Fundamentals of intergovernmental management

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive course
Policy Essentials


Officials play a vital role in supporting the federal system and its functions. But there’s no how-to manual for this important role; the rules, whether formal or informal, have to be learned ‘on the job’. This course focuses on the daily workplace challenges of inter-jurisdictional problem solving under conditions of high uncertainty and complexity. The course gives Commonwealth, state and territory public servants an understanding of the craft of intergovernmental management, including its formal and informal settings and routines, the interests and strategies that must be negotiated and how public servants contribute to the federal system’s stability and resilience, on the one hand, and adjustment and change on the other.

This course focuses on the daily workplace challenges of interjurisdictional problem solving under conditions of high uncertainty and complexity. The course gives Commonwealth, state and territory public servants an understanding of the craft of intergovernmental management, including its formal and informal settings and routines, the interests and strategies that must be negotiated and how public servants contribute to the federal system’s stability and resilience, on the one hand, and adjustment and change on the other.

Participants will come away with an insight into their personal, characteristic approach to intergovernmental matters, how this approach is embedded in federal structures and cultures, and the opportunities, costs and benefits of alternative approaches.

This course will run as an online and distance program in 2024 on Microsoft Teams with an accompanying interactive course workbook. It is scheduled to run for five weeks 1 – 30 May 2024 with a course orientation / meet and greet on 1 May. Allow approximately 1-2hrs each week for preparation to get the most out of each session. Specific dates and times to note in your diary are as follows. Registrants will receive calendar invitations to the live sessions.

  • 1:30-2:30pm Wednesday 1 May 2024 - course introduction, meet and greet
  • 1:30-3:00pm Thursday 9 May 2024
  • 1:30-3:00pm Wednesday 15 May 2024
  • 1:30-3:00pm Thursday 23 May 2024
  • 1:30-3:00pm Thursday 30 May 2024
  • optional individual post-course mentoring session to be scheduled separately

Note: Dates and times are in Canberra time (AEST/GMT+10). The calendar invite for each session should automatically adjust to your timezone when you add it to your calendar. You can check at a site like this to be sure.

Course date: 
1–30 May 2024
Online and distance

Before/by 1 April 2024: $1,195

After 1 April 2024: $1,495

Group discounts available.

Course overview

Course outline

Module 1: The control dials of the federal system

The session uses an ANZSOG case study on a national occupational licensing system to open up and explore the following issues for managers. A key aim of the session is to develop participants’ understanding of the perspectives that jurisdictions other than their own bring to the table.

  • What is federalism, and why does it matter?
  • Characteristics of Australia’s federation and their implications for intergovernmental management
  • Commonwealth and state government roles and objectives
  • Why and how intergovernmental relations and intergovernmental management are different
  • ‘Wearing Four Hats’: the role of the public service in the federal context

Module 2: ‘Swimming between the flags’: navigating formal structures and routines in intergovernmental management

  • Intergovernmental management and the formal structures of the federation:
    • ministerial councils and working groups
    • fiscal federalism: intergovernmental agreements, the implications of horizontal equalisation and fiscal imbalance
    • relations with ministers and political constraints
    • role of central and line departments and agencies
  • Rules and tools in multilateral bargaining and negotiating

Module 3: ‘From l-a-w to l-o-r-e’: the informal craft of intergovernmental management

  • Informal intergovernmental routines: committee work; agendas and minutes; policy work
  • Managing networks
  • Building trust
  • Implications of the changing context for the craft of intergovernmental management: the new governance, digital governance, information age federalism

Module 4: The practice modes of intergovernmental management

This session brings all of the above together in the concept of practice modes, in which participants learn to ask questions about their role and tasks such as what kind of a situation or task is this? What ideas, perceptions, interests and cultures are at play here, including my own? How appropriate are different actions for me in this situation? What is most appropriate?

Affinity mapping is used to get participants to identify their own, and their colleagues’ practice modes. These practice modes are the characteristic ways in which officials relate to and apply their ideas and values about federalism to their work; how they adapt to their formal and informal context; and the processes by which officials rationalise their behaviours and the outcome of their behaviours to themselves and their colleagues. Practice modes are lenses through which individuals perceive or recognise opportunities, and then ways in which such opportunities are exploited or used through the adoption of strategies and behaviours.


Each participant has the option to have a post-course mentoring session with the presenter that could include the following:

  • More individualised and detailed discussion and review of the intergovernmental management styles covered in the final session and how they relate to the registrant’s own experience, department, policy sector or issues they have confronted.
  • A broader conversation about issues and resources relating to the federal system, and possible sources of further information
  • Putting the discussion of intergovernmental management into a broader context of public administration and policy making, with advice on resources, issues and strategies as required.


The recent Thodey APS Review found that the relationship between the Commonwealth public service and those in other jurisdictions was ‘typically uneasy and underachieving… Arguably it has become less effective over time, even as the importance of the relationship has increased’.

The review argued that ‘Interjurisdictional relations are characterised by a lack of mutual respect and trust. Despite the individual contributions of many senior leaders, at an institutional level the APS seems to have lost sight of the advantages of high functioning, collaborative, cross-jurisdictional interaction’. On a more practical level, the Review found that the ‘cultures, norms, conventions and routines designed to create an effective forum’ and the relevant practical skills were very underdeveloped in the intergovernmental context.

The course responds directly to these concerns. It aims to:

  • provide participants with an opportunity to consider the range of interests, strategies and views they are likely to encounter in their intergovernmental work; how and why these other perspectives have emerged
    • notably, the course can be designed to give Commonwealth participants an insight into state and territory perspectives, but also can be delivered in a way that gives the latter an understanding of how and why Commonwealth public servants tend to pursue centralising, directive approaches
  • consider a range of policy instruments and approaches.
  • cover practical matters such the best way to organise an effective interjurisdictional meeting, designing the agenda and the best mechanisms to surface complex issues, chairing arrangements, building networks, and the best way to handle more challenging issues such as when one jurisdiction is standing apart from an otherwise ‘national’ settlement

Who should attend?

The course would be of primary benefit for middle managers (APS6 – EL2/SES1) embarking on, or already working on policy development and implementation in an interjurisdictional setting. The content is relevant to public servants in the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, and officials in statutory authorities who are developing or implementing policies that involve their counterparts in central and line departments.

Anticipated behavioural and business impacts include:

The course is designed to give participants an overview of the intergovernmental management toolkit, including strategies and opportunities at the interpersonal, interorganisational and interjurisdictional levels.

Participants will get an understanding of the perspectives that other jurisdictions bring to the table.

They will be encouraged to think about why, when and how public servants are policy entrepreneurs and change agents; and under what circumstances they can make a difference in the intergovernmental context.

Participants will gain the requisite knowledge of the relevant structures, processes and practices of intergovernmental management, before moving on to look in detail at bargaining and negotiation, the management of informal relationships, trust building and ultimately knowledge of when and how to refer back to the political arena.

Online training: How it works

This is a real-time, date-specific course, in which you will join live classes, engage and connect with experts, other course participants and the Executive Education team. Here’s how it works:

  • Pre-course live session. This is an opportunity for you to grab a cuppa and join our meet and greet before the course commences.
  • Practice + Study. Set aside up to 2 hours per week – this time commitment will vary depending on how deeply you choose to engage with the material. It is up to you.
  • Course pack. Each participant will receive a carefully curated workbook, which includes everything you need to guide you through the course.
  • Live sessions with presenter. This is a specified date and time for you to come together with the presenter and other participants to consolidate your learning.
  • Post-course. On completion of the course, you will receive your post-course resources for your reference and further learning.

Why choose online training?

  • No time off work – study and practice when you can.
  • Busy schedule? No problem, you can go at your own pace, join just the live classes, and do the course work whenever suits you best. We know that work and family obligations can be overwhelming. Mix and match the schedule to fit your life.
  • No travel. This is a course right at your fingertips. With no travel expenses, this is a very affordable option for high-level training with world-leading experts.
  • Live interaction with world-leading experts. You’ll have direct access to all the best resources and trainers.
  • Working remotely? With the online and distance format, we welcome participants from around the world to join us.


What if I can’t make a live session? No problem, we understand you are busy. Live sessions are recorded for you to catch up in your own time.

What if I’m in a different time zone? All advertised course times from 1st October 2023 to 6th April 2024 are scheduled in Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) otherwise known as GMT+11. From 6th April 2024 scheduled times are Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) or GMT+10. Convert for your time zone here.

What if I am not tech savvy? As long as you have access to a phone or computer, you will have no problems. Our online courses require a working laptop, desktop or smart device with good internet connection. Bring your headset. Join the tech-check session for support and insider tips.

I would like to purchase multiple courses, are there any discounts available? Yes, discount offers are available if you would like to book multiple courses throughout the year. You may contact us to discuss further options.

I work for a company or organisation that would like to enrol multiple employees in the same time. Is it possible? Yes, discounted rates are available for groups attending from the same organisation. Get in touch with us if you want to register as a group.

Can’t find the answers are you looking for? Contact our team for support at

Course presenter(s)

Dr Isi Unikowski

Isi has 30 years of experience in the Australian Public Service, in a range of central, policy and service delivery organisations including the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Australian Public Service Commission, the Departments of Climate Change, Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; and work in Centrelink and Human Services.

Isi’s PhD thesis was on the subject of intergovernmental management. The extensive consultations he conducted with Commonwealth and state senior officials for his research have widely informed this course, with a view to ensuring its relevance to the day to day experience of public servants.

Updated:  22 June 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team