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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.

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

Prof. Sharon Pickering

Prof. Sharon Pickering

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Education

Sharon is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Senior Vice President of Monash University. She previously served as Dean of Arts at Monash University and prior to that as the Head of the School of Social Sciences.

Hon Prof. 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

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.

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Margaret Fitzherbert


Margaret was appointed CEO of the McKinnon Institute in 2019, and is a former member of the State Parliament of Victoria. Prior to Margaret’s election, she worked as an industrial advocate, a federal government advisor, and as a communications professional.

Margaret has written widely about women and politics and her first book was shortlisted for a NSW Premier’s Award. She has also contributed to a range of not-for-profit boards over the last 20 years, including as chair of the Royal Women’s Hospital.

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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.

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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.

Amy Green

Manager, Communications & Events

Amy has worked in the political sphere for almost a decade; leading communications programs, advocacy campaigns and coordinating large scale events for state and federal members of parliament.

Amy is responsible for all communications and events, workshops and residential intensives across McKinnon Institute programs and initiatives.

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Tia Trieu

Finance and Operations Manager

An experienced client engagement specialist with extensive experience across a variety of sectors in relationship, account and project management positions.

Tia is responsible for managing McKinnon Institute’s financial and business operations across the organisation.

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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 Events Coordinator

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.

Leissa Van Saane

Senior Programs Coordinator

Leissa has enjoyed a diverse career and found a passion for social and organisational change, and community development. Leissa joins the McKinnon Academic team to oversee the curation of all MKI program delivery.

Seth Paddle

Senior Digital Adviser

Seth is a dynamic professional in the realm of online education development, thriving within an ever-evolving academic landscape that champions adaptable and versatile digital expertise over narrow specialization.

Naomi Ockerse

Project Officer

As 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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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.

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