2022 Sydney Policy Lab team standing in front of RD Watt building

Our team

Meet the staff team who run the Lab
Led by Director Kate Harrison Brennan, our core team has expertise in all dimensions of the policy process, from community organising and government relations, to policy analysis and strategic communications.

Director of the Sydney Policy Lab

Kate Harrison Brennan, Director of Sydney Policy Lab
Kate Harrison Brennan
“The University of Sydney recognises that world-class research is increasingly conducted in collaboration between academic and non-academic partners. The Lab’s mission is to unite the brilliant ideas its researchers generate with the wisdom of everyday experience and practical expertise to answer some of Australia’s big policy questions.”
Connect with Kate on Twitter

Our team

Kate is the Director of the Sydney Policy Lab.

As the former Head of Policy & Design at the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Kate has seen the positive impact of good policy and partnerships to help to break cycles of disadvantage across Australia. Prior to this, she was CEO of Anglican Deaconess Ministries, a 130-year-old Christian women’s foundation, where she worked to reimagine the vision of the organisation and re-establish their work in public and practical engagement.

In government, Kate was an adviser to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Working with the Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff, Dr Harrison Brennan worked across the policy portfolios and on caucus management. She had also previously served former Deputy Prime Minister Gillard in the portfolio of social inclusion. Prior to joining the Office of the Prime Minister, she was Director of Strategic Communications and Global Affairs at the Australian Consulate-General in New York.

Kate is a graduate of the University of Sydney, a NSW Rhodes scholar, holds a D.Phil in Politics and an M.Phil in Development Studies (International Development, with Distinction) from the University of Oxford. During her doctoral studies, Kate was awarded a Fleet Fellowship by Magdalen College Oxford to attend Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs. She has published an edited volume on Making Global Institutions Work.

Connect with Kate on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Brendan is Academic Chair of the Australia Cares project.

An internationally renowned nursing leader, Brendan has spent his career enabling person-centred practices in nursing and healthcare through participatory action research. He is now Head of School and Dean, Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery at the Faculty of Medicine and Health. Brendan has a deep commitment to cultures and practices of relational care.

Amanda leads education and training at the Sydney Policy Lab and had an international reputation as a community organiser and scholar of social change. She recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the University of Sydney on organising cities.

She is the instigator and academic lead of the Lab’s Real Deal project that works with dozens of places and partners to create community-based solutions to economic and climate transition, and she also leads our training program on collaboration beyond the university and the relational method.

Amanda co-founded the digital campaign group GetUp.org.au and founded community organising in the Oceania region when she established Australia’s largest community coalition, the Sydney Alliance. She has also been the president of the National Union of Students, co-founder of Labor for Refugees and an elected official of Unions NSW.

She currently hosts the ChangeMakers Podcast, one of the most popular social change podcasts globally. ChangeMakers tells stories of people from across the globe trying to make the world a better place. She holds a PhD on social change strategy, and she authored Power in Coalition, published by Cornell University Press. With Kurt Iveson she is preparing a book manuscript People Power in Cities that documents their research about urban alliances around the world. She is beginning a research project called the Different Project, using her lived experience of bipolar disorder to reimagine mental illness as a public identity, as a way to change how we live with mental illness and how we challenge the stigma associated with it. She has written about that widely, including for Griffith Review.

Amanda is on Twitter @amandatatts and LinkedIn. There is more information about her research here.

Louise leads operations and engagement at the Sydney Policy Lab and has more than 15 years experience in local and state governments, universities and entrepreneurial environments in Australia and internationally. Before joining the Sydney Policy Lab, Louise was based in Singapore as Director of Executive Education at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, where she worked with governments across Asia and the Middle East to design programs to inspire leaders and transform policymaking.

She has also worked with civil society and advocacy organisations, including sitting on local and national advisory boards. Louise holds a Bachelor of Economics and Social Sciences (Hons) from the University of Sydney and a Master in Public Administration from the National University of Singapore.

Gareth is the Economist-in-Residence at the Sydney Policy Lab and works as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney.

Gareth researches how public policy and public finance can create more sustainable, equal and democratic economies. His research has focused on issues including climate change, higher education, housing, labour and Indigenous justice.

Gareth’s cross-disciplinary research has been published across a wide range of policy, geography and economics journals. He is the author of Carbon Markets in a Climate-Changing Capitalism, published by Cambridge University Press. 

Gareth co-edits the Progress in Political Economy (PPE) blog and associated Manchester University Press book series.

Read more about his research here.

Lisa manages community partnerships and training across all the Lab’s projects and activities. Having worked at the intersection of academia, civil society and advocacy for a decade, she is passionate about building powerful alliances to tackle the most pressing questions of our time.

Previously, Lisa directed the Sydney Peace Foundation, where she elevated voices of some of the world's most effective changemakers. Before this, Lisa coordinated the Electoral Integrity Project at the University of Sydney and Harvard University. Lisa also worked on transitional justice for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in South Africa.

Lisa studied peacebuilding and conflict resolution at Gothenburg University and the University of Amsterdam, and public administration at the Hague University.

Elise Ganley is the Lead Organiser for the Lab’s Real Deal project, which is working with partners to build power from the ground up so that communities can be at the negotiating table for changes which impact them.  

She has a decade of experience working across civil society organisations, most recently at Queensland Community Alliance where she organised with diverse constituencies to win action on social isolation and loneliness for a whole of person, whole of community, whole of government approach with the Queensland state government. Elise has worked across a range of campaigns with international students, people seeking asylum and refugees, Christian and Muslim communities, climate groups and unions.

Connect with Elise on Twitter and LinkedIn

Christine joined the Policy Lab in February 2023 as a Project Manager in our People and Democracy stream of work. Christine comes to the Lab after a 15-year career in long-form news and public affairs journalism. She has worked across the ABC, SBS and independent production sector as a senior producer and journalist on national television and radio programs such as Q&A, 7.30, Insight and RN’s Background Briefing. 

Christine has a Masters of Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Sydney, a Post-graduate Diploma in Education (Secondary) from RMIT and a Bachelor of Media Studies from LaTrobe University.

Marj is Project Manager for Australia Cares, a new initiative from the Sydney Policy Lab with the support of the Paul Ramsay Foundation that aims to shape and drive an ambitious, practical and timely program of reform to renovate the ideas and practice of care and caring throughout society and the economy.  

Marj has decades of experience as a campaigner, facilitator, organiser and educator working in unions and community organisations. She has worked across numerous campaigns and has deep experience supporting communities to build power, strategies and plans for change. She is passionate about placing the voices of community and lived experience at the centre as we shape new thinking and practices of care.

Marj holds Bachelor of Education from the University of Sydney and Master of International Social Development from the University of NSW.

You can connect with Marj on LinkedIn.

Sally is the local Community Organiser for the Real Deal Project at the Geelong-Western Melbourne site (on Wadawurrung land). She was raised on a farm as a child, which increased her appreciation of how fragile our land is and how brutal economic systems and climate change can be upon both people and the land.

She comes to community organising after a career which saw her working across three States (Vic, NSW and SA) and eventually returning to Geelong in 2017. After beginning her career in Nutrition and Dietetics and working in health promotion programs and local food programs, she began to realise that inequality and climate change are key features of our food system and need to be addressed if we are to live sustainably on this planet. Following leading the Australian Conservation Foundation Community Geelong group on a local environmental campaign, she was drawn to the Real Deal Project as an approach which has the potential to address both social and environmental sustainability and begin to create the new economy we all need to thrive into the future.

Sally holds a Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics from (Deakin University), Bachelor of Science (University of Melbourne) and a Certificate 4 in Horticulture.

Katie provides support to the Sydney Policy Lab’s executive team, and applies her extensive experience in operational and administrative management to ensure the smooth functioning of the Lab’s office and activities. She is passionate about supporting brilliant teams who make our world a better place by finding innovative solutions to pressing social challenges.

Katie previously was the Executive Officer of the Sydney Peace Foundation, where she managed program and event development, financial reporting and fundraising, and a range of diverse stakeholders to support campaigns to promote peace with justice, and was more recently the Institute Coordinator at the NSW Public Policy Institute, a joint venture of a consortium of three universities supported by the NSW Government.

Katie studied classical music, politics, international relations, and social justice at Butler University (USA) and the University of Notre Dame Australia. 

Connect with Katie on LinkedIn.

Thanh is the Lab’s Finance Administration Officer, and looks after all the financials within the Lab. Thanh’s diverse background makes her a valued member of the Lab’s professional team. She is an alumnus of the University of Sydney where she studied Secondary Education and Psychology and has worked in a diversity of sectors including property management, retail management and hospitality.

Working at Lab has given Thanh an appreciation and insight of the collaborative work between  academia, civil society, businesses  and government and how we can build trusting relationships across different spectrums to find new policies and solutions to make our world a better place.