Policy Essentials: What You Need to Know to Design and Implement Good Policy

Crawford School of Public Policy

Crawford School of Public Policy


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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.

About the course

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.

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


Trish Mercer

With over 20 years’ experience as an SES officer (1989-2010) in Commonwealth central and line public service departments, Trish Mercer is highly experienced in policy and program formulation. From 2003 to 2010, Trish worked in the Department of Education, Science and Training and its successor th...

Wendy Jarvie

Dr Wendy Jarvie is an Adjunct Professor at the School of Business, UNSW Canberra. Professional and Teaching Experience Dr Wendy Jarvie has had a diverse career. She spent seven years (2001- 2008) as a Deputy Secretary in the Commonwealth Departments of Education, Science and Training (DEST) and...

Policy Essentials: What You Need to Know to Design and Implement Good Policy at Crawford School of Public Policy

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Coursalytics is an independent platform to find, compare, and book executive courses. Coursalytics is not endorsed by, sponsored by, or otherwise affiliated with any business school or university.

Full disclaimer.

Because of COVID-19, many providers are cancelling or postponing in-person programs or providing online participation options.

We are happy to help you find a suitable online alternative.