This article reviews existing scholarly debates about Australia's pragmatic federalism and seeks to refine it conceptually. It does so against the background of burgeoning international governance literature informed by insights from philosophical pragmatism, as well as in the context of disjuncture in Australian inter-governmental experiences. Pragmatic federalism is posed not merely as a one-dimensional notion referencing a series of ad hoc inter-governmental arrangements over time. Rather, it is conceptualised as multi-dimensional and encapsulating a confined range of institutional designs and postures that can (potentially) be observed across different policy fields and over time. An initial demonstration of the utility of the heuristic to recent empirical experience and change is presented. The consequence is more serious engagement with both the formal and informal features that characterise inter-governmental arrangements at different levels of government, and attention to the degrees to which dialogue and practices are connected.