Participatory Adaptation in Contemporary Parliamentary Committees in Australia

Carolyn M. Hendriks*, Sue Regan, Adrian Kay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contemporary parliamentary institutions operate in a dynamic participatory and digital context. Recent studies demonstrate that many parliaments are rethinking how they reach out to the public in this changing environment. This article discusses the findings of empirical research that examined how and why parliamentary committees are adapting their public engagement practices. Parliamentary staff in six Australian parliaments were interviewed about the forms and extent of participatory adaptation in their committee systems. The research finds while committees continue to rely heavily on standard practices, such as written submissions and formal public hearings, many are adapting the way their public outreach and engagement practices. Four common participatory adaptations are identified including: employing new ways to promote and publicise committee work; using digital interfaces to collect and manage public input; increasing accessibility to affected publics; and building participatory capacity of committee members and affected publics. The article argues that in an era of significant political and digital change, parliamentary committees need to adopt a more strategic approach to participatory reform to better connect with, and represent, diverse publics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-289
Number of pages23
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
For their useful comments and suggestions we wish to thank two anonymous reviewers, as well as participants who attended our seminar at the Institute for Policy Analysis and Governance, University of Canberra, 6 October 2016.


  • Citizen participation
  • Digital technology
  • Legislative committees
  • Public engagement
  • Public hearings
  • Reform


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