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.

Shirley Jackson

Senior Economist

Shirley Jackson is the Senior Economist at Per Capita. 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.

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. Abigail’s research and policy interests include social policy, social security, social housing, and social justice.

Abigail also manages Per Capita’s communications, from website and social media to events and publications, focusing on outreach and engagement. Before joining Per Capita she worked as a reporter in the UK and as Communications Director for Live Below the Line, where she was nominated for a Golden Radiator Award for ethical communications.

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. In 2020, Abigail was awarded the RMIT Unison Scholarship and commenced as a PhD candidate within RMIT’s Unison Housing Research Lab. She tweets at @AbigailLLew.

Simone Casey

Research Associate

Simone has a strong background in research and policy advocacy and has held a diverse portfolio of responsibilities relevant to Per Capita priority areas including unemployment, mutual obligation, social security, tax transfers, workforce participation and the structural discrimination perpetuating the social and economic inequality of women and people with disabilities.

She has prepared submissions, analysis, synthesis and summaries of policy initiatives and general news relating to welfare reform, unemployment and employment services including for the Newstart Inquiry, Drug Testing Inquiry; ParentsNext, the Future of Work and Workers, Enhanced Participation requirements and the 2016 Welfare Reform Bill; and at an earlier stage reviews of Disability Employment Service; New Employment Services and an Inquiry into DSS Grants.

In May 2018 Simone was awarded a PhD on the topic of ‘Resistance in Employment Services’ which was a critique of social policy relevant to the political economy of welfare redistribution and public policy governance.

Over the span of her career Simone has developed extensive networks and relationships in the welfare and community sector. Her priorities at Per Capita include reform of employment services.

Matthew Lloyd-Cape

Research Economist

Following a brief career as a carpenter, Matt has worked on issues of poverty, economic inequality and social justice in a range of jobs. Over the past 15 years he has worked in trade unions, international development NGOs and with universities. This work includes managing disaster relief and social development projects, industrial relations research in Eastern Europe, Russia and Central America, and livelihoods research in East Africa, Papua New Guinea and South Asia.

Prior to joining Per Capita he worked on international and social policy issues at the Australian Council of Trade Unions as an International Officer.

Matt holds an MSc in International Relations and Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where he wrote on the role of corporate social responsibility in industrial relations. He also has an MPhil in Political Economy from Central European University, where he researched cross-border trade union action in global supply chains.

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.

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.

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.

Warwick Smith

Research Fellow

Warwick Smith is a Research Fellow at Per Capita as well as co-founder and economist at the Castlemaine Institute.

Warwick has previously worked as the senior economist at Per Capita, as well as a number of roles as a 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. 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.

Shireen Morris

Research Fellow

Dr Shireen Morris is a constitutional lawyer and a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at Melbourne Law School, specialising in constitutional reform. Before that, she worked for many years at Cape York Institute with Indigenous leader Noel Pearson, driving the Institute’s work on Indigenous constitutional recognition and especially the concept of a First Nations constitutional voice, which was the topic of her PhD thesis.

Shireen regularly publishes and commentates in the media. Books include Radical Heart: Three Stories Make Us One (MUP), A Rightful Place: A Roadmap to Recognition (Black Inc) and A First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution (Hart Publishing UK) will be out this year.

Before becoming a lawyer, Shireen spent her twenties working as an actress and singer. Shireen is now thinking about constitutional reform for a republic and the idea of an extra-constitutional Declaration, the impact of technology on economic inequality and rising divisions in democracy, and policy avenues for full employment.

Julie Connolly

Research Fellow

Julie Connolly is an honorary Research Fellow who is establishing our Brisbane office. Julie has worked in policy-related research and advocacy in mental health and disability, multiculturalism and refugee resettlement. She was formerly the Deputy Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s Research and Policy Centre where she worked on variety of projects including early years policy.

Julie has a PhD in political philosophy, and did her post-doctoral work on the sustainability of gender pay equity. She has published on critical theory, the politics of recognition and feminist political economy. Her teachings specialities include western political thought and research methodologies.

Tim Lyons

Research Fellow

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.

Dennis Glover

Research Fellow

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 Society, The 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.

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.

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.

Gemma Pinnell


Gemma is Director of Strategic Engagement at Industry Super, tasked with strengthening relationships between Industry Super Australia and key stakeholders.

Gemma most recently held senior positions with the ACTU, and has been a Director of Industry Fund Services and AustralianSuper. 

Rod Glover


Professor Rod Glover is Director of the Sustainable Development Institute at Monash University. He is an experienced policy leader and adviser, having worked across all sectors and at the highest levels of policy and politics. His past roles include Deputy Secretary (Innovation and Projects) in Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet, and Senior Adviser to an Australian Prime Minister. He has also worked with the Australian Treasury and Melbourne Business School, and as a trusted strategic adviser to governments and leaders.

Rod has led the design and development of major policy frameworks in Australia, including the COAG National Reform Agenda (which reset the framework of Commonwealth-State relations), an Australian Government Industry and Innovation Statement, and the establishment of a number of new entrepreneurial institutions. He has also worked directly with leading innovation institutions in London, San Francisco and New York.

Rod was a member of the Australian Government’s National Sustainability Council, a Director of the Victorian Government’s Centre of Excellence in Intervention and Prevention Science (in public health) and chair of the COAG Preventative Health Working Group. He is currently a Director of Save the Children Australia and chairs the Per Capita Research Committee .

With a passion for education, in addition to developing the human capital agenda for COAG, he is on the Executive Committee of First 1000 Days Australia (Indigenous early childhood) and oversaw (as chair) the growth of Hands on Learning Australia into a world-leading educational intervention.