Who is The Australia Institute?
The Australia Institute's Board represents a range of views and priorities, and its staff includes policy experts from fields as diverse as economics, public health and law. What unites us is a belief that, through a combination of research and creativity, we can develop the new ideas and practical policy solutions that a progressive Australia needs.
Board of Directors
|John McKinnon (Chair)
NGO director, and philanthropist, formerly worked in funds management and international development
Philanthropy Adviser, Callum Hardy Consulting
|Barbara Pocock (Deputy Chair)
Emeritus Professor, Business School, University of South Australia
Psychologist and economist
Founder and Director, Social Justice Fund
Former CEO of Philanthropy Australia (96-06)
Federal Secretary, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation
National President of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.
Allan Myers Professor of Law, ACU and Barrister and Solicitor,
Supreme Court of Victoria
Principal, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. Head of the National Employment and Industrial Relations group at Maurice Blackburn lawyers since 1997.
Ben Oquist – Executive Director
Ben is a highly respected political and communication strategist and commentator. Known for his ability to negotiate across the political spectrum, Oquist played a pivotal role in the deal which saw the Senate crossbench to save the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Renewable Energy Target. Ben's contributions to The Drum, Crikey, The Guardian and Fairfax publications have ranged in topic from mining to senate voting reform to tax policy.
A former Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown and Senator Christine Milne, prior to those roles he was the Canberra adviser to progressive public affairs company Essential Media Communications. Ben maintains a particular interest in ensuring progressive voices feature more strongly in Australia’s economic debates.
Ebony Bennett – Deputy Director
Ebony began her career in the Canberra Press Gallery before becoming media advisor to former Leader of the Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown. Ebony was the national campaign director for the Australian Greens 2010 federal election campaign. Prior to working for the Australia Institute, Ebony worked for the Australian Human Rights Commission and market research company Lonergan Research.
Richard Denniss – Chief Economist
An economist by training, Richard has worked for the past 20 years in a variety of policy and political roles. In recent years he has been at the forefront of the national policy debates surrounding climate change policy and the Australian mining boom. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University.
Prior to working at The Australia Institute Richard was the Strategy Adviser to the Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Bob Brown, was Chief of Staff to the then Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, and held teaching and research jobs at Australian universities.
He is known for his ability to translate economics issues into everyday language. Richard has published extensively in academic journals, has a fortnightly column in The Canberra Times and Australian Financial Review and was the co-author of Minority Policy: Rethinking governance when parliament matters (with Dr Brenton Prosser), the best selling Affluenza (with Dr Clive Hamilton) and An Introduction to Australian Public Policy: Theory and Practice (with Dr Sarah Maddison). His most recent book Econobabble was released in February 2016.
Roderick Campbell – Director of Research
Rod has worked as an economist since 2007, mainly with public-interest economics group, Economists at Large. He has worked across a range of resource and environmental economics projects including project assessment, tourism economics and environmental valuation. He has assisted community and farming groups assess the economics of resource projects affecting their areas through commissioned and pro bono research, submissions and court appearances. Rod studied economics, geography and Asian languages at University of Melbourne and Kyoto University (Japan).
Tom Burmester – Director of Communications
Tom has been a media adviser and communications officer for a number of Australian politicians and for Washington DC based think-tank Green Action. A Canberra local and graduate of the ANU, Tom was the advisor to the Speaker of the ACT Legislative Assembly, and three other members for four years. Returning from the US in 2015 to become Comms Director at The Australia Institute, Tom maintains an interest in US politics and tax policy.
David Richardson – Senior Research Fellow
David studied economics at Flinders University and the University of New England. He has taught economics at UNE and the University of Western Australia. His research interests include macroeconomics and international economics.
In Canberra David worked in the Economics section of the Parliamentary Library briefing MPs and Parliamentary Committees on various economic issues before Parliament. During the Hawke/Keating Governments David worked for Ministers Brian Howe and Senator Nick Bolkus. David brings a solid knowledge and practical understanding of the Australian economy and government.
Matt Grudnoff – Senior Economist
Matt studied economics at the University of Newcastle. He has previously worked for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. He joined The Australia Institute in 2010 and has written and presented on a wide range of economic issues. These include the mining boom's impact on the economy, mining and fossil fuel subsidies, coal seam gas, climate change policy, including renewable energy, and the budget and tax policy. He also teaches economics with a focus on helping people engage in the public debate.
Dan Cass – Strategist
Dan has advised international and Australian energy companies and climate campaigns, the Australian Greens and was communications manager for Greenpeace Australia Pacific. He is an honorary associate at Sydney Business School and an advisor to Solar Head of State. Dan was a director of Hepburn Wind and worked for Australia’s first climate campaign, Greenhouse Action Australia way back in 1991. His analysis has been published by The Guardian Australia, Sydney Morning Herald and ABC’s The Drum. He has B.Sc (Hons) from the University of Melbourne.
Tom Swann – Researcher
Tom Swann is a researcher at The Australia Institute, where he’s worked on coal, renewables, divestment, higher education and government loans. He was a key organiser in the Fossil Free ANU campaign, the longest running in Australia and among the longest running in the world. ANU’s first step towards divestment in 2014 lead to a month of national debate. In 2015 Tom was award ACT Environmentalist of the Year.
Anna Chang – Communications and Special Projects
Prior to The Australia Institute, Anna worked as communications & campaigns advisor to then-Leader of the Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne and SA Senator Penny Wright, served as creative director on Senator Scott Ludlam's senate by-election campaign, and has also worked as a fundraiser and community campaigner at The Wilderness Society SA. Anna has also spent time as a commercial graphic designer and communications consultant for clients including the SA Cricket Association (2010-11 Ashes Series, 2009-10 & 2010-11 domestic seasons), SACOSS, and wine clients including Lion Nathan, Evans & Tate and McWilliams.
Mark Ogge – Principal Advisor
Mark is a fine artist and former Operations Director at Beyond Zero Emissions where he helped initiate and direct the award-winning Zero Carbon Australia 2020 project. At The Australia Institute his role involves engaging industries and communities affected by the expansion of coal and gas mining. This includes communicating key research findings about the impact of the mining boom on other crucial sectors of the Australian economy, especially manufacturing, tourism, education and agriculture. His work takes him to many Australian communities on the frontline of coal and gas extraction and fossil fuel power generation, where he presents the Institute's research findings.
Barbara Griffiths – Office Manager
Barbara has a wealth of experience in office management and bookkeeping. She has worked for law firms and Capital Monitors at Parliament House.
Hannah Brown – Fundraising Officer
Hannah joined The Australia Institute in October 2014, after completing her year 12 certificate and earning her certificate 1 & 2 in Business Administration. With fierce dedication and a professional demeanour, Hannah provides accurate and concise information regarding our research to the public and to our donors. Hannah thoroughly enjoys working at The Australia Institute and being the first point of contact for our donors.
Lane Crockett – Energy Associate
Lane is a champion of the renewable energy industry. Currently he is establishing a Solar Investment Fund for the Impact Investment Group. Prior to that, he was the Executive General Manager for Pacific Hydro where he was responsible for leading the Australian business, having lead the growth of the company to become a clean energy utility with a portfolio of more than 300MW of operating wind and hydro power facilities and a growing base of retail electricity customers.In his career he has over 25 years of international experience in the energy industries in Australia, Asia, the UK and New Zealand. He was worked in energy regulation and risk management. His early career included engineering design and project management in the oil & gas industry.
Lane has a Bachelor of Engineering, Mechanical from Canterbury University in New Zealand and a Graduate Diploma in Commercial Law from Deakin University.
Contact via Dan Cass, Email: DanC(AT)tai.org.au
Brynn O'Brien – Business and Human Rights Advisor
Brynn O’Brien is a lawyer and advisor and researcher on the human rights impacts of the private sector. She has worked across a broad range of issues and industry sectors where human rights and business activity collide, from labour issues in the supply chain to anti-discrimination matters and human rights issues in immigration detention. Brynn is an expert on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and is regularly invited to speak on their effective implementation and power as tools for advocacy. She is involved in shaping the business and human rights field in Australia and abroad through her membership of various multistakeholder groups, involvement in regional capacity building initiatives, and academic research and writing.
Martijn Boersma – Researcher, Catalyst Australia Inc.
Martijn is a researcher at Catalyst Australia, a think tank which works with trade unions, non-governmental organisations and academics to promote progressive solutions for pressing social and economic issues. In addition, he works as a researcher at the Centre for Corporate Governance of the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), which aims to align the interests of individuals, corporations and society. His research focuses on corporate social responsibility, corporate governance, business ethics and global supply chains. Prior to joining Catalyst and UTS, Martijn occupied several organisational and campaign positions at the international head office of Greenpeace in Amsterdam. He holds a cum laude master’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in archaeology from the University of Amsterdam, and is a doctoral candidate at UTS researching business ethics in global supply chains.
Octavia Bryant – Energy intern
Octavia studied politics at Monash University (BA, Hons), and is currently a doctoral candidate at the National School of Arts at the Australian Catholic University. She has taught at both Monash University and the Australian Catholic University in political theory and international politics. Her research interests include contemporary democratic theories, and the relationship between democratic crises and the rise of global populism.
Emma Jukić – Energy Intern
Emma is a researcher and writer. She has worked as an environmental lawyer at EDO NSW and as a policy consultant for the United Nations Environment Programme. Emma has also assisted with research projects at Melbourne Law School's Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law, and held policy, communications and advocacy roles at not-for-profits including Environmental Justice Australia, the Climate Council, and Solar Citizens.
Centre for Future Work
Dr Jim Stanford, Economist and Director, Centre for Future Work
Jim recently relocated to Sydney, Australia from Toronto, where he is one of Canada’s best-known economic commentators. He served for over 20 years as Economist and Director of Policy with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector trade union (formerly the Canadian Auto Workers). He still advises the union, and is also the Harold Innis Industry Professor in Economics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada (fractional appointment). He is also an Honorary Professor of Political Economy at the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney.