will remind you of a lot. Then it’s up to them (or their faceless factional bosses) to work out how and who fills those positions.

No matter which MP you work for, there are common functions that most political offices will complete, like:

  • managing the office space, admin, budget & resources
  • coordinating the MP’s diary
  • managing the MP’s media & social media
  • writing speeches for the MP to deliver in Parliament or at community events
  • researching & writing policy papers for the MP’s portfolio or committee obligations
  • running events for the community
  • talking to & helping constituents – including people who drop into the office, answering phone calls and responding to all written and email correspondence
  • planning & preparing for the next election campaign

How these activities are split between people’s roles will depend on how many staff an MP gets.

Some State MPs only get two staff, so they’re real jack-of-all-trades, taking responsibility for a whole mix of these activities all at the same time. A Federal backbencher will usually get around four staff and MPs with larger electorates or special roles, like being a Minister or Speaker, will get more. In these offices, staffers will have more specific roles, like being a Media Advisor, a Speechwriter or a Diary Manager.

So if you see a job going in an MP’s office, to work out what a day working for them may be like, give them a quick Google to see which Parliament they’re in, what’s the size of their electorate and whether they have any special roles. Or just give their office a quick call and ask.

Either way, as a political staffer you’re bound to learn about a range of issues, get invited to some pretty interesting events (often with free food & booze) and be seen as the source of all insider goss by all your non-staffer friends and family. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll be able to make a difference on something that matters to you and your community, which makes dealing with all the egos & bravado that come with politics worth it.  

About the author

Adam is a media & communications professional who has worked in politics, campaigning and the non-profit sector. Adam was formerly the Media & Comms Advisor to Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt and was the 2013 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. He studied a Bachelor of Arts at Monash University.