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PhD Bham., MA York, BA Comb.Hons., Bham


Helen Sullivan is a public policy researcher, teacher, advisor, and senior university leader. A political sociologist, Helen was educated in the humanities and social sciences and holds degrees in Modern History and Political Science (BA Comb. Hons, University of Birmingham, UK), Women’s Studies (MA, University of York, UK), and Public Policy (PhD, University of Birmingham, UK). She currently serves as Dean of the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University.

Helen’s research explores the nature of state-society relationships, and their interactions with public policy systems. This includes the theory and practice of governance and collaboration, the uses of public participation, the dynamics of local/urban governance, and the impact of reform on public policy systems. Her research approach is multi-disciplinary, interpretive, and informed by the critical policy analysis school. Her work is supported by grants from national research councils in the UK and Australia, as well as industry funding from a range of national, regional and international institutions (career income of £5.5 million @$11m AUD).

Helen is widely published and highly cited; the author or editor of nine books and more than 100 peer reviewed academic articles, book chapters, and policy reports. (Google scholar counts 186 works, 7505 citations, H-index 37, i10-index 78). Her most recent book is Collaboration and Public Policy. Agency in the Pursuit of Public Purpose (2022). Her research has won ‘Best Paper/Publication’ awards from global academic societies including the Public Management Research Association (2014) and the International Research Society for Public Management (Kooiman Award, 2008). She sits on the editorial boards for Public Administration, Critical Policy Studies, Local Government Studies, Australian Journal of Public Administration, and the Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration. Previously, she served on the editorial boards of Public Administration Review, and Public Policy and Administration. Since 2019 she has been an elected member of the Executive Board of the International Research Society on Public Management.

Helen’s teaching focuses on leading and managing in complex systems and challenging times. She has worked with professionals from all over the world in post graduate and executive education programs. In 2003 she was awarded a Fellowship of the (now) Higher Education Academy in recognition of her excellence in innovative and interactive teaching.  She is also actively engaged in shaping education for future leaders through her appointment in 2018 to the Sir Roland Wilson Foundation Board. She has consulted with organisations working in the public, private, and civil society sectors, and worked directly with communities and service users. Helen has held multiple appointments advising governments and governance institutions in Australia, the UK, and internationally. She appears regularly in print, mainstream and online media commenting on contemporary public policy issues.

Helen’s career is defined by a sustained commitment to bridging the gap between research and policy. She has led and supported numerous successful innovations across the world. In 2011 Helen co-designed the University of Birmingham’s Policy Commission Program bringing together academics with experts from public policy, industry and civil society to develop new and implementable solutions to major policy problems. She also led the first Commission on Local Public Service Reform, launched at the UK Conservative Party Conference in 2010. The Commission Report, ‘When Tomorrow Comes’ supported the establishment of the University of Birmingham Public Services Academy established in 2012.

In 2013 Helen established the Melbourne School of Government – a multi-disciplinary School that broke new ground through its integration of engagement and impact with research and teaching; including establishing a research translation function (MSoGLabs), and fostering and supporting innovations as Vote Compass, Election Watch and the Trawalla Foundation funded Pathways to Politics Program for Women. Between 2017 and 2021 Helen was Director of the Crawford School of Public Policy at the ANU, Asia and the Pacific’s leading graduate public policy school. 

Helen served as an elected member of the Institute for Public Administration Australia in both the ACT division (Council member 2017-21) and Victoria division (Executive Committee member, 2012-16).

Helen’s contribution to public policy and administration is acknowledged within and beyond the academy. In 2008 she was elected to fellowship of the UK Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. In 2019 she was elected President of the Australian Political Studies Association for 2020/21. Her Presidential Address, ‘How Political Studies can save the world’, addressed the challenges facing academics in an increasingly unstable global environment. In 2017 she was made a National Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia in recognition of her outstanding contribution to public policy practice.


Research interests

State-society relationships

Theory and practice of governance and collaboration

Citizen participation

Dynamics of local/urban governance and politics

Impact of reform on public policy systems

Leadership and followership

Researcher's projects


Research collaboration, Cultural pluralism and super and stable diversity, with Dr Hayley Henderson (ANU), and SGS Economics and Planning


  • JA Political science (General)
  • Policy making and implementation
  • Leadership
  • Reform
  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • collaboration
  • JS Local government Municipal government
  • neighbourhoods
  • local politics
  • urban politics

Expertise Areas

  • Public Administration
  • Public Policy
  • Urban Policy
  • Political Science


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