Corporate Public Affairs Leadership in the 21st Century

A four-day intensive executive education program for emerging corporate public affairs leaders.


The Centre’s Corporate Public Affairs Leadership in the 21st Century certificate course is the next step for graduates of the Centre’s Institute program, and/or for public affairs practitioners who aspire to be leaders in the function.

Taught by Centre Faculty that develops and delivers leadership and corporate public affairs executive education internationally, and Guest Faculty with extensive experience in leadership roles, this four-day intensive program has been developed to challenge and prepare practitioners in the leadership management stream in corporate public affairs. The program challenges the commonly held notions of authority versus leadership, prepares participants to lead difficult change, strengthens their diagnostic skills, and distils the challenges of leadership under pressure, including engagement with stakeholders who resist change or whom may seek to derail it.

Centre Executive Director Wayne Burns provides a short program overview in this video.

The curriculum focuses on:

• identifying the critical difference between authority and leadership;

• diagnosing technical and adaptive change to determine what leadership approaches will best achieve success;

• understanding how to more effectively identify critical stakeholders and engage them and lead them through significant change;

• identifying and overcoming barriers and immunity to change;

• dignity in leadership;

• leading adaptive change inside and outside the organisation;

• managing ambition and aspirations;

• managing the causal or premeditated distractions that can derail leadership; and

• ‘staying alive’ as a leader in the midst of significant change.

Corporate public affairs case studies and significant peer syndicate group work are part of the curriculum.

    The program requires participants to immerse themselves in the residential program, and for them to be present and available over the four-day program. Learning is driven from engagement. Participants who cannot participate fully in the four-day program will not be eligible for graduation.

    Demanding but transformational, this four-day program will extend markedly the leadership capability and capacity of graduates, strengthen their commitment to lead, and be of significant benefit to the organisations for which they work. The program offers participants and the organisations that sponsor them with global best executive education content, expertise, and experience in leadership broadly, and in the corporate public affairs function specifically.

    The course will be delivered by the Centre's Executive Director Wayne Burns, and Guest Faculty:

    • Christian Bennett, Chief Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Officer, Virgin Australia;
    • Jason Laird, Executive Corporate Affairs, National Australia Bank;
    • Nicole McKechnie, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Energy Australia; 
    • Melissa O’Neill, Corporate Affairs Executive and former Senior Group Director Corporate Affairs – Worley; and
    • Matthew Percival, Former Group Executive Public Affairs and Chief of Staff.

      Places are limited to maximise opportunities for dialogue and interaction with Faculty, Guest Faculty, and peers.

      Graduates of Corporate Public Affairs Leadership in the 21st Century are awarded 30 credit points towards a GCCPA (Graduate Centre for Corporate Public Affairs).


      Wayne Burns, Director of Studies and Program Director

      Wayne Burns is an experienced management consultant in Asia Pacific. He has more than 30 years’ experience in corporate advisory, consulting, public policy, journalism and political advisory.

      Wayne writes about public affairs internationally and teaches public affairs executive education in Australia, New Zealand, China, Singapore, and Hong Kong. His specialist areas of professional focus include corporate responsibility, issues management, reputation stewardship, social media and organisational effectiveness.

      He has also developed and led six international best practice study tours on reputation stewardship, corporate responsibility, corporate communications, and issues management.

      Wayne has worked in senior public affairs and management roles in leading corporations in Australia, and has also previously established and managed his own public affairs company. He sits on a number of community and statutory Boards.

      Christian Bennett, Chief Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Officer, Virgin Australia

      Christian joined Virgin Australia in November 2022. Most recently he was Chief Reputation Officer at Woolworths Group Ltd. He has extensive experience across senior corporate-affairs related appointments including General Electric, BHP Billiton and Santos. Before entering the private sector, Christian spent 14 years with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including diplomatic postings to Harare, Washington DC and as Australian High Commissioner to Brunei. He also served on secondments as North Asia Adviser in the Foreign Minister's Office and as an International Adviser in the Prime Minister's Department.

      Jason Laird, Executive Corporate Affairs, National Australia Bank

      Jason leads the Corporate Affairs function at NAB, comprising government affairs and public policy; internal, external and social communications; social impact activities and the NAB Foundation. He is responsible for trust and reputation management, crisis response, proactive engagement and key executive and Board counsel.

      Jason has worked in and around corporate affairs and the media for more than 30 years, supporting some of Australia and the world’s best-known companies and brands. His experience has been gathered in the United States, across Asia and domestically.

      Jason joined NAB in 2018 from Telstra where he led its communications staff for six years. He was previously head of global product and technology communications for General Motors in the United States, head of Corporate Affairs at Holden and a regional communications role for GM Asia-Pacific based in Shanghai. He was a Victorian Government adviser and regional newspaper journalist. He has an MBA from the University of Queensland and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

      Matthew Percival, Former Group Executive Public Affairs and Chief of Staff

      Matthew's deep public affairs knowledge is drawn from three decades of leading the function and being a member of the most senior leadership team for a number of ASX listed companies primarily in financial services and banking but also in the FMCG sector.

      Over his career he has reported directly to five CEOs and worked closely with seven Chairman and countless board directors.

      With monotonous consistency, his teams toped the engagement scores to the frustration of various HR departments.

      19 February 2024 -
      22 February 2024


      AUD $6400.00

      AUD $7500.00

      The Centre’s executive education programs are vendor free. Participation in Centre programs is for corporations and organisations with a dedicated and operating public affairs management function, and is not open to public relations or consultancy firms.