Our Team


Executive Director

Emma Dawson

Emma Dawson is Executive Director of Per Capita. She has worked as a researcher at Monash University and the University of Melbourne; in policy and public affairs for SBS and Telstra; and as a senior policy adviser in the Rudd and Gillard Governments.

Emma has published reports, articles and opinion pieces on a wide range of public policy issues. She is a regular contributor to Guardian Australia, The Age and The Australian Financial Review, and a frequent guest on various ABC and commercial radio programs nationally. She appears regularly as an expert witness before parliamentary inquiries and often speaks at public events and conferences in Australia and internationally.

Emma is the co-editor, with Professor Janet McCalman, of the collection of essays What happens next? Reconstructing Australia after COVID-19, published by Melbourne University Press in September 2020. She is a Fellow of the Women’s Leadership Institute of Australia and an Adjunct Professor at the UTS Business School.

Director of Policy and Research

Sarah McKenzie

Sarah McKenzie previously worked as a Research Associate in Per Capita’s Centre for New Industry.  She holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) from Victoria University. Prior to working at Per Capita, Sarah worked at the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance and the Victorian Trades Hall Council, advocating for the rights and welfare of Australian workers.

Senior Fellow

Dr May Lam

Dr May Lam has worked in policy, research and strategy for 30 years, with a focus on services for people who are unemployed and disadvantaged in the labour market. After teaching at Melbourne and Monash Universities, she worked for 14 years at Jobs Australia, the national peak body for not-for-profit providers of employment, training and community services, where she was Policy Manager and Deputy CEO. She has also worked for the private company Ingeus in the UK, the Department of Work and Pensions (UK), the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Marist Youth Care, and other organisations, on various projects related to service design, development, procurement, contracting and performance reporting. More recently she has worked for the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation. Her research, policy and advocacy interests join around the need to reform employment services, choice and voice for service users, service innovation, collective impact, and better ways to use data to inform evaluation, government funding and social investment by philanthropy.

May is currently Chair of Youth Development Australia and was a contributor to its National Youth Commission on Youth Transitions and Unemployment. She has previously been Deputy Chair of the Board of Adult Community and Further Education in Victoria, and Chair of Writers Victoria.

Senior Economist

Dr Margaret McKenzie

Prior to joining Per Capita Margaret held the position of ACTU Economist at the Australian Council of Trade Unions, preparing the submissions to the annual review of the minimum wage. She has held academic positions in Australia and the UK, most recently as lecturer in economics at Deakin University, and as an Honorary Research Fellow at Federation University. She has worked in economic policy in the Australian public service, mainly at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Her research focuses on empirical aspects of macroeconomics, market failure, regulation and economic policy, working within labour economics and industrial relations, privatisation and outsourcing, technology, industry and trade policy, development, housing, and applied econometrics.

She has a PhD and MSc in economics from Birkbeck College London and a BA (hons) in anthropology from Monash. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Australian Institute of Employment Rights. She has presented widely in the media, including on regular economic expert panels for The Conversation and The Age / SMH Scope surveys.

Director of Operations and Communications

Meredith Eldridge

Over the past 10 years Meredith has held communications roles in the non-profit sector as well as several communications and design agencies. Prior to joining Per Capita Meredith was Communications and Membership Coordinator at Domestic Violence Victoria.

Meredith also holds a Bachelor of Science and has a background in graphic design. She is an alumnus of the Australian Progress Fellowship Program.

Meredith is passionate about fighting inequality and creating a society that values personal wellbeing.


Media and Communications Manager

Rebecca Connell

Rebecca is Per Capita’s Media and Communications Manager. Coming from a multidisciplinary background which covers digital and creative media, journalism, AV production, and business management, Rebecca applies her holistic skillset to Per Capita’s online communications strategy, including the development and production of Re:CAP and Burning Platforms podcasts as well as livestreams and webinars.

Rebecca is also the producer of Socially Democratic, the Melbourne based podcast which covers current progressive campaigns and issues by platforming those leading them, which has also featured Per Capita’s Emma Dawson as a guest on a number of episodes.

Research Economist

Sam Ibrahim

Sam Ibrahim is a Research Economist at Per Capita, providing research and editorial support to projects across our research areas. Sam’s research and policy interests include climate change, social justice, social security, and social policy.

Prior to joining Per Capita, Sam was a Research Assistant at Swinburne University in the Information Systems for Social Impact research group.

Sam completed a Bachelor of Business Information Systems majoring in Business Analytics at Swinburne University, and is an alumnus of the Swinburne Emerging Leaders Program.

Andrew Herington Fellow

Lucy Tonkin

Lucy Tonkin is the current Andrew Herington Fellow at Per Capita, having commenced this program in September 2022. As the Andrew Herington Fellow, she assists and produces research into a variety of policy fields, with a focus on housing, urban planning and sustainability.

In 2021, she commenced work with Per Capita as an intern while completing her Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) degree at RMIT University Melbourne.

She is currently completing a Master of Urban Planning at the University of Melbourne.

Andrew Herington was a founding director of the John Cain Foundation and a driving force in Victoria’s public policy for four decades. In Andrew’s memory, and in dedication to his tireless work in Victoria’s planning policy, Per Capita has initiated the Andrew Herington Fellowship in Public Policy and Planning. We thank all our generous supporters who made this valuable position possible.


Senior Fellow, Econometrics

Dr Michael D’Rosario

Michael is an experienced economist/econometrician and interdisciplinary research lead with longstanding associations and experience working with the NFP sector, universities and social impact focused organisations. He has worked in community development in both Australia and Asia. Prior to working with Per Capita, Michael served as a chair at Deakin University, the manager of a large research program/organisation affiliated with the University of Melbourne, the ESG & Impact Advisor to CPA Australia, and as Research, Policy and Communications Advisor to the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal service. Michael has published extensively in Economics, Data Science journals and led a number of large economic evaluations.

At Per Capita, Michael serves as Senior Fellow – Econometrics, focusing largely on leading economic evaluation, economic modelling, ensemble forecasting and interdisciplinary research projects. Michael has served as a health economist and advisor to a number of refugee, youth and health focused charities, including Anchor, YouthConnexions, DCS, Deaf Connect, Deaf Australia, as well as peak hygiene charity Pinchapoo. In addition to working with Per Capita, Michael advises on the design of courses in Research Methods with a leading Australian university.

Prior to working in the NFP sector Michael worked with PwC, KordaMentha, AusAid, Victoria University and the University of Melbourne. Michael has served on a number of university boards as a Non-Executive Director and Deputy Chair. Michael is a recipient of the LexisNexis/Butterworths Prize, an Australia Endeavour Award, and the Alfred Deakin Medal, AntiPoverty Prize, FINSIA Award, Australian Endeavour Fellowship, and Ian Potter Scholarship. Michael’s doctoral and postdoctoral work in econometrics has focused on the role of innovation in driving job creation, economic development and services access.

Senior Fellow, Inequality and Social Justice

Dr John Falzon

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.

Research Fellow

Osmond Chiu

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.

Director of Responsible Technology, Centre of the Public Square

Jordan Guiao

Jordan Guiao is Director of Responsible Technology at the Centre of the Public Square. He is a technology strategy and policy leader striving to create a safer, fairer and more inclusive online experience for all Australians.

Jordan lived and worked at Silicon Valley, bringing home unique insights from the technology capital of the world, and has over 15 years’ of experience as a technology leader including with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Special Broadcasting Service, and Network Ten.

He is also the author of ‘Disconnect: why we get pushed to extremes online and how to stop it’ and co-editor of ‘The Public Square Project’ and appears and writes regularly on various media channels.

Senior Fellow, Gender Equity

Tanja Kovac

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.

Research Fellow

Shireen Morris

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.

Senior Fellow

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.



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.


Nareen Young

Professor Nareen Young is one of Australia’s leading and most respected workplace diversity practitioners and thinkers.

Professor for Indigenous Policy at the UTS Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, Nareen leads Jumbunna’s highly innovative Indigenous People and Work Research and Practice Hub.

The only one of its kind internationally, the Hub focuses on robust research and analysis, policy, practice, people and law reform around the workplace experiences of Indigenous people. It collaborates extensively with other organisations in the employment diversity sector, and other UTS faculties, and works with private and public sector organisations.

Nareen sits on the Indigenous Advisory group of National Australia Bank and the Aboriginal Advisory group of Insurance Australia Group.

Influenced by her Indigenous and culturally diverse heritages, Nareen has made a major contribution to awareness and understanding of diversity in Australian business and workplaces and in the wider community. Prior to her work in diversity employment, Nareen was a Trade Union official and sat on the executives of both the ACTU and Unions NSW representing women’s employment interests during this time.

Nareen has led two influential and successful diversity peak bodies. She transformed the Diversity Council Australia (2007-2014) into a flourishing not-for-profit workplace diversity advisor to business, the public sector and industry, providing members with a wealth of knowledge, research and expertise.

At the NSW Working Women’s Centre (1998-2005), funded by state and federal governments as the peak body for women’s employment in NSW, she ensured the Centre was accessible to all women in the state and that it played a significant role in mainstream employment matters. Nareen was nominated for an Australian Human Rights Award and Medal for her work during that time.

She was also Director and Employment Lead at Price Waterhouse Coopers for Indigenous Consulting (2014-2018), and has significant governance experience, having spent a term as Director at Indigenous Business Australia. She currently sits on the boards of Souths Cares, BlakDance, Per Capita and Diversity Arts Australia.

She has received numerous awards and acknowledgements for her work, including the inaugural AFR 100 Women of Influence honour for Diversity, receiving the top honour in that category in 2012. In the same year, she was named by prominent news and lifestyle website Daily Life as one of the 20 most influential female voices in Australia.

Nareen has presented her research nationally and internationally, and is a published researcher. She is also a regular contributor to the public debate about diversity, writing for and speaking to the media.


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.

Senior Fellow

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.

Convenor, Centre of the Public Square

Peter Lewis

Peter Lewis is the founder and convenor of the Centre of the Public Square. He is also executive director of the progressive strategic communications agency Essential Media and the founder of the collaborative engagement platform Civility.

Peter is one of Australia’s leading public campaigners with more than two decades’ experience in media, politics and communications. He is behind some of Australia’s most successful and innovative campaigns including Every Australian Counts for the NDIS and Never Alone for the Luke Batty Foundation.

He is a regular columnist with Guardian Australia and Fairfax newspapers as well as the author and editor of five books including ‘Webtopia’ and ‘The Public Square Project’.