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Why policy and what is it? with Salli Cohen

Presenter Salli Cohen
Contact person
Northern Institute
T: 08 8946 7468 E:
Location Live in the Savanna Room @ CDU Yellow 1.2.48 & Online via Zoom
Open to Public
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Why policy and what is it?

Most people's eyes glaze over when they hear the word policy, followed by a desperate need to get far, far away. Though don't be fooled - policy is not boring, it's anything but. When we think about it, policy is all around us (ok, potentially unsettling, hang in there). From 'big P' government policy, to strategic, organisational and operational policies, this stuff is everywhere. It shapes our schools and health centres, how we get to and from work, how we do our work. It keeps us safe, it keeps us in check, it nudges our behaviours. Policy positions organisations to do what matters for their stakeholders, to make a difference, to generate value.

My experience of policy is that it's a roller coaster. Policy does not follow a neat formula of setting, rinsing and repeating consecutive tasks. Not even close. Often our carriage comes off the track, and we're  (metaphorically) free falling. This is when the magic happens. It's when we capture glimpses of policy sweet spots. It's tantalisingly close. It's also the spot where we risk rushing in or rushing past all the critical signs. And just writing? On no, my friends. To develop great policy that matters, a suite of soft and hard skills is required, of which writing is all but one. We also need to think about how policy responds to our cultural, social, political, organisational, financial and environmental contexts. There is a lot to do!


Hello, I'm Salli Cohen and I'm the face and policy experience behind The Policy Room. As well as being a policy nerd, I have over 20 years' policy development, implementation, review and evaluation experience working across Northern Territory Government portfolios. I've had fabulous opportunities to work with the three layers of government, the Aboriginal community controlled and non-government sectors, the private sector, and with international community groups and governments.

To be honest, when I accepted my first job with government, I had no idea what public servants did (let alone why), and I didn't understand how governments work - the beast known as the machinery of government. Nor did I realise there was a cascade effect from 'big P' government policy through to operational policy, regardless of the sector we work in, or the type, purpose or size of the organisation. It turned out I had accepted a ticket for a policy roller coaster ride - one heck of a way to develop an expertise. I loved every minute of it - well nearly every minute.

In-Person:This seminar is live in the Savanna Room, CDU Casuarina Campus, Yellow 1.2.48. Limited Seating Available. Attendance must be registered to

Register for Zoom

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