Political Leadership Program2023-05-11T14:29:04+10:00

Political Leadership Program

An online professional development course for MPs.

Political Leadership is an online professional development course for members of Australian parliaments (federal and state). The program is tailored each year to the current context, with last year’s theme being leading through uncertainty.

Political Leadership is an interactive and participatory program. Through engagement with practitioners, researchers and peers, we will explore what is demanded of leaders today in their communities, parties and parliaments, in the context of the unique public health, economic and climate challenges we face.

The program will consider how political leaders can act in a way that not only serves their communities, but also improves trust in the institutions of policy, politics and society. This will revolve around maintaining wellbeing, building quality relationships and having influence, and will be supported by leading frameworks that you can apply in your own jobs.

Political Leadership is open to all federal, state and territory MPs with a maximum of 30 participants ensuring that there is an opportunity for intimate conversation. It involves six workshops, all delivered online via Zoom.

The program is heavily subsidised by the philanthropy of the Susan McKinnon Foundation.

Some of our past presenters

  • Hon Jay Weatherill AO – Former Premier of SA
  • John Brogden AM – CEO – Landcom; National Board Chair – Lifeline
    & former NSW Leader of the Opposition
  • Ben Hubbard – former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Julia Gillard
  • Senator Dean Smith – Senator for Western Australia
  • Dr Deidre Anderson – leading sports psychologist

Other activities


Party elders to guide and support.

Alumni Network

Enabling ongoing connections for Fellows and participants, to build the McKinnon Institute community.

Research & Publications

Curating McKinnon Institute’s unique knowledge base of political leadership.

Marketing & Events

Tailored events and communications to build participants’ networks and knowledge.


Ministers reflect

The Institute for Government in the UK is often an excellent source of insight on [...]

What our graduates say about us

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.

Political Leadership for 2022 Program

You can take a look at last year’s Political Leadership program below.


Leading through uncertainty

Engage with a reforming State Premier on the challenge of leading through uncertainty, where progress must be accelerated on issues that are high-stakes, complex and uncertain, and where the confidence of the community needs to be held throughout the process.
Hon Jay Weatherill AO – Former Premier of South Australia
Frameworks for decision-making
Politicians frequently need to make a decision that has significant impacts on the lives of others. Often these decisions must be made to tight deadlines, based on contested or uncertain evidence, and considering the reasonable but conflicting rights and interests of a range of parties. This workshop will explore different ethical frameworks and provide you with practical tools for ethical decision-making.
Peter Mares –  Lead Moderator, Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership
Keeping it real: building resilience and looking after your mental health
Explore the pressures of political life and how they can be managed better, learning from the lived experience of a leading politician and now mental health expert. Hear about techniques and tips you can use to be resilient in the face of pressure, from one of the nation’s leading elite sports mentors.
John Brogden AM – CEO, Landcom; National Board Chair, Lifeline & Former
Leader of the Opposition, New South Wales
Dr Deidre Anderson – Leading Sports Psychologist
Creating a flourishing electorate office culture
The usual stress of electorate offices is amplified by the impact of COVID, and in many electorates, prolonged fatigue and working remotely. Sue Leidler has worked with MPs and their staff over many years, and offers some practical tips to help you navigate these challenges.
Sue Leidler – Former Electorate Officer
Developing trusted policy networks: an insider’s view
Engage with one of Australia’s most experienced political advisers about the importance of preparation, planning and trusted relationships. Hear practical tips on how to build the broad policy and political networks you will need if you are to have influence and impact.
Ben Hubbard – Former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Julia Gillard
How MPs can influence reform from the backbench
Senator Dean Smith was the 2017 McKinnon Political Leader of the Year for his role in Australia’s marriage equality debate. Through this case study, he will describe how personal commitment and a willingness to recognise diverse views can help to shape policy, political and societal change.
Senator Dean Smith – Senator for Western Australia
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