Writing for government

Governments are responsible for doing things that are good for the community. To do that, they must be able to communicate well. The Tasmanian Government puts it well:

The Tasmanian Government’s duty to inform the public includes the obligation to communicate effectively. Information about government policies, programs and services should use plain language and proper grammar, and be expressed in a clear and consistent style. …

To succeed we must ensure that our messages do not confuse our readers or conceal information. If our audiences cannot follow legal documents, information leaflets or letters, there is the risk of their breaking the law, or failing to do what is expected of them or receiving what is rightfully theirs.

Think-write works with government agencies to develop helpful information structures and clear text.

Think-write Consulting is

  • a Fully Prequalified Provider for the NSW Government’s Performance and Management Services Scheme (PMSS)
  • on the Panel of providers for the provision of Learning and Change Services for Australian Government agencies.

Examples of our work

Implementing  and helping people comply with legislation

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Chapter 4 of the Act requires ‘controlled actions’ to be assessed and approved. We worked with the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts to develop a manual to describe the assessment and approval process. We translated the complex requirements of the legislation into a logical five step process (with many sub-steps!) to guide the day to day work of staff.
EPBC Act process outline
The manual focuses on the thinking processes required by staff to achieve the objectives of the legislation, driven by questions for decisions and clear instructional steps. The more mechanical administrative requirements (time frames and the like) were also stated clearly.

Forming and operating as a consolidated group for income tax

The Australian Taxation Office implemented a regime that allowed wholly owned group to be treated as a single entity for tax purposes rather than treating each component of the group as a single entity. This was a significant change for businesses and required careful explanation. We were part of a team that developed an interactive ‘Consolidation walk through’ that provided a conversation space. The display delivered high level information about the regime and was staffed with tax office specialists to answer questions.
Think-write helped develop the ‘choosing, forming, operating’ conceptual pathway and, in consultation with tax specialists, wrote much of the text used.
Panel design (sect 1), ATO Consolidation walkthrough

Prioritising potential projects to implement 'Simplified Record Keeping'

ATO business lines suggest a number of ideas to make to make administration of the tax system cheaper, easier and more personalised, but not all the ideas can be progressed.
This paper describes how to prioritise the ideas, focusing on the ‘Decide’ phase. It provided a number of thinking tools and questions to determine:

  • is this idea within scope?
  • what are the benefits to taxpayers?
  • what are the impacts on the ATO?
  • what are the impacts on other stakeholders?

Avoiding and offsetting biodiversity loss - Case studies

Case studies help to make abstract ideas concrete so they make better sense for your readers. These case studies illustrate how it is possible to work with stakeholders to avoid, minimise or offset biodiversity losses, in accordance with the laws around biodiversity offsets.
Biodiversity case studies

Integration of the NSW Food Safety System - Issues Paper

This issues paper reviewed the function of Safe Food Production NSW as required by the Food Production (Safety) Act 1998. Think-write edited the paper for structure and consistency and also developed a brochure to invite consultation and response.
Brochure about the Issues Paper

Seafood Safety Manual

Guidance and reference material to help seafood businesses comply with the Food Production (Seafood Safety Scheme) Regulation 2001.
Seafood Safety Manual – contents & sect 1

Communicating government direction and policy

Load-based Licensing

Load-based licensing is a new way to think about the way pollution is controlled. This paper explains the need for a change system and outlines the principles around a new way of managing pollution licences.
Load based licensing

Clean cars for NSW

The publication is part of the NSW Government’s Cleaner Vehicles Action Plan. It aims to encourage consumers to buy cleaner cars by helping them understand the issues.
Clean cars

Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme

The idea behind the salinity trading scheme is fairly complex: it requires stakeholders to think of the river in terms of ‘blocks’ – not a natural way of thinking about a waterway. This publication walks readers through the ideas and uses effective graphics to explain difficult concepts.
Hunter river salinity trading scheme

Green offsets for sustainable development - concept paper

This consultation document invited the community to have their say in how offsets can be used to minimise environmental impact. It clearly explains the principles the government has in mind and how a scheme may work in practice.
Green offsets

CSIRO vision and strategy - Future C

The CSIRO, Australia’s premier science organisation, had developed a comprehensive strategic plan for the future. Think-write worked with management to communicate this plan in a concise and persuasive form for a wide audience. We identified the key themes and the role the organisation would play in the future of the nation.

Explaining the School Maintenance Program and Cleaning Services contracts

These contracts were complex, detailing what contractors would and would not do. But most of the time, it would be school principals that would have the day to day responsibility of managing contractors. School principals are very busy people who have a number of issues to understand and manage. They needed a quick way to master the main points of each contract and how it impacted their school without getting bogged down in the details. Working with the department specialist, we produced a summary of each contract. We also produced a guide to using software developed to manage the contracts.
Cleaning contract overview

Department of Housing policies

We worked with the department to revise and update over 30 policies. One of the drivers of the work was to write these policies in plain language so that all stakeholders – tenants, staff, contractors – could clearly understand their rights and responsibilities.