Per Capita is an independent progressive think tank, dedicated to fighting inequality in Australia. We work to build a new vision for Australia based on fairness, shared prosperity, community and social justice.
Our research is rigorous, evidence-based and long-term in its outlook. We consider the national challenges of the next decade rather than the next election cycle. We ask original questions and offer fresh solutions, drawing on new thinking in social science, economics and public policy.
Per Capita’s operating model is to invest in highly qualified researchers who work on applied policy development, rather than the more abstract, theoretical approaches of academia.
Our audience is the interested public, not just experts and policy makers. We engage all Australians who want to see rigorous thinking and evidence-based analysis applied to the issues facing our country’s future.

Per Capita is determined to be fully transparent in disclosing the sources of our funding. Information about our funders can be found here.

Our Staff

Emma Dawson

Executive Director

Emma Dawson is the Executive Director of Per Capita. Formerly, she was a senior advisor on Digital Inclusion at Telstra, Executive Director of the Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society at the University of Melbourne, and a senior policy advisor in the Rudd and Gillard governments.

Emma has published articles and opinion pieces on a wide range of public policy issues, which have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the Guardian, The Australian, and a number of online publications. She is a regular panellist on The Drum on ABC TV and various Sky News programs.

Emma holds a BA with First Class Honours from LaTrobe University and an MA with Distinction from Monash. She sits on the board of the Prader-Willi Research Foundation Australia and is an Honorary Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

Myfan Jordan

Director, Social Innovation

Myfan Jordan is the Director of Social Innovation at Per Capita’s Centre for Applied Policy in Positive Ageing (CAPPA). Myfan spent 25 years studying and working in the UK, focusing mainly on community involvement, social housing, policy and advocacy, until returning to live in Melbourne in 2011.

Myfan is passionate about the meaningful participation of (particularly) older people and has worked in various roles supporting this including Pensioner Action in the UK, Older Families Program at Commonwealth Respite and between 2013-2017 at Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria.

Myfan has a BA (Hons) in Social Policy from the University of Sussex and a Masters in Cultural and Media Studies. She has a Diploma in Social Sciences: Crime, Order and Social Control from the Open University, reflecting her particular interest in hate crime. Myfan is an Associate to the Healthy Ageing Research Group at La Trobe University.

Shirley Jackson


Shirley Jackson is an Economist in our Progressive Economics program.

Shirley spent most of his working life in warehouses, retail shops, restaurants and being unemployed. He has been fortunate enough to have spent the last 10 years working as a union official, most recently as a national official with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, of which he is a proud member. His areas of interest and expertise are young workers, employment, labour market policy, industrial relations, and industry policy.

Shirley has written extensively on a range of issues, with publications in ABC News, The Age, The Guardian, The Conversation, Crikey and a number of other online publications.

Shirley undertook undergraduate and postgraduate studies in history, economics and political economy, and has an unfinished doctorate on young workers and trade unions.

Warwick Smith

Senior Economist

Warwick Smith works in Per Capita’s Centre for Applied Policy for Positive Ageing (CAPPA) and in our Progressive Economics program.

Warwick has previously worked as a research economist, consultant, freelance writer, and juggler. His particular areas of expertise and interest include the economics of ageing populations, gender economics, environmental economics, taxation economics, and the history and philosophy of economics. Warwick has previously contributed to the development of Australian Greens national and Victorian policy platforms as a member of the Australian Greens Policy Coordination Committee and the Australian Greens Victoria Policy Coordination Committee. He also has a background in evolutionary and conservation biology.

Warwick has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of Science (Hons) from the ANU. He is an Honorary Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

Marianne Daly

Accounts & Administration Manager

Marianne Daly is the Accounts & Administration Manager at Per Capita. Marianne has spent more than 35 years in her field, specialising in taxation, accounts and business management, creating business processes and procedures, and specialising in a range of business software.

Marianne has a keen interest in women’s rights and safety, and the challenges faced by ageing Australians.

Marianne has a Graduate Certificate in Professional Accounting and is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Accountants. She has also completed an Advanced Diploma in Business (Accounting). Since 2012, she has been a Xero software specialist.

Research Fellows

Dr John Falzon

Senior Fellow, Inequality and Social Justice

Dr John Falzon is Senior Fellow, Inequality and Social Justice at Per Capita. He is a sociologist, poet and social justice advocate and was national CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society from 2006 to 2018. He has written and spoken widely on neoliberalism and the structural causes of inequality and has long been engaged in the collective movement for social justice and social change.

He has worked in academia, community development in public housing estates, and in research and advocacy in civil society organisations. He has served on numerous boards and advisory committees for both government and civil society, including the Australian Council of Social Service Board, the Australian Social Inclusion Board, the Deputy Prime Minister’s Global Financial Crisis Community Response Taskforce, the Energy White Paper High Level Consultative Committee, the Council of Non-Government Organisations on Mental Health, the Shelter NSW Board and the NSW Premier’s Social Justice Reference Group.

He has presented hundreds of keynote speeches and papers to conferences, rallies and other fora on social exclusion, economic insecurity, inequality, housing and homelessness, health, education, workers’ rights, employment and social security and is a frequent media commentator on these issues. He is also the author of articles, opinion pieces, book chapters and two books: The language of the unheard (Garratt 2012) and a collection of poems, Communists like us (UWAP, 2017). In 2014 he was an Australian Human Rights Medal Finalist and in 2015 he received an Order of Australia Medal for service to the community through social welfare organisations.

He is a member of the Australian Services Union and currently sits on the board of the Australian College of Community and Disability Practitioners.

Tanja Kovac

Senior Fellow, Gender Equity

Tanja is a writer and director at communications, leadership and justice consultancy, Kovac & Co.

After a decade of student activism at school and university, Tanja commenced work as a solicitor at Slater & Gordon, working in the firm’s Public Interest Unit, where she was responsible for a number of high profile human rights cases, including the Richmond Secondary College police “baton charge” claims, illegal strip searches and assaults of women by Victoria Police and as part of the team acting for Amnesty International in the case concerning refugees aboard the MV Tampa. Tanja also volunteered in community legal centres providing legal support to victims of the Black Saturday Bushfires.

Tanja has managed several small non-profit organisations in the faith, women’s and human rights sectors, where she was responsible for all aspects of strategic and operational leadership, managing fundraising and advocacy, cause-related marginal seat campaigns and volunteer engagement. But her research, policy, writing and advocacy passion is gender equality.

Most recently she was Chief of Staff to the late Fiona Richardson MP, Australia’s first family violence prevention minister where she was responsible for overseeing Victoria’s strategic family violence prevention and gender equality agenda, including creating the Victoria’s first Gender Equality Strategy.

Tanja is a Director and National-Convenor of EMILY’s List Australia, where she has been instrumental in developing gender based campaign strategies and policy change within the ALP, including setting the affirmative action target for women – 50/50 by 2025. She is also Deputy Chair of the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health and on the board of Burrinja Arts Centre.

Tanja has extensive experience with print, radio, TV and online media. Her writing has featured in The Age, Daily Telegraph, Crikey, MammaMia and more.

Tim Lyons

Tim Lyons is a Research Fellow at Per Capita, Deputy Chairman of large Industry Superannuation Fund, and a Director of a state-owned utility.

Tim works with unions and NGOs as a partner in Reveille Strategy Pty Ltd.

Tim had 20 years experience in the trade union movement as an organiser, advocate, policy specialist and senior leader. After 13 years with the National Union of Workers, he spent 7 years as the Assistant Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions until 2015 where he was responsible for organising programs and led the work program on labour law, economics and pensions.

Tim has been also member of Federal Government boards and expert working groups on workplace relations, taxation, superannuation, procurement and industry policy. Tim has had Australian and international leadership experience in relation to superannuation and retirement incomes policy, ESG and capital stewardship. Tim has had a long –term work focus on governance, compliance and accountability issues as a director, manager and leader.

Tim works, speaks & writes on organising, labour, tax, governance and finance. His writing has appeared in publications including The Guardian, The AFR, The Australian, The Saturday Paper and Meanjin.  He tweets @picketer.

David Hetherington

Senior Fellow

David Hetherington is Executive Director of the Public Education Foundation and a Senior Fellow at Per Capita, where he was the founding Executive Director.  He has previously worked at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London and at L.E.K. Consulting in Sydney, Munich and Auckland.

David has written over 100 major reports, book chapters and opinion pieces on Australian public policy.  His writing has been published or cited in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian, The Economist, The Guardian, Quartz, The Australian Financial Review, The New Daily and Australian Quarterly.  He was the Chair of the People’s Inquiry into Privatisation and a Commissioner of the Inclusive Prosperity Commission.

David has a BA with First Class Honours from UNSW and an MPA with Distinction from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Dennis Glover

Dennis Glover is an Australian writer and novelist. The son of factory workers, Dennis grew up in the working class Melbourne suburb of Doveton before studying at Monash University and King’s College Cambridge where he was awarded a PhD in history. He has worked for two decades as an academic, newspaper columnist, policy adviser and speechwriter to Australia’s most senior political, business and community leaders. An often outspoken political commentator, his books include An Economy is not a SocietyThe Art of Great Speeches and Orwell’s Australia. His debut novel The Last Man in Europe tells the dramatic story of how George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. Dennis is a founding member of Per Capita.

Stephen Koukoulas

Stephen Koukoulas is Managing Director of Market Economics, a firm focused on independent macroeconomic analysis.

Stephen has been working in economics for 30 years including in banking, financial markets, government and policy formulation. Stephen has been the global head of economic research and strategy for TD Securities in London, Senior Economic Advisor to the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, worked in the Commonwealth Treasury.

Stephen also spent 5 years at Citibank Australia, including as Chief Economist. He started his career in the Commonwealth Treasury in the mid 1980s.

Stephen is currently a widely sought after keynote speaker, Economics Advisor to illion (formerly Dun & Bradstreet), a Research Fellow at Per Capita and writes regular analysis and opinion pieces for The Guardian, Yahoo 7 Finance and The Constant Investor.

Osmond Chiu

Research Fellow

Osmond Chiu is the Senior Policy and Research Officer at the Community and Public Sector Union (PSU Group). He previously worked in policy roles in the Australian Public Service.

Osmond is a former Secretary of the NSW Fabians and editor of Challenge Magazine. He has spoken and written about a range of topics including the public service, the future of work, digital rights, social democracy and multiculturalism. His writing has appeared in publications including the Sydney Morning Herald, Guardian Australia, Crikey, Jacobin, Tribune and Meanjin. He tweets @redrabbleroz.

Our Board

Jacob Varghese


Jacob Varghese is CEO of social justice law firm Maurice Blackburn.

Jacob first joined Maurice Blackburn in 2002, leaving several years later to work as a political adviser in Canberra before returning to the firm in 2006. He became Maurice Blackburn CEO in 2017.

Jacob is driven by his belief that everyone should be able to access justice and be treated equally. His legal experience includes running complex class actions and overseeing Maurice Blackburn’s social justice practice. Jacob also provided legal input to the firm’s litigation funding business, Claims Funding Australia.

As CEO, Jacob combines his experience as a top litigator with strategic and lateral approaches to legal matters and his broader view of the political landscape. He holds Honours in Laws from the University of Melbourne.

Dee Madigan


With over 20 years’ experience in the advertising industry, Dee Madigan is a creative director who has developed integrated campaigns for some of the world’s largest brands, including HSBC, Coca-Cola, J&J, Unilever and Nestle.

She has been a winner or finalist at almost all major advertising awards, including Cannes.

Dee understands the need for creativity as a tool to persuade an audience; she understands that effective messages are always based on brand truths and she knows how to develop and roll out a truly integrated campaign, from TV ads and traditional media, through to digital and social media.

Dee is one of Australia’s most experienced political campaigners. She has been Creative Director on over 10 elections, including the 2015 Qld election as well as the 2016 ACT and NT elections. She is the author of The Hard Sell (MUP 2014) and is a contributing author in Change! Combining analytic approaches with street wisdom (ANU 2015) and MotherMorphosis (MUP 2015).

She is a regular panellist on ABC’s Gruen and a political commentator on Sky.

Tim Kennedy


Tim is National Secretary of the National Union of Workers.

Over Tim’s twenty years at the union, he has worked as an organiser, industrial officer, assistant national secretary, Victorian branch secretary and national president. His time at the union has seen increased worker-led activism and the creation of the NUW’s Community Membership, which is beginning to build links between NUW industrial activists and community activists for equality, decent and secure jobs, and a Fair Australia.

He has a BA (Hons) and MA in International Relations from Monash University, and a Bachelor of Law (Hons) from La Trobe University.

David Hetherington


David Hetherington is Executive Director of the Public Education Foundation and a Senior Fellow at Per Capita, where he was the founding Executive Director.  He has previously worked at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London and at L.E.K. Consulting in Sydney, Munich and Auckland.

David has written over 100 major reports, book chapters and opinion pieces on Australian public policy.  His writing has been published or cited in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian, The Economist, The Guardian, Quartz, The Australian Financial Review, The New Daily and Australian Quarterly.  He was the Chair of the People’s Inquiry into Privatisation and a Commissioner of the Inclusive Prosperity Commission.

David has a BA with First Class Honours from UNSW and an MPA with Distinction from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Maxine McKew


Maxine McKew is an author and Hon Fellow of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. Her most recent book, published by Melbourne University Press in 2014, is Class Act – a study of the key challenges in Australian schooling. This publication followed the success of her memoir, Tales From the Political Trenches, an account of her brief but tumultuous time in the Federal Parliament.

Maxine McKew’s background traverses both journalism and politics. For many years she was a familiar face to ABC TV viewers and was anchor of prestigious programmes such as the 7.30 Report and Lateline. Her work has been recognized by her peers with both Walkely and Logie awards. When she left journalism and made the switch to politics, she wrote herself into the Australian history books by defeating Prime Minister John Howard in the Sydney seat of Bennelong. In government she was both parliamentary secretary for early childhood and later, for regional development and local government.

Maxine lives in Melbourne and is a director of Per Capita and the John Cain Foundation. In 2015 she was also appointed to serve on the board of the State Library of Victoria.

Marion Webster OAM


Marion Webster was the founding Executive Director of the Philanthropy Australia and then National Manager Charitable Trusts ANZ Trustees. She was the CEO of welfare agencies and now practices as a consultant to the not for profit sector, philanthropy and government.

She has served on the boards of a number of organisations, bringing particular expertise in the area of board governance and efficiency. She is the co-founder of Fitted for Work, a national service to assist women experiencing disadvantage obtain and keep work.

Central to the development of the first community foundation Australian Communities Foundation, Marion is its immediate past Chair. She is also a Board Member of the Auckland Communities Foundation in New Zealand and the immediate past Chair of the Glenorchy Arts and Sculpture park in Tasmania.

Marion is currently joint Executive Director of Kilfinan Australia, an organisation set up to build the leadership capacity of NFP leaders through mentoring.

In 2003, she was Locum Director of Community Foundation Network in the UK.

In 2004 she was awarded an OAM for her services to philanthropy and the community.

Helen Conway


Helen Conway is a non-executive director. She is a director of Westpac Life, St George Life, Westpac General Insurance, Westpac Lenders Mortgage Insurance, Endeavour Energy, Catholic Schools NSW and ReachOut Australia (an online mental health service for youth) and the Chair of School for Life, an organisation providing education and related services in Uganda. She is also a mentor with Kilfinan Australia.

Helen had a successful career as a lawyer and senior executive. Following 10 years in private practice as a lawyer, including 7 years as a partner in a major law firm in Sydney, she moved into the corporate sector where she worked as a senior executive in the insurance, transport, energy, retail and construction sectors over 18 years. From 2011 to 2015, Helen served as the CEO of the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, a statutory authority with regulatory and other responsibilities.

In 2005, Helen was awarded the Australian Corporate Lawyer of the Year by the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association.