The Team


Rod McDonald

Rod McDonald
Principal and Managing Director

Before establishing Ithaca Group in 2001, Rod was a Special Advisor to the Australian National Training Authority, with a specific responsibility for initiating ‘blue sky’ thinking about vocational education and training.

In taking up that role, he left behind a distinguished academic career in adult education which included twenty-five years’ experience in leadership positions in universities.

Over that period he was Australia’s first Professor of Adult Education, and occupied positions of Foundation Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Technology, Sydney; Deputy Principal of Sydney College of Advanced Education; and Director of a national Key Research Centre in vocational education. He has also had the title of Emeritus Professor bestowed on him by the University of Technology, Sydney.

It is this significant leadership and policy experience, combined with an extensive understanding of the vocational education and training sector that Rod brings to Ithaca Group.

Rod is renowned for his capacity to clearly analyse complex issues and to think strategically. In the words of one client, he has a unique capacity to ‘make complex things simple.’ He is also a highly skilled facilitator and is regularly asked to facilitate high level meetings. He is skilled at consulting with people at all levels and regularly draws on the strong connections he has with people at the highest levels in business and government.

Susan Tape

Susan Tape
Senior Consultant

Susan brings to Ithaca Group a variety of corporate experience including resources, resorts and regulatory rigour. From the pig farmer to the multinational conglomerate, Susan has assisted clients to identify improvements for their business and develop strength in people and culture. Susan’s ability to identify risks and sensitive solutions is an extra facet to Ithaca Group’s offering.

Anita Roberts
Senior Consultant

Anita is a professional writer who has worked in policy, research and information management within the vocational education and training system at the national level since 1995 – with a particular focus on adult literacy, networking and innovation. She has facilitated networks and professional development initiatives for training and assessment practitioners and is a special advisor to Innovation and Business Skills Australia. Anita has considerable knowledge of workforce development issues in Australia and has a clear and engaging writing style.

Robin Francis
Senior Consultant

Robin has had a long career in leadership and management development, most recently as Queensland State Manager for Social Leadership Australia, and previously as Head of Executive Development for the Queensland Public Service.
She has extensive senior executive experience in leading the planning and delivery of major organisational change in a range of public sector organisations, in coaching and developing executives to improve their leadership performance, and in building high-performance teams. More about Robin

Eleanor Hilston
Research Assistant

Alex McDonald
Project Assistant

Julie Hopwood

 Senior Affiliates

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards AM

Neil has had a distinguished career in public policy and management  including serving as chief executive of a government department, several statutory authorities and a tertiary educational institution. Neil has addressed in depth challenges across a vast range of industries and government including tertiary education, infrastructure, industry development, international trade and investment, budget strategy, science, regional development, multiculturalism, health and welfare, and administrative law.

In all contexts, Neil brings a sharp analytical curiosity and a readiness to ask and answer the fundamental questions, along with an engaging style and a comfort with working with people in all their diversity. More about Neil

Maria Tarrant

Maria is an experienced and successful senior executive who has held significant leadership roles  involving strategic thinking, policy development, international business development, change management and stakeholder management within the private, public and higher education sectors and on Boards and advisory committees. Maria has successfully applied these capabilities to complex matters in sectors as diverse as infrastructure, energy and climate change and education and training. Maria’s education and training knowledge and experience spans schools, vocational education and training and higher education.. More about Maria


Margo Couldrey
Lista Consulting

Margo has held executive leadership positions in a range of policy areas and has had significant experience advising on training system policy and practice from an industry perspective. She also currently advises organisations on issues relating to recruitment, effective performance systems and leading and managing organisational change, and helps organisations clarify their plans and objectives. She has a reputation for being able to negotiate outcomes in a complex and diverse stakeholder environment.


Mary Dickie
Quay Connection

Mary is one of Australia’s foremost social marketing experts. Over almost 20 years, she has led some high-profile and controversial programs for social change including the Grim Reaper and the national Drug Offensive strategy. Since then, she has built an impressive reputation for delivering lateral and creative responses to complex marketing and engagement challenges in the government and public interest sectors.




Jacqui Fyffe

Jacqui has worked in vocational education policy for the last ten years and over that time has researched and written about a wide range of significant policy issues. Before commencing her own business, Jacqui worked as a project manager for Ithaca Group, and previously as a policy officer for the Australian National Training Authority.

As well as her thorough understanding of the vocational education and training policy landscape Jacqui brings to any project strong analytical skills, an ability to identify critical issues and a clear and logical writing style.

Katy O’Callaghan
Outpost Consulting

Katy is a researcher and social policy analyst who has worked on a range of issues in the government and community sectors. Her main areas of expertise are education and training, health, Commonwealth-State relations, Indigenous issues, and disability issues. Katy brings insightful and creative thinking to each project. She is skilled at quickly getting to the heart of a matter and translating complex information and into a lively read.

Peter Skippington
Accelerate Training and Consulting

Peter has worked for many years in the development of education policy and strategy in both government and private sectors.  The focus of much of his work has been on stimulating innovation in teaching, learning and assessment in the vocational education and training sector. Peter has also undertaken commissioned projects in relation to educational research, professional development and program evaluations for many Australian agencies.