Open Society, Common Purpose Taskforce (2022)

How can Australia approach the task of post-pandemic recovery?
The Sydney Policy Lab has launched a new independent taskforce which brings together academic experts with representatives of industry and civil society to consider how a post-pandemic Australia can build back better, and sustainably.

On 25 July, the taskforce released its report, The Great Australian Renovation, launched by the Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP and University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and President Mark Scott AO.

The taskforce builds on the first iteration of the taskforce’s work in 2021, which helped lead public conversations about COVID-19 and the reopening of Australia’s borders. The taskforce commissioned research and collected evidence from the public to produce a Roadmap to Reopening.

About the taskforce

Australia’s response to COVID-19 saved many lives, but it came at a price to our social cohesion and civic culture. Aspects of the pandemic, and the response to it, have dented trust and equality. Whilst Australia now has high vaccination levels and open borders, questions remain about what COVID-19 may have in store, and about how we conduct the next phase of recovery. It is critical that our society learns the right lessons from the past two years and strike a judicious balance between public health, human rights, societal wellbeing and economic sustainability. And starts thinking about how to re-shape our social fabric.

The taskforce will consider four themes to investigate how a post-pandemic Australia can build back better, and sustainably:

  1. How can we be more prepared for future pandemics and other disasters? What needs to be done to strengthen our healthcare system and our systems of resilience?
  2. How can Australia put children’s and young people’s interests and rights first in our public health policy?  
  3. What do we need to do now to repair social division and inequalities created, or magnified, by the pandemic?
  4. What have we learned about science communication, and trust in experts, governance and policy?

Who are the taskforce?

The Independent taskforce is comprised of high-profile leaders from business, academia and civil society, including:

Mark is the immediate past Global CEO of Herbert Smith Freehills having served for two terms from 2014-2020. He was also Chair of the firm's Global Executive, Chair of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Group and a Member of the HSF Global Partnership Council.

Tim is Acting Director of the Sydney Policy Lab and Professor of Practice (Sociology and Political Theory). He is also Director, Culture Strategy at the University and helps lead the University’s efforts to build a culture that supports its teaching, research and service to society. A political theorist and human rights advocate, from 2013 to 2018 Tim was Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner.

Ben is an internationally renowned infectious diseases specialist with a focus on global public health. He is currently Co-Director, Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity and also Infectious Diseases Consultant at the Children’s Hospital Westmead. In his role at Marie Bashir Institute he is working towards a dynamic, multi-disciplinary research community in infection, immunity and biosecurity.

Ben is trained as a pediatrician and his primary research interest is tuberculosis (epidemiology, strain diversity/evolution, diagnosis, prevention, treatment, drug resistance) with a special focus on how children are affected by the global epidemic. He is regularly called upon as an expert consultant and advisor to a range of prominent international health organisations.

Gabriel is CEO of the Committee for Sydney. He previously served as President and CEO of SPUR (2005-2018), an urban policy group for the San Francisco Bay Area, and has led initiatives on housing, transport, economic development and climate adaptation, among other topics. Gabriel held the Cornish Endowed Chair in City and Regional Planning at U.C. Berkeley (2016-2018), where he taught an acclaimed course, “Cities and Social Change.”

Violet is a social entrepreneur and the CEO of Settlement Services International, a community organisation and social business that supports newcomers and other vulnerable individuals to achieve their full potential. Through her C-suite and board roles, Violet uses innovation and collective impact to promote social justice and inclusion.

Jo Schofield is the National President of the United Workers Union, Australia's most diverse union bringing together 150,000 workers from over 45 industries across the country with the simple ambition to build workers' voice and power. Jo has been a trade unionist, feminist and social justice advocate for over 30 years. As President of UWU she oversees the union's agenda for democracy, equity and strengthening the partnerships for justice with progressive civil society organisations. Jo is a Vice President of the ACTU.

Marc is Director of the Policy Lab at University College London, and was the Sydney Policy Lab’s inaugural Director (2018-2022). Marc was previously a Professor of Political Theory at the University of Oxford and Chief Executive of the New Economics Foundation, one of the UK’s largest think tanks. Between 2012 and 2015, he was Chief Speechwriter to the UK Labour Party, a co-author of the party’s 2015 election manifesto and a member of the party's general election steering committee.

Maree is Director of the Matilda Centre at the University of Sydney, and is Chair of Australia’s Mental Health Think Tank. She has made a major contribution to Australia’s health and medical research effort in the field of mental health and substance use. In particular, she is known nationally and internationally for her research on the comorbidity between mental health and substance use disorders. Maree is a Former National Mental Health Commissioner (2018-2021).

Geoffrey is a Gamilaroi man from Richmond and is the Chief Executive Officer for Just Reinvest NSW. He was previously a director and lawyer at Chalk & Behrendt, Lawyers and Consultants, as well as a board member for the NSW Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network and a council member for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).  

Find out more

For more information, email the Sydney Policy Lab at