We regard effective government as the crucial enabler of opportunity and a more successful, fair and free society. We want Australia to have the world’s most effective governments – focused on the long-term interests of the Australian community.

Our work is motivated by the public good, is non-partisan, and is undertaken in cooperation with all sides of politics.

Our programs are informed by data and evidence, rather than ideology, and they seek to deliver pragmatic, tangible progress.

We’re here for the long term: focusing on incremental steps that build capacity to fulfill the community’s needs today, while addressing the possibilities of tomorrow.

We do this by incubating, delivering and supporting practical improvements to help Australia achieve a more fit-for-purpose political, policy and service delivery system.

We work with Australians from each part of the political spectrum – parliamentarians, public service leaders, policy influencers and everyday citizens.

Our work concentrates on three interconnected areas:

  • Developing effective elected representatives
  • Creating robust state institutions
  • Encouraging constructive policy dialogue.

We believe positive leadership is crucial in a high-functioning democracy.

We believe strong, effective and apolitical public institutions are vital assets for a thriving democracy.

We believe that good policy making is rigorous, non-ideological and implementation focused.

Effective Elected Representatives

We believe positive leadership is crucial in a high-functioning democracy.

Our work seeks to attract more people with capability, courage and integrity to our political system; provide them with training to enhance their skills; encourage a system that values active cooperation not conflict; and publicly recognise their positive achievements.

McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership

The McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership was established to recognise political leaders at all levels of government who have driven positive impact through their vision, collaboration, courage and ethical behaviour.

McKinnon Institute for Political Leadership

The McKinnon Institute for Political Leadership is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation that provides outstanding professional development for members of Australia's federal, state and territory parliaments.

Current Programs

McKinnon Institute for Political Leadership

Monash University
FY19 – ongoing
The McKinnon Institute for Political Leadership is Australia’s only organisation dedicated to enhancing the effectiveness of political leadership through professional development for members of Australia’s parliaments. Founded in 2019, it is a partnership between Monash University and the Susan McKinnon Foundation. The programs are designed and delivered with academic rigour combined with pragmatic practitioner expertise – with the goal of providing courses tailored to be highly relevant and full of implementable insights for MPs.

McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership

University of Melbourne
FY17 – ongoing

The McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership was established in 2017 to recognise political leaders at all levels of government who have driven positive impact through their vision, collaboration, courage and ethical behaviour. The purpose of McKinnon Prize is to advocate for our democracy by acknowledging and encouraging good political leadership. Since its inception, the McKinnon Prize has recognised the work of leaders who build trust, inspire others, and ultimately contribute to better quality policy and higher quality governance.

 

Robust State Institutions

We regard effective and trusted public institutions as vital assets that produce improved decision-making, better policies and good governance. They need support from without and within.

Our work acts to support a more accountable and transparent political system capable of delivering improved results. Such work will make our institutions of government more robust, ‘fit for purpose’ and able to respond to the increasing contemporary demands being made of them.

Policymaking in the Public Interest

The Susan McKinnon Foundation funded and is now continuing to build on the successes of the Evidence-Based Policy Research Project, with the goal of strengthening policy-making processes such that they are more transparent, evidence-informed, and focused on delivering for the public good.

National Integrity and Accountability

As part of its Accountability and Transparency Program, the Susan McKinnon Foundation funded the work of two organisations that successfully campaigned to establish a federal anti-corruption commission in 2022.

Current Programs

Four Year Terms

Susan McKinnon Research Centre
FY23 – ongoing

There is a case for extending the Parliamentary term of the House of Representatives to four years from the current three years. The Parliamentary term is specified in the Australian Constitution and a referendum will be needed to achieve change. This project seeks to ensure that the eventual referendum is successful. Research and development work is underway to build the case for the reform in itself and to establish a consensus as to model and approach.

Integrity and Transparency Research

Centre for Public Integrity
FY20 – ongoing

The Susan McKinnon Foundation provides core funding to the Centre of Public Integrity, which is an independent think tank dedicated to preventing corruption, protecting the integrity of our accountability institutions, and reining in executive power. The Centre for Public Integrity collaborates with academic experts, legal practitioners and retired judges to conduct research on critical integrity reform.

Policymaking in the Public Interest

Susan McKinnon Research Centre
FY19 – ongoing

The Susan McKinnon Foundation funded and is now continuing to build on the successes of the Evidence-Based Policy Research Project, with the goal of strengthening policy-making processes such that they are more transparent, evidence-informed, and focused on delivering for the public good.

Service Delivery

Susan McKinnon Research Centre
FY23 – ongoing

This program is born from SMF’s vision for Australia’s publicly funded services to be of the highest possible quality, delivering positive impacts for citizens in a way that represents excellent value-for-money and is fiscally sustainable. The objective is to enable and advocate for lasting improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of publicly funded services. Through research, stakeholder engagement and consultation, the Susan McKinnon Foundation will identify key levers for delivering better outcomes in public service delivery organisations, and provide practical guidance to resource pilots, evaluations and scale-up of best practice models in sectors such as corrections, health, and social services.

Truth in Political Advertising

The Australia Institute
FY20 – ongoing

The Susan McKinnon Foundation provides funding to the Australia Institute to advocate for Truth in Political Advertising laws, which aim to address concerns about inaccurate and misleading advertising during election campaigns. This advertising can undermine our democracy, distort election outcomes, and compromise trust in our democratic institutions, and truth in political advertising laws would enable the public to have more confidence in our democratic system.

Quality Policy Dialogue

We believe better policymaking occurs when decision-makers are better informed and genuine dialogue is possible.

Our work seeks to improve the quality of the evidence and ideas that feed into policymaking and to create an environment where rational, informed and constructive debate can more easily take place. Our programs aim to create a healthier policy ecosystem by supporting public interest journalism, countering misinformation and developing evidence-based ideas. Through our work, we offer strong support to Australia’s policy think tanks and media organisations.

e61 Economics Institute

The Susan McKinnon Foundation is the primary funder of e61, a not-for-profit, non-partisan economic research institute that analyses big data to help answer Australia’s most pressing economic policy questions.

McKinnon Opinion Poll Research Program

The McKinnon Poll Research Program (the Program) aims to encourage better policymaking by providing a richer and more in-depth understanding of public opinion as an input into the policymaking process.

Current Programs

Analysis and Policy Observatory

Analysis and Policy Observatory
FY24 - ongoing

APO curates and archives a free online library of articles, research reports, evaluations, policy briefs and white papers to help organisations including government, not-for-profits and think tanks access reliable information on public policy. The Foundation commenced funding and operating the APO in December 2023. Both the Foundation and APO prioritise integrating quality research and analysis into decision-making for better policy outcomes. APO’s focus aligns with the Foundation’s current and future program areas that are focused on evidence-informed policy making and public sector capability.

Blueprint Core Funding

Blueprint Institute
FY21 – ongoing

Blueprint Institute is a new Australian think tank that exists to inform the public and influence policy outcomes. They leverage the expertise of their team to move the needle on critical policy issues, achieving this through high-quality, evidence-based research informed by rigorous economic analysis. Their current research spans ‘Tax & Fiscal Reform’, ‘Education’, and ‘Climate & Energy’. The Susan McKinnon Foundation provides core funding to support Blueprint to scale.

BZE Core Funding

Beyond Zero Emissions
FY22 –ongoing

Beyond Zero Emissions is an independent think tank focused on accelerating Australia to a prosperous zero-emissions future. They conduct and publish research on solutions that unlock economic potential for industries, regions and communities. They also showcase real-world projects as opportunities to prosper in a zero-emissions economy and supercharge their work through a network of volunteers. The Susan McKinnon Foundation has provided a three year commitment to core funding.

CIS Education Program

Centre for Independent Studies
FY18 – ongoing

The Centre for Independent Studies Education program focuses on research and policy recommendations that improve the quality of teaching and student outcomes. They believe all children should have access to an education that is responsive to their needs as well as upholding high academic standards. CIS advocates for evidence-based improvements to our education system rather than an inputs-based approach, which has seen an increase in government spending without an associated improvement in education outcomes. Susan McKinnon provides ongoing funding to support this work.

CPD Core Funding

Centre for Policy Development
FY19 – ongoing

The Centre for Policy Development is a non-partisan, evidence-based think tank that builds bold and practical solutions for tough long-term policy problems. Its vision is for an economy that is clean and productive, a government that is active and effective, a society that expands opportunity and social justice, and a country that is respected for its leadership and cooperation. The Susan McKinnon Foundation provides core funding with a particular interest in its Climate Initiative and the Wellbeing Index.

e61 Core Funding

e61 Institute
FY21 – ongoing

e61 Institute (e61) is a not-for-profit, non-partisan economic research institute that analyses big data to help answer Australia’s most pressing policy questions. Bringing together problem-solvers from academia, industry and government, e61 uses its analysis to help pave the way for stronger evidence-based policies. The Susan McKinnon Foundation provided the seed funding that helped to establish e61 Institute and is currently its major source of funding. The work of e61 strongly complements the Susan McKinnon Foundation’s focus on improving the quality of evidence and ideas that feed into policymaking.

Grattan Core Funding

Grattan Institute
FY17 – ongoing

The Grattan Institute is an independent, non-partisan think tank, committed to producing policy analysis and recommendations that are grounded in evidence, geared to the national good, and expressed clearly and powerfully, without fear or favour. The Susan McKinnon Foundation provides unfettered funding to the Grattan Institute, supporting them to maintain their independence as they work to identify rigorous and practical solutions to Australia’s most pressing problems.

Grattan Education Program

Grattan Institute
FY22 – ongoing

The Grattan Institute’s Scaling Up project will investigate whether establishing more formal school ‘networks’ in Australia can drive better outcomes for students by extending effective leadership and successful operating models across multiple schools. This research will be based on conducting case studies of seven high performing networks in the UK and US to test their hypothesis that there are five key ways that school networks can improve outcomes for students.

McKinnon Poll Extended Pilot

Susan McKinnon Research Centre
FY23

The McKinnon Poll Research Program aims to encourage better policymaking by providing a richer and more in-depth understanding of public opinion as an input into the policymaking process. It does this by commissioning high quality public opinion research on topics that are of significant policy interest, but where there is potentially a gap between actual public opinion and policymakers’ understanding of public opinion.

Reset Australia – Social Media and Democracy

University of Sydney
FY21 – ongoing

Reset Australia works to raise awareness and advocates for better policy to address digital threats our democracy. They do this by developing and promoting a public policy agenda that sets fair rules and standards for Big Tech companies that align with democratic values in Australia. Their strategy drives policy reform across content moderation, data privacy, elections, security, child safety and protection from foreign interference. The Susan McKinnon Foundation supports Reset’s work on protecting electoral integrity in Australia.

Other Donations

At times the Foundation provides grants to programs and organisations outside of our three focus areas. These can include:

  • Donations totalling $150,000 per year given to various organisations chosen by Grant’s mother, Susan McKinnon;
  • Donations made by Grant and Sophie to other organisations and initiatives;
  • Grants to organisations on behalf of our stakeholders and directors, in lieu of fees and gifts.

All organisations are compliant with PAF Guidelines and our Constitution.

Explore the full list of grants per year in our Program Expenditure Report.

Our Ethos

Our values and shared culture are central to everything we do, setting the direction for the work we do each day.

Program List

The programs we incubate, deliver and support will help Australia achieve a more fit-for-purpose political, policy and service delivery system. This is a selection of the bold ideas and long-term transformational initiatives we are working on to improve our governments and democracy.

Explore the full Program List.