About

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.

Abigail Lewis

Research Associate & Communications Manager

Abigail Lewis is a research associate with Per Capita, providing research and editorial support to projects across our research areas. She also manages Per Capita’s communications, from website and social media to events and publications, focusing on outreach and engagement.

Abigail’s background is in journalism and communications, working as a reporter in Edinburgh, Scotland before moving to Australia. Since the move she has worked in the policy space for the Refugee Council of Australia, and as Communications Director for Live Below the Line, in which role she was nominated for a Golden Radiator Award for ethical communications. Her research and policy interests include social and economic inequality, migration and refugee policy, and structural oppression. She has distinctive academic credentials in both domestic and international policy fields, and strong experience in media, communications, and project management.

Abigail has a BA with First Class Honours from the University of Warwick and a Master of International Relations from the University of Melbourne, where she held the Northcote Graduate Scholarship. She tweets at @AbigailLLew.

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.

Current research topics include unemployment and underemployment, employment services, affordable housing for older Australians, and accumulated disadvantage over the life course.

Recent invited speaking events include: The Conference of Major Superannuation Funds (CMSF) 2018, The Victorian Fabians 2018 AGM, RenewFest 2018, ACOSS/VCOSS National Conference, and the Health Services Union national conference.

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.

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.

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.

Tim Lyons

Tim Lyons is a Research Fellow at think-tank 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.

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.

Our Board

Helen Conway

Chair

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 on line mental health service for youth). She is also an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Institute for Business and Economics at the University of Queensland and a mentor with Kilfinan Australia. Previous directorships include Catholic Healthcare, Sydney Ferries, Aon Superannuation and Caltex Superannuation.

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.

Dee Madigan

Director

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

Director

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

Director

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

Director

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.

Jacob Varghese

Director

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.

Marion Webster OAM

Director

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.