The Prize

The McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership is a new, non-partisan and independent award that will recognise two outstanding Australian political leaders each year.

Current local, state and territory and federal politicians in Australia are eligible for nomination. The prize will recognise leaders working collaboratively with communities and developing workable solutions to critical issues.

The McKinnon Emerging Political Leader of the Year award will shine a light on a recently elected politician with fewer than five years in office, while The McKinnon Political Leader of the Year award will recognise a politician who has served for longer than five years.

The prize is intended to become one of the country’s most important tools in promoting strong and effective government in Australia. It will encourage those who aspire to political office to reflect on the type of leader they wish to be.

Each year, the winners will receive a trophy of recognition and the opportunity to deliver a speech at an awards ceremony at the University of Melbourne. The McKinnon Emerging Political Leader of the Year will also receive a financial prize to be used for professional development and growth.

The McKinnon Prize celebrates political leaders at all levels of government, recognising those who have driven positive change and sparking a national conversation about the role of politicians and our aspirations for leadership in Australia.

Glyn Davis AC
Vice-Chancellor, University of Melbourne


In an era of political polarisation and growing partisanship, there is declining public trust in our political leaders. Without this trust, belief in our system of government erodes and necessary reforms are hard to achieve. With Australia facing immense challenges in its region and the wider world, it’s more important than ever that we have courageous and visionary leaders.

The McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership is the first of its kind in Australia. It has been established to:

  • Recognise politicians, at all levels of government, who have successfully tackled vital issues of public policy, overcome adversity and achieved real change for the public good
  • Inspire others to pursue courageous and visionary political leadership despite the challenges they may face
  • Generate national discussion about our expectations of political leadership in this country.

The McKinnon Prize is represented by the Acrux, the brightest star in the Southern Cross constellation. The Acrux has been used as a reference point in navigation for centuries. It is a symbol of stability, leadership and guardianship.

Now, more than ever, we need to publicly recognise political leadership that shows vision and courage and has had a constructive impact for our country.

Grant Rule
Co-Founder, Susan McKinnon Foundation


The Susan McKinnon Foundation is passionate about building Australia’s long-term capacity to meet social and economic challenges, enabling far-reaching policy and governance change. It was established in 2015 by Sophie Oh and Grant Rule, both of whom are committed to making a positive and lasting difference to Australian society.

The Foundation is strictly non-partisan and committed to working with all sides of politics to find practical ways forward. Acting as a catalyst, it brings together diverse views and perspectives to address Australia’s big, long term problems.

The Melbourne School of Government is an interdisciplinary school harnessing the resources of the University of Melbourne to create and deliver new Masters programs, research, executive education and international partnerships.

The Melbourne School of Government provides a platform for informed, independent debate on contemporary issues of great significance to the future of Australia and our region. Its mission is to inspire and equip governments, businesses, social partners and individuals to meet the challenges of contemporary governance.

By bringing together expertise from various disciplines across the University including, but not limited to, economics, political science, international relations, sociology, development studies, philosophy and law, the School unites policy makers, industry leaders and citizens through ideas that are actionable and provide lasting solutions.

For enquiries contact the Melbourne School of Government:


The McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership is a collaboration between the Susan McKinnon Foundation and the University of Melbourne through the Melbourne School of Government.