About us

About McKinnon Institute

As leaders today, politicians face a more complex, pressured and difficult job than ever before.

Our programs provide a stimulating and challenging experience for MPs through collaborative and interactive sessions with guest presenters, one-on-one and group work with colleagues and facilitators, and deep dive sessions with former ministers, politicians and public servants sharing their own leadership lessons and reflections.

  • Monash academics
  • Former MP’s as practitioners
  • Senior political staff practitioners
  • Leaders with subject matter experts on the panels
  • National and NZ presence

Founding Partners


Hon Tony Smith

Hon Tony Smith had rare and strong bipartisan support as Speaker of the House of Representatives in the federal parliament, with his performance in the role becoming the benchmark against which others are measured.

Hon Kate Ellis

Hon Kate Ellis served as Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth; Minister for Employment Participation; Minister for the Status of Women and Minister for Sport under the Rudd and Gillard governments. In her book Sex, Lies and Question Time, published in early 2021, Ms Ellis calls out negative impacts on women of political culture, and argues for change.

Ian Walker

Ian Walker served as Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts in the previous LNP government in Queensland. Prior to his election he enjoyed a successful legal career, in addition to his extensive work in the community.

The Board

Grant Rule


Grant was the co-Founder and Executive Director of MessageMedia, Australia’s largest cloud based, business SMS solution provider and a leading player in the global market. The financial success of MessageMedia led to the creation of the Susan McKinnon Foundation in 2015. After nearly two decades working in technology and following the sale on MessageMedia in 2021, Grant now focuses his time and entrepreneurial flair on the work of the Susan McKinnon Foundation.

Prof John Thwaites

Hon. Prof John Thwaites AM


John is a Professorial Fellow, Monash University, and Chair of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute and ClimateWorks Australia. He was the Deputy Premier of Victoria from 1999-2007.

Sam Mellett

Sam Mellett


Sam runs the Susan McKinnon Foundation, joining as their first employee. She joined the philanthropic sector after over a decade in brand and marketing.

Prof. Allie Clemans

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) & Senior Vice-President, Monash University

Allie is the Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Senior Vice-President at Monash University. Prior to this role, she held the position of Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching); and previously as Associate Dean of Education in the Faculty of Education at Monash University.

Hon. Chris Pearce


Chris is Managing Director of Pearce Advisory. He serves on a number of not-for-profit boards and is an adjunct professor at Deakin University. He was a federal MP from 2001 – 2010 and during this time served in the ministry as Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer.

Meet the team

Prof Rod Glover

Prof. Rod Glover

CEO & Academic Director

Rod’s deep passion is public policy. This includes roles as Deputy Secretary (Innovation and Projects) in Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet and as Senior Adviser to an Australian Prime Minister.

He has led the development of the COAG National Reform Agenda and a National Industry and Innovation Statement. He also worked for the Australian Treasury, and innovation agencies in San Francisco, London and New York.

Prof. Anne Tiernan

Head of Research & Professor of Political Leadership

Professor Anne Tiernan is a political scientist, author and public commentator with three decades’ experience in academia, federal and state government and consulting. Her research focuses on the work of governing.

She has written extensively on the political–administrative interface, governmental transitions, policy capacity and executive advisory arrangements – particularly the support needs of ministers, the role of the public service, policy influence and public policy agenda-setting.

Darren Disney

Head of Engagement

Darren has served as a Chief of Staff in the office of federal and state cabinet ministers, and in corporate affairs roles in the energy, resources and banking sectors.

Matt Crocker

Strategic Advisor

Matt has been Policy Director for three NSW Premiers over the last decade, Chief Operating Officer for health insurance company Manchester Unity, and a senior advisor for Westpac and the Australian Energy Market Commission.

Matt is now a director of the Biennale of Sydney and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, and works with a number of organisations on public policy issues.

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Clare Colaneri

Senior Event Producer

Clare brings over 20 years experience in the service industry, specialising in producing highly personalised and unique events in inspiring spaces. After many years in high pressure environments, Clare brings a calm understanding, creative flexibility and confidence to ensure all McKinnon events are delivered seamlessly.

Dr Dominique Coy

Dr Dominique Coy

Research Fellow

Domi is a social scientist specialising in integrating research and practical experience to explore complex and adaptive problems. Her research focuses on democratic engagement, political leadership and learning.

Naomi Ockerse

Senior Project Officer

As Senior Project Officer, Naomi assists with many facets of program development from conception to completion. Working closely with the academic team to build a new digital learning space for alumni, Naomi works hard to ensure a smooth learning experience for MPs across all McKinnon programs.

Naomi has joined the education and philanthropic sectors with a background in corporate sales and marketing.

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Kazi Aubanty

Kazi Aubanty

Senior Project Coordinator

Kazi is a Senior Project Coordinator with the McKinnon Institute’s academic team, and brings her extensive experience in project support and systems implementation. She is passionate about enhancing productivity using streamlined organizational processes, and ensuring that her team is set up to succeed.

Current Opportunities

We’re looking for people that share our unique passion for empowering democracy. Explore the Foundation’s current opportunities.

Job title

We’re always interested in hearing from talented people who share our passions. We might not currently be advertising for a role that speaks to your experience, but if you’re interested in working with us, please submit a CV and cover letter to info@mckinnoninstitute.org.au and we’ll be happy to take a look.

What our scholars say about us

Australia needs the absolute best Ministers. This course helps deliver them. Put simply, you will be better at your job following the McKinnon Advanced Leadership program. I am so glad that I forced the time into my diary to do this. You should too. The course reminds you of your strengths and helps you build the skills of modern political leadership. It connects you with other thinkers, challenging ideas, and new ways of being an effective leader. Instead of dragging one another down, the McKinnon course helps lift up the quality of politicians and their decisions. A bipartisan cohort of federal and state parliamentarians, along with Australia’s leading academics, helps build new perspectives and relationships.

The Hon Patrick Gorman MP
Federal Member for Perth
Advanced Political Leadership 2023

I cannot speak highly enough of the program. It was eye opening, challenging and overall a fantastic experience.The quality and range of the presenters was an absolute privilege for us to experience, a lifetime's worth of interactions with thought leaders compressed into one program. I had high expectations going into the course, and they were well and truly exceeded. I feel better equipped as a parliamentarian having completed the program.

The Hon Reggie Martin MLC
Member of the Legislative Council, South Australian Parliament
Advanced Political Leadership 2023

As our community evolves and progresses, so must the way members of parliament respond to and serve their community. At its heart, this is what the McKinnon Institute’s Advanced Political Leadership course helps MPs to do.APL gave participants not just the practical tools, but the connections and courage to do politics differently; to prepare to contribute as a government minister. The McKinnon Institute – and the APL program – exists to help MPs to make the best decisions and bring about the most amount of good. It is my hope that the opportunity we have had will drive improvement in the lives of every Australian.

Brad Rowswell MP
Member for Sandringham, Parliament of Victoria
Advanced Political Leadership 2023

The Advanced Political Leadership course was an informative and really valuable experience. I was very thankful to have the opportunity to participate in the course.The quality of the presenters and the breadth of topics that we covered were highly relevant, and informative to me and my colleagues who were participating. Allowing us to pause and reflect on what we seek to achieve while we are in these privileged positions and how we can enact this change. I feel as though I have come away from the course with more skills to ensure I am able to deliver for the Australian people. I recommend the McKinnon Leadership to all Members of Parliament who are wanting to develop their skills and leadership.

Senator the Hon Anthony Chisholm
Senator for Queensland
Advanced Political Leadership 2023

The McKinnon Institute's Advanced Political Leadership Program has been a real career highlight. It is not often in politics that you get the opportunity to participate in professional development programs. The APL is such a well-rounded program and gives me the opportunity to meet other members of parliament from around the nation. It was fantastic to have the opportunity to enhance and build on my own personal and professional skills. The calibre of presenters was extraordinary and very well planned and executed. Thank you to the McKinnon Institute for this incredible opportunity.

Hon Heidi Girolamo MLC
Member of the Legislative Council, South Australian Parliament
Advanced Political Leadership 2023

Space to engage with big ideas and meet and learn from tested leaders is a luxury you seldom get in the maelstrom of political life.The McKinnon Institute Advanced Political Leadership Program deeply changed the way I approach my role as an MP. It was an extraordinary experience, put together with great dedication by an extraordinary team. I enjoyed and benefited from every moment and am a better parliamentarian for it.

Ali King MP
Member for Pumicestone, Queensland Parliament
Advanced Political Leadership 2023

The McKinnon Advanced Political Leadership program was an incredible personal and professional development experience. In an occupation where we seem to be constantly ‘in the moment’ and have very little time to lift our eyes to the horizon, it provided a fantastic opportunity to pause, consider the very nature of an MP’s role in parliamentary democracy, how we might improve government and strengthen democratic institutions, and how we might more meaningfully make a contribution to our constituencies and broader society. The ability to learn from such a rich array of diverse and experienced speakers – and from other scholars – is unique. Working with MPs from around Australia and from both sides of the aisle was particularly enriching. At a time where we so easily retreat into extreme partisan politics, the program allowed us to share experiences, understand genuine points of difference more deeply and appreciate common perspectives. I particularly enjoyed the policy project: testing my own thoughts and seeing how others approach some of the most challenging and complex issues our society faces. The program creates a safe place for dangerous ideas: it’s completely unique to the current Australian political experience.

Jessica Shaw MLA
Member for Swan Hills, WA Parliament
Advanced Political Leadership 2023

As a recent participant in the Advanced Political Leadership Course at the renowned McKinnon Institute, I can confidently attest to the invaluable learning and preparation it provides for aspiring government ministers. The program's comprehensive curriculum, expert faculty, and immersive learning experience have equipped me with the knowledge and skills necessary to be effective in today's complex political landscape. One of the most significant benefits of the course is its emphasis on practical leadership and governance strategies. Through interactive seminars, case studies, and simulations, I gained a deep understanding of policy formulation, crisis management, negotiation, and decision-making processes. These practical experiences have not only broadened my perspective on effective governance but have also sharpened my ability to navigate real-world political challenges with confidence and astuteness. Furthermore, the McKinnon Institute's faculty comprises distinguished political leaders, scholars, and practitioners who bring a wealth of expertise and insights to the classroom. Their mentorship and guidance have been instrumental in honing my leadership acumen and understanding of best practices in public administration. Moreover, the institute's extensive network of alumni and industry connections has provided me with valuable opportunities for ongoing learning, collaboration, and professional growth. By developing a deep understanding of ethical leadership, public policy analysis, and strategic communication, I am now better equipped to contribute to the creation of more effective and responsive government. The course has instilled in me a commitment to ethical governance, evidence-based decision-making, and inclusive leadership, which are essential qualities for future government ministers seeking to enact positive change and serve their constituents with integrity. In conclusion, the Advanced Political Leadership Course at the McKinnon Institute has been an enriching and transformative experience that has prepared me to be a more effective and visionary leader in government. I highly recommend this program to any individual aspiring to make a meaningful impact as a politician.

Phillip Thompson OAM MP
Federal Member for Herbert
Advanced Political Leadership 2023

The Advanced Political Leadership program delivered by the McKinnon Institute is a rare and completely unique opportunity for parliamentarians to step out of the day to day of political life and reflect on what we hope to achieve for our country during our time in office and how best to achieve it. I’m grateful for the insights gained about how to navigate complex policy issues, achieve ambitious reform and deliver for our constituents. The program also provided a forum for honest dialogue with parliamentary colleagues across the aisle about the challenges our country faces, and the shared sacrifices and burdens of public life. I thoroughly recommend it.

Senator James Paterson
Senator for Victoria
Advanced Political Leadership 2022 Graduate

To the incredibly dedicated team at the McKinnon Institute, thank you for the fantastic opportunity to be a scholar in the Class of 2022 from your Advanced Political Leadership Program. It was clear from day one that the coursework and guest presenters were relevant, meaningful and thought provoking across wide and varied topics and discussions. As a professional development opportunity for MPs and Senators, I highly recommend this course to those who seek to develop the necessary skills to prepare for the road ahead-life in politics and beyond.

Angie Bell MP
Federal Member for Moncrieff
Advanced Political Leadership 2022 Graduate

I was very fortunate to be one of the MPs who participated in the 2022 McKinnon Institute Advanced Political Leadership program. Throughout this year’s program, we experienced a series of workshops, and a week-long residential intensive program full of high-quality presentations from experts in politics, academia, economics and foreign policy. One of the most valuable aspects of participating in the McKinnon Institute was getting to know MPs from other states and other parties. The McKinnon Institute granted us the unique experience of engaging in deep thinking on where our country is, where it can go and what our role is to lead it there. Anyone who is serious about the craft of politics and the future of our country should seriously consider applying for the McKinnon Institute’s Advanced Political Leadership program.

Josh Burns MP
Federal Member for Macnamara
Advanced Political Leadership 2022 Graduate

I am very grateful to have been able to participate in this amazing program. The calibre of presenters and the depth and breadth of knowledge was outstanding. I learned so much and took away useful tools, knowledge and contacts. Collaborative and supportive environment. Highly recommend the Advanced Political Leadership course.

Nicole Lawder MLA
State Member for Brindabella, ACT Parliament
Advanced Political Leadership 2022 Graduate

When you’re elected to Parliament there is a very steep learning curve. It can take months to learn the ropes and longer again to be competent and comfortable in the role. And unlike the commercial sector, there is very little relevant professional development available to MP’s. The McKinnon Institute’s Advanced Political Leadership Program builds on the skills MP’s have built early in their careers so they can become the next generation of leaders - leaders who are more effectively able to deliver on their visions because they have the right tools and training. The course covers a broad range of topics and encourages participants to think deeply about why they entered politics and how they can be most effective at their jobs. I particularly enjoyed some of the theory we learnt about power and leadership – they’re lessons that carry over beyond parliament. Any MP who is serious about taking the next step in their career should seriously consider this course – you won’t regret it.

Gurmesh Singh MP
State Member for Coffs Harbour, NSW Parliament
Advanced Political Leadership 2022 Graduate

I commend the McKinnon Institute for the APL course, and thank them for the opportunity to engage with expert practitioners in politics, public service, policy institutions and the media. This was a unique opportunity to learn alongside colleagues from State and Federal Parliaments from different political Parties, challenging us to explore how we might practically enhance our nation’s democratic system, our Parliament and improve outcomes for our constituents. As a Member of Parliament for 14 years, having served as a Minister and a Leader of my Party, I found it to be instructive, affirming and thought-provoking. I would recommend APL without hesitation to my colleagues from both sides of the Chamber.

The Hon Mia Davies MLA
Member for Central Wheatbelt, WA Parliament
Advanced Political Leadership 2022 Graduate

The Advanced Political Leadership Program is an opportunity to step back from the daily cut and thrust of politics and reflect on why you’re there and what you want to do. The McKinnon Institute was able to draw together some of the greatest leaders and minds for a real-world perspective on political leadership, warts and all. The course covers the entire gamut of challenges on your political journey and you’re able to engage in a way where you get a practical and lived experience of how to get things done. It’s rare in politics to be able to get this opportunity and I’d recommend the Advanced Political Leadership Program to all of my colleagues not just for their own development, but the development of better public policy across our Parliaments.

The Hon Scott Farlow MLC
Member of the Legislative Council, NSW Parliament
Advanced Political Leadership 2022 Graduate

The programs of the McKinnon Institute are professional, engaging and targeted to parliamentarians wanting to undertake professional development. Through undertaking relevant courses, colleagues have better equipped themselves to meet the challenges of political leadership, whilst also enhancing their promotion prospects. I thoroughly recommend MPs personally invest in a McKinnon program.

Hon Jonathan O’Dea MP
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Member for Davidson
Political Leadership for 2021

I was honoured and excited to be selected for the inaugural McKinnon Institute Australian Political Leadership Program. The sessions were well presented covering both theoretical as well as real world experience. Working with a cross-partisan cohort from State and Federal jurisdictions ensured we didn’t get mired down in policy conversations but focused on the “how” of delivering on policies. I definitely think that through this Program…I will be better prepared to navigate the system, work with the bureaucracy and deliver effective programs.

Senator Perin Davey
Senator for New South Wales
Advanced Political Leadership 2021

I enjoyed getting different perspectives from other MP’s and political people from around the country about topical issues particularly COVID-19 and the response.

Shane King MP
Member for Kurwongbah, Queensland Parliament
Political Leadership for 2021

APL was a fantastic program. It provided me with the tools and insights to be effectively prepared to become a Minister. I found the speakers engaging and content incredibly useful. I cannot recommend the course highly enough to other Parliamentarians.

Hon James Griffin MP
Minister for Environment and Heritage & Member for Manly
Advanced Political Leadership 2021

Ministers play a central role in the Westminster system. Many who take on this role do so after having gained some experience as a backbencher. However, there are qualitative differences in the role of being a minister that many are unprepared for: making decisions as part of a team and then collectively owning those decisions; working directly with the public service; crafting and seeking the passage of legislation; and assuming responsibility for the messy implementation of agreed policy in the real world. The Advanced Political Leadership course fills a gap by offering early and mid-career politicians aspiring to become a minister with both the theoretical and practical tools to be better prepared should a future opportunity arise. It is wide in scope yet uniformly exceptional in both the quality of course content and the standard of high-profile expert presenters. Participating in the course was extremely useful in helping me to think about the longer term needs of my electorate and society more generally.

Dr Daniel Mulino MP
Member for Fraser
Advanced Political Leadership 2021

When I was first asked to be a part of this course, I thought two things — firstly, do I really need to do this, and secondly, do I have time for this?

Well, the answer to the first question was yes — I absolutely needed to do this, and the answer to the second part of the question — I have to find time to do this, there's no excuse. We've never experienced a situation like COVID-19, whether as a Member of Parliament and as a member of the community. It's something that we are learning to deal with.

So what the McKinnon Institute team are doing is absolutely brilliant and we need you to keep doing it, and we need to be encouraging our colleagues to attend more of your courses. So, thank you for putting this all together.

John Ajaka
Former President of the NSW Legislative Council
Political Leadership for 2020 Graduate

In a year of so many obstacles and unprecedented events such as drought, bushfires and of course the COVID-19 pandemic, the course provided a unique environment to help shape our approach and objective thinking, as we are tasked with responding to these crises.

The expert guest speakers across the various panels and modules of the course were brilliantly diverse and well versed in their fields. They provided excellent first-hand experience, advice and challenges for us to consider, for which I am grateful.

Please know that I shall have no hesitation in commending the course to colleagues and political affiliates considering undertaking professional development. Raising the standard for our civic leaders is vital and the opportunity to participate in such a forum is most worthwhile.

The Hon. Natalie Ward MLC
Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney General
Parliament of New South Wales
Political Leadership for 2020 Graduate

If you’d like to know more, we’d love to hear from you.

If you would like to get involved and find out more about our upcoming courses,
please get in touch with our team who can assist you.