Program Director – Policymaking

  • Join one of Australia’s largest philanthropic foundation by assets -an organisation supported by former Prime Ministers & Premiers, former senior bureaucrats and business leaders. 
  • Lead a portfolio of programs focused on policymaking in the public interest: improving the transparency and robustness of state and federal legislative and non-legislative policymaking processes.  
  • Operate at the heart of government, policy and politics, contributing to the development of effective and trusted public institutions. 
  • Work directly with influential stakeholders and build an outstanding team in a dynamic and pioneering environment. 
  • Remuneration range (inc salary) of $200-$250,000, commensurate with experience. 


About the Susan McKinnon Foundation: 

The Susan McKinnon Foundation (SMF) is a Melbourne-based foundation dedicated to strengthening Australia’s democracy and enhancing public administration. Our goal is for Australian governments to be more effective, transparent and accountable. We support practical programs that deliver tangible progress, and our work is motivated solely by the long-term public good. Our approach is non-partisan and undertaken in cooperation with all sides of politics. 


About the opportunity: 

Transparent, evidence-informed, implementation-focused policymaking processes that are centred on the public interest are a key to achieving better policy outcomes. This Program Director leads a program of work focused on strengthening state and federal policymaking processes such that they become more transparent and outward focused, more grounded in and responsive to evidence, with clear implementation pathways, and attention to how the system can deliver, improve and innovate.   

A specific area of focus right now is optimising the tools, processes and research methods that are in hand as a way of building the capacity of policymakers. Beyond this, the next horizon is to explore how best to contribute to building capacity of the systems and organisations to create an enabling environment for policymaking in the public interest.  

The program intends to have impact by: 

  • Conducting research to understand the indicators of policymaking in the public interest (including system-level enablers), and the ‘current state’ of policymaking processes in Australia (including opportunities for strengthening).  
  • Advocating for improvements to policymaking processes. 
  • Developing and/or advocating for the adoption and use of tools and resources to support policymakers to use robust processes.  
  • Designing and delivering/supporting delivery of training for policymakers.  


Responsibilities include: 

  • Developing a sound understanding of the issues in public policymaking and applying these insights to program strategy. 
  • Collaborating with Susan McKinnon Foundation leadership to shape the program strategy and lead its delivery (including developing yearly and quarterly plans; ensuring key milestones and metrics are being achieved). 
  • Developing respected and trusted relationships with key stakeholders, ensuring that at all times these relationships are managed carefully. 
  • Negotiating terms of agreements with key stakeholders and program delivery partners. 
  • Working closely with subject matter experts, researchers and government relations representatives. 
  • Establish expert reference groups where appropriate to provide oversight and guidance. 
  • Appointing relevant experts to contribute to program delivery, such as parliamentary reform, evidence-based policymaking, and policy process mapping. 
  • Working closely with SMF’s government relations and events & marketing teams, to develop and execute communication and engagement strategies to achieve program objectives. 
  • Present annual strategy, business plans and periodic progress reports to the expert reference group and the Susan McKinnon Foundation Advisory Board. 


About you: 

  • You are a first-rate thinker who, when dealing with a complex problem or opportunity, can identify the key issues and develop a straight-forward plan of action. 
  • You have the demonstrated ability to build trusting, long term relationships with both senior and mid-level stakeholders such as political and public service leaders. 
  • You have a strong interest in how public policy gets made, government, and politics. 
  • You have a track record of delivering exceptional outcomes, running programs or other initiatives end-to-end. 
  • You are action- and outcome-oriented. 
  • You are an effective and inspirational leader who also ensures that teams have great clarity on expectations and accountability for outcomes. 
  • You are confident and assertive in your approach to stakeholder management, adeptly balancing internal priorities while fostering strong relationships. 
  • You are known for your personal drive, integrity, and grounded nature, displaying a high degree of professional objectivity, awareness, and maturity. 


Preferred qualifications and experience include: 

  • Tertiary qualifications in a field such as public policy, strategy, innovation, business management, program management or similar. 
  • 10+ years in public policy, public policy consulting, policy-relevant program director or similar. 

Please note: This role replaces the Portfolio Manager, Service Delivery role previously advertised on LinkedIn.  Applicants for the old role will be automatically considered for this current role.  

A Program Manager position is also available for a candidate deemed to have relevant experience. Please contact us for further information. 


How to apply: 

The Susan McKinnon Foundation is supportive of diversity in all its forms and strives to maintain an inclusive team environment. Please notify us if you require any adjustments to the recruitment process – we’ll do our best to find a solution. 

To submit your application, please click the ‘Apply’ button and upload your cover letter and resume. For a confidential discussion about the role, please contact