Our specialist team of experts contributing unique perspectives on social policy matters.

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professor helen Dickinson

Helen is Professor of Public Service Research and Director of the Public Service Research Group at the School of Business, University of New South Wales, Canberra.  Her expertise is in public services, particularly in relation to topics such as governance, leadership, commissioning and priority setting and decision-making.  Helen has published eighteen books and over sixty peer-reviewed journal articles on these topics and is also a frequent commentator within the mainstream media.  She is co-editor of the Journal of Health, Organization and Management and Australian Journal of Public Administration.  She is also a board member of the Consumer Policy Research Centre.  In 2015 Helen was made a Victorian Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia and she has worked with a range of different levels of government, community organisations and private organisations in Australia, UK, New Zealand and Europe on research and consultancy programmes. Building on her experience in previous senior roles in the Melbourne School of Government and the Public Service Academy, University of Birmingham, Helen continues to make research evidence useful and accessible to policy and practice.


professor paul smyth

Paul is Professor of Social Policy at the University of Melbourne and from 2004-2013 was also General Manager of the Research & Policy Centre at the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL), Fitzroy, Australia.  Paul’s diverse career combines academic and social action experience. He was previously the Director of Social Policy in the School of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Queensland. Prior to this he was senior researcher at Uniya, the Jesuit social research and action centre at Kings Cross, Sydney. A former Catholic priest, he also worked for 20 years in youth and family care.

Paul’s research areas include contemporary Australian social policy, local governance and social inclusion, and international perspectives on social and economic inclusion.  He is currently on the councils of the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Australian Catholic Social Justice Commission. He is an External Thought Leader for The Wyatt Benevolent Institution Inc.

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dr kay cook

Kay Cook is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Family Studies, Co-Director of the International Network of Child Support Scholars and a Senior Lecturer in the Legal and Justice Studies department at RMIT University. Kay’s work explores how new and developing social policies such as welfare-to-work, child support and child care policies, transform relationships between the state, individuals and families. Kay’s ARC-funded research on single parents’ welfare to work transition, family daycare workforce reform, and the problematic nature of child support for low-income single parents have been taken up at a national level. She has contributed to the development of the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2010 General Social Survey, the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into Family Violence and Commonwealth Law, and the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Child Support Program.

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professor robyn keast

Robyn Keast has a long standing involvement in social policy, both as a practitioner and academic.  Although holding a diverse research and publishing portfolio, she is best known for her work on networked arrangements and collaborative practice, with more than 100 publications on this topic as well asa growing collection of artefacts such as Fact Sheets, collaboration decision support tools and blogs. 

 For the past decade or so her work has focused on the development and management of research collaborations, including the Collaborative Research Network: Policy and Planning for Regional Sustainability, the Airport Metropolis Project and the Australian Asset Management Collaborative as well as joint government/academic projects.  Together these experiences have highlighted the importance and challenges of transdisciplinary collaborative practice.

 Currently semi-retired, Robyn is using her newly freed-up time and energy to re-visit some of the pesky problems that evaded her earlier efforts as well as pursue new areas of interest, including transdisciplinary research models and implementation, research impact, network ecologies and designing shoes.  

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Ben Spies-Butcher is a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Masters of Policy and Applied Social Research in the Sociology Department at Macquarie University. He has a PhD in Economics from the University of Sydney and his work focuses on the political economy of social policy. Ben is a Board member of Shelter NSW and a Research Associate at the Retirement Policy and Research Centre at the University of Auckland. Ben previously worked in the non-government sector for the Edmund Rice Centre and has been active in local community action, helping establish the REDWatch resident group, chairing the Settlement Neighbourhood Centre and as a former Co-Convener of the Australian Greens. You can follow him on twitter via @SensibleBSB.

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dr lesley russell

Lesley is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Menzies Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) at the University of Sydney. Her research interests include health care reform in Australia and the US, mental health, Indigenous health, addressing health disparities and health budget issues. Lesley has substantial experience working in health policy in the United States and Australia, both in and out of government. In 2009-12 she worked in Washington DC on a range of issues around the enactment and implementation of President Obama’s health care reforms, initially as a Visiting Fellow at the Center for American Progress and later as a Senior Advisor to the U.S. Surgeon General in the Department of Health and Human Services.

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professor jon altman

Jon Altman is a research professor at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, Melbourne and an emeritus professor of the Australian National University (ANU) currently with the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) in the College of Asia and the Pacific. He is also an adjunct professorial fellow at the Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin. Trained in economics and anthropology, from 1990–2010 he was the foundation director of the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at ANU. In 1979 and 1980 he lived with Kuninjku-speaking people at Mumeka outstation in western Arnhem Land while undertaking doctoral research; he continues his friendships and collaborations with this group who he has re-visited on over 50 occasions since. Altman’s political advocacy covers a wide range of social justice and human rights issues including the economic right of Indigenous peoples to live on their lands and the need for forms of alternate development that match Indigenous aspirations as well as diversity of circumstances and possibilities.

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professor greg marston

Greg Marston is Professor of Social Policy in the School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology. His research interests include income support, debt and poverty, unemployment and the politics of policy change.  His recent books include McDonald, C. And Marston, G. Bryson, L. (2013) The Australian Welfare State: Who Benefits Now? Palgrave Macmillan, Melbourne and Brodkin, E. and Marston, G. (eds) (2013) Work and the Welfare State: From Public Policy to Street-Level Practice, Georgetown University Press, Washington DC.

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susan maury

Susan works with Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand as a Research and Policy Specialist, initiating research into educational disadvantage, young people’s engagement programs, and organisational systems and procedures. She regularly contributes analysis of evidence-based interventions to program design and behaviour change, including reviews of best practice and the impacts of psychological states on behaviour. Prior to moving to Australia, Susan spent 20 years in the international development sector, including Director of Program, Design and Innovation with Habitat for Humanity in the Africa/Middle East region. Susan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English/writing concentration, a Master of Science in Organisational Behaviour, and is currently a PhD candidate in psychology with Monash University.

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lauren siegmann


Lauren is the Director of String Theory, a consulting firm that specialises in program design, strategy, and evaluation. Lauren is a passionate, funny, creative, and intelligent program designer and evaluator. She loves working with people and helping them to make their programs the best they can be. She highly values working with program beneficiaries to ensures their values are embedded into program design and evaluation. Lauren is adept at taking complex research and evaluation theory and practice and communicating it in a way that is easily understandable for a variety of audiences. She has 20-years experience working in the community, international aid, and evaluation sectors. She knows a little bit about everything.

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