Mhairi Cowden


NousGroup Background Pattern
Mhairi combines in-depth policy knowledge with operational experience. Her strength is developing meaningful strategies that work.
Mhairi has advised governments on high-profile reforms in human services, led organisational change projects and worked collaboratively with not-for-profit organisations to measure and maximise their impact. With her personable style she brings expertise in public policy, human services, outcomes measurement, social investment, philanthropy, strategic planning and organisational change.

Influential work

  • Led the strategic development and the operational delivery of a $159 million COVID-19 relief fund
  • Developed the detailed negotiation plan for the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Western Australia, including overseeing the evaluation of the comparative trials and cost model for roll out options
  • Led the transformation of Western Australia’s largest community grants program ($110 million per annum) from activity-focused to outcomes-focused
  • Project-managed a high-profile commemorative event as part of the Centenary of World War I, which was launched by the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand
  • Led the integration of two public sector statutory authorities, including introducing agile methodologies and new technology systems to achieve better outcomes for the community.

Outside of Nous

Prior to joining Nous, Mhairi was part of the senior leadership team at Lotterywest – Australia’s only state-owned lottery – where she led the community investment strategy. She has held senior roles in the Western Australian Department of the Premier and Cabinet, advising on reforms across the disability, mental health, health and youth portfolios. She has worked as a lecturer at the Australian National University and Lancaster University.

Mhairi the is co-author of “The National Disability Insurance Scheme: Australia’s Public Policy Experiment” (2021) and author of “Children’s Rights: From Philosophy to Public Policy” (2015). Mhairi holds a PhD in children’s rights from the Australian National University and Bachelor of Arts (First Class) from the University of Western Australia.

In her spare time...

Mhairi is an avid podcast listener. She can be found riding around Fremantle on her cargo bike loaded with her two kids and listening to indie music from the early 2000s.