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
Senior Lecturer, Political Economy, University of Sydney
|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.
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.
Philip Dorling – Senior Researcher
Dr Philip Dorling is a graduate of The Flinders University of South Australia who pursued postgraduate research on Australian diplomatic history. He joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1992 to work on the prestigious Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937-49 historical publishing project. He subsequently worked at Foreign Affairs and Trade on nuclear and missile proliferation issues before serving as a foreign affairs adviser to the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Laurie Brereton, from 1996 to 2001, and then as adviser to the Shadow Minister for Justice, Daryl Melham from 2001 to 2003. Dr Dorling worked in senior roles in the Tasmanian Department of Premier and Cabinet and the ACT Chief Minister's Department between 2003 to 2008. He worked as a senior investigative journalist with Fairfax Media (Canberra Times, The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald) from 2008 to 2015, largely focusing on foreign policy, defence and national security issues. Dr Dorling was awarded three Melbourne Press Club Quill Awards and was thrice a finalist for the Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism. In 2016 he served as an adviser and speechwriter for Senator Nick Xenophon. He is a Visiting Fellow (Adjunct Senior Lecturer) in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences in the University of New South Wales, Canberra, at the Australian Defence Force Academy.
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 – Events Manager & Fundraising Officer
Hannah has been with The Australia Institute since October 2014, and closely monitors and assists our donors, and donations that we receive. Hannah thoroughly enjoys corresponding with our donors as well as maintaining office duties and organising and participating in fundraising events. Hannah has comprehensive knowledge of our database NationBuilder, which is a tool to utilise maximum efficiency in her everyday roles and duties.
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
Bill Browne – Researcher
Bill has been with the institute since early 2014, when he was brought on to help out with the website. Bill has also worked as an analyst for ESG research provider CAER.
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.
Luke Fletcher – Executive Director
Luke has advocated for economic justice, environmental protection and human rights in the Asia-Pacific region since he first joined Jubilee Australia in 2005. At Jubilee he has occupied various staff and board roles, including as Research Director since 2010. Luke's diverse professional experience has included stints at the National Science and Technology Centre (Questacon), the Inspire Foundation and, more recently, as a Post-doctoral Teaching Fellow at Sciences Po in France. Luke has undergraduate degrees in both Arts and Science, a Masters from UC Berkeley (2009) and a PhD in Politics and International Studies from Cambridge University (2015), where he was a Gates Scholar.
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.