Our policy advisors combine regulatory, economic, strategic, engagement and evaluation expertise to support effective, evidence-based decisions throughout the policy cycle. We help governments better articulate policy challenges and objectives, design and develop policies and reforms, work effectively with stakeholders, and monitor and evaluate achievements. Our team includes some of Australia’s leading public policy experts with extensive experience in natural resources, the environment, primary industries, infrastructure and emergency management.

Natural systems are increasingly strained and under threat. This creates challenges in the management of water, infrastructure, cities, agriculture and the environment. In this context, making better decisions means making best use of natural resources to support communities and the economy while protecting natural systems and producing enduring environmental outcomes. Good policy ensures decision-makers can achieve this.


Policy development and design

Effectively framing policy problems and using the right policy instruments is key to generating change. We can provide you with research, analysis and advice on the development and design of legislative frameworks and policy, planning and other instruments, including options development and assessment. We have decades of experience in public policy, public administration, economics, performance and strategy. This allows us to provide advice that is good in both principle and practice.

Facilitation and stakeholder engagement

Consultation is a cornerstone of good public policy – throughout the policy cycle. We pride ourselves on undertaking respectful and effective stakeholder engagement that elicits insights and input, ensuring that stakeholders feel valued. We are also experienced in enabling successful collaborative and panel processes. We can help you facilitate meaningful conversations and translate stakeholder input into better policy.

Business case development

A robust business case can give the government the confidence to invest in and establish a successful delivery plan. We understand the context of public sector decision-making and the complexities of delivering a successful business case, including the need for an effective narrative that meets investor needs as well as a rigorous economic analysis. We can prepare and review business cases for you that support the appraisal of proposed projects and programs in line with government investment requirements and guidelines.

Policy reviews and evaluations

Policy implementation is often long-term and shaped by various factors and interdependencies. Periodic analysis of policies and their implementation helps governments ensure policies are appropriate and on track to deliver intended outcomes and allows for adjustments to be made as needed. We assist clients to understand and articulate the contributions made by their policies and to continually improve on past performance.

Selected Project Experience

WaterGuide (2017-current)

Aither (a Ricardo company) was engaged by the Australian Water Partnership and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to produce a high-level guide for improving water resource management, based on Australia’s water reform experience. We created WaterGuide: Setting a Path to Improved Water Management and Use Under Scarcity over six months in 2016–2017 to support decision-makers in developing and developed countries to diagnose existing issues in water resource management and create a roadmap for implementing the crucial elements of effective water policy and planning. We developed WaterGuide with input from leaders in the Australian and international water management community. It was presented at the 2016 IWA World Water Congress in Brisbane, the 2016 Budapest Water Summit, The Nature Conservancy’s 2016 Global Water Summit in New York and at a workshop with senior leaders at the World Bank in Washington DC. The report was launched at the 2017 Stockholm World Water Week, with a second edition relaunched at the 2018 World Water Forum in Brasilia.

Classifying outcomes of inquiries and reviews (2017)

17, we were enlisted to review the major post-disaster inquiries and reviews undertaken in Australia and New Zealand since 2009. We identified high-level categories of findings across major post-event reviews and assessed the degree to which these findings have been or are being matched by attention and reforms within Australian emergency service organisations.

Review of EPBC Act interactions with the agricultural sector (2018)

In March 2018, the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Energy and the Commonwealth Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources announced that Dr Wendy Craik (Aither [a Ricardo company] Senior Associate) would independently review the interactions between the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the agriculture sector. The goal was to identify regulatory and non-regulatory improvements that can assist the agriculture sector while maintaining environmental standards. The Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy engaged us to support Dr Craik in her independent reviewer role. This involved coordinating and undertaking consultations with over 70 organisations across rural and regional Australia, and contributing to the development of the review report through analysis and drafting. The independent review led to a series of recommended actions for the Minister for the Environment. These focused on improving existing processes and introducing new approaches to simplify and enhance the system for farmers while also boosting environmental outcomes.

Safer Together evaluation and business case development (2018)

In 2018, we developed a robust business case for Victoria’s Safer Together program for bushfire risk management. The business case brought together risk management and culture change actions across three fire management agencies into a cohesive, compelling strategic narrative. The project involved a lapsing program evaluation that aligned with government investment requirements and included a cost-benefit analysis. The business case led to ongoing investment in the Safer Together program.

Review of Stormwater practices in South Australia

The potential benefits of harvesting and managing stormwater to diversify water supplies and provide liveability and environmental benefits is not a new concept but has yet to be realised in a significant way in Australia’s urban centres. There is also great concern about the rising costs associated with owning, operating and managing stormwater infrastructure. The South Australian Local Government Association (SA LGA) engaged us to review the current management arrangements for stormwater in SA and determine the best way forward for better managing assets and utilising stormwater more effectively. We produced a discussion paper and roadmap that SA LGA could use with their members to improve stormwater management in South Australia.