Populism and media-enhanced polarisation are reinforcing the declining trust in public institutions. These forces also undermine the perceived legitimacy of using expertise and evidence in highly contested policy areas. Expertise has been decried as elitist, or serving vested interests, or ineffective in tackling real-life problems. We argue that applying relevant expertise to public policy problems remains essential. However, this use of expertise must be situated within improved democratic decision-making and governance arrangements. Good policy governance requires not only using best available knowledge, but also strengthening civic trust and legitimacy, through fair and open processes. We also explore the continuing critical role of senior public servants in strengthening deliberative processes and in enhancing the flows of knowledge.