Policy essentials: what you need to know to design and implement good policy

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive course
Policy Essentials


This course is for those who are relatively new to policy work, aspiring to work in policy areas or wanting to understand how to link implementation and policy more closely. It explains how policy is made at the national level, highlighting the importance of understanding your minister and the government for whom you work. It shows how academic concepts and frameworks can help you understand how policy issues are identified and analysed, and how keeping a strong focus on implementation improves policy making, particularly in advising on the choice of instruments for implementing a policy. By the end of the course, you will understand that while the world of government is often chaotic and unpredictable there are frameworks and strategies available to help you, and you will have been involved in exercises to test the course’s insights and concepts in practical application.

See related courses:

This course will run as an online and distance program in 2022. It is scheduled to run for one week, 7 – 11 March 2022, with a course orientation / meet and greet on Monday 7 March. Specific dates and times to note in your diary are as follows:

  • 10am-11am Monday 7 March 2022 – meet and greet session
  • 10am-12pm Tuesday 8 March 2022
  • 10am-12pm Friday 11 March 2022

Note: Dates and times are in Canberra time (AEDT/GMT+11). 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: 
7–11 March 2022
Online and distance

Before/by 7 February 2022: $1,195

After 7 February 2022: $1,495

Group discounts available.

Course overview


To extend your knowledge and understanding of government and policy processes. You will be introduced to the theory and practice of policy making, to help you become a confident adviser on policy and its effective implementation.

Course outline:

This course will help you to understand our national political system, including the significance of the Cabinet system, with a national cabinet also operating federally, and the importance of listening for the government’s ‘language’. What has the Morrison government expected of the Australian Public Service, and how have public servants responded, during the COVID-19 pandemic? You will learn how ministers differ in their style and decision-making – but how they’re all under the gun!

The course will then explain the national policy system, beginning with what policy is, ‘wicked’ policy issues, and the roles in the policy world for departments, ministers, Cabinet and National Cabinet, and Parliament also. What are the characteristics of public servants In Australia and New Zealand, where public servants primarily learn their policy skills ‘on the job’? Applied policy frameworks developed by academics can support this skill development and key frameworks will be explored in terms of the insights they offer.
The final topics covered employ the classic policy cycle approach to examine the critical early stages in policy development and their significance for implementation, and how good process can assist, even though the theory and reality can differ in practice. How do issues float to the top of a government’s agenda? How does the policy analysis design process operate within the different environments operating inside the public service? And what are policy instruments, and why does the choice of one or more instruments matter to effective policy implementation?

Too often a policy problem will recur because of failures or limitations in the policy design process and participants will explore the challenges in policy design, including the lack of attention to implementation. Practical case studies in health and other social policy areas will be employed and the experience of participants will be drawn on in order to illustrate effective and innovative policy-making.

The course will be conducted by two highly experienced former practitioners drawing on their previous experience and their ongoing research into public policy issues.

Topics to be covered:

  • understanding governments and ministers in the Australian context
  • policy making at the national level including the Budget cycle
  • employing policy frameworks
  • key stages in the policy and program cycle
  • designing good policy and choosing the right policy instruments for effective implementation, including consideration of risk.

Course structure:

The course contains four modules:

  • Our political system – understanding governments and ministers
  • Our policy system - policy making and policy frameworks
  • Early stages of the policy cycle
  • Understanding available options to implement government decisions

The course is based on a high level of interaction with participants and the use of exercises involving different groups of participants to increase participation and small group interactions.

Academic research and other expertise is employed to offer insights and a range of social policy case studies are drawn on as practical illustrations. Participants actively work through examples so that they can draw out the lessons themselves. Participants are also provided with useful resources for further study including key academic works, grey literature and on-line sites.

Learning outcomes:

  • Greater understanding of how governments and ministers operate
  • Increased understanding of how good policy is made
  • Increased policy design capability

Who should attend?

This course is designed for public servants in the APS4-EL1 range who have limited policy experience or who are aspiring to work in policy and for graduates who have recently joined the public service. It is also good for people who want a more strategic approach to implementation and to link policy and implementation more closely.

While the course is at the introductory level, it is also suitable for participants in higher APS classifications who are looking for a ‘refresh’ or have principally worked in implementing programs.

Participants from the ‘third sector’, such as non government and private sector organisations, who are looking to expand their understanding of government and policy processes, also regularly attend.

No prior experience is required, although participants will get more from the day if they have some background and/or experience in government.

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 day – 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 and transcribed for you to catch up in your own time.

What if I’m in a different time zone? All advertised course times up until 3rd October 2021 are scheduled in Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) otherwise known as GMT+10. From 3rd October to 3rd April 2022 scheduled times are Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) or GMT+11. 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’ll have no problems. This is a low-tech course designed for everyone. If needed our team is here to help – contact us at

What if I have questions? We would love to hear from you. Contact our team at

Course presenter(s)

Dr Trish Mercer

Trish Mercer is an experienced public policy professional who worked for over 20 years as a senior executive in Commonwealth central agency and line departments. This included senior policy roles in education and employment and in leading research, analysis and evaluation areas, as well as 6 years in service delivery in Queensland. Currently Trish is an ANZSOG Visiting Fellow at ANU, where her research projects include public policy initiatives in the education, early childhood and employment areas, and she has been engaged since 2011 in public policy teaching through the Crawford School Executive Education program. Her case study on early childhood reform (Universal preschool: the rocky path to policy change) can be accessed through the ANZSOG Case Library.

Trish has edited a book (Learning policy, doing policy: Interactions between public policy theory, practice and teaching), which has just been published through ANU and ANZSOG on how public policy theory can be translated into practical insights for Australian public servants. Trish has a doctorate from ANU and a BA (Hons) from James Cook University, both in history, and a Diploma in American Studies from Smith College in Massachusetts, USA.

Dr Wendy Jarvie

Dr Wendy Jarvie has enjoyed a diverse career, alternating as a government policy practitioner and a researcher. She spent 22 years working in the Australian Public Service, including seven years as a Deputy Secretary in the Departments of Education, Science and Training and Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. She also managed evaluations and strategy development at the World Bank in Washington between 1998 and 2001.

Wendy has been providing Executive Education classes at ANU since 2012. She is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Public Service Research Group at the UNSW in Canberra, where she is undertaking research on the importance of public servant agency in developing good policy and the role of evidence, innovation and learning. She also works for the World Bank in the Pacific on vocational education and training.

Wendy is a member of the Indigenous Evaluation Committee for the National Indigenous Australians Agency (since 2018). Previously she was a member of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Audit and Risk Committee (2016-20) and its Independent Evaluation Committee for Australian Aid (2012-2020). She has three degrees from the University of Newcastle (BA (hons) in History, Diploma of Computer Science, and Master of Engineering Science), as well as a PhD in Geography from Flinders University.

Updated:  25 October 2021/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team