A solid work ethic instilled by his parents while growing up in Gunnedah has given Isaac Jeffrey the drive to achieve in both study and his career which has taken him from carefree schoolboy to careers in government, small business and government relations and now to a position as the new CEO and national director of the Australian Republican Movement.
The son of Jan and Peter Jeffrey, Isaac was born in Gunnedah 36 years ago and his interest in politics began while he was still at school.
“John Anderson was our local member when I was at school and I always remember thinking what a nice guy he was and as I learnt more about politics and the importance of government, I started to think about career opportunities in politics,” Isaac said.
“I was encouraged to join The Nationals and to apply for a junior staffer position by my cousin, Sarah Mitchell, who is a Member of the NSW Legislative Council and a former state minister. Since then, I’ve been in and around politics for most of my career.”
Isaac joined the Australian Republic Movement several years ago and has been a passionate supporter since he was at school.
“I think it was one of the first topics I remember debating and I’ve never stopped,” he said.
“It’s not a slight against the Brits – I love the Brits and their country is amazing – and it’s nothing personal against the monarchy, I just think there’s a better way. An Australian as our Head of State means we have someone chosen by us, accountable to us and with unwavering loyalty to us and only us.
“It’s 2023 and we need a local who understands us and can represent us as the proud multicultural community we are – and you can’t do that from a palace on the other side of the world. It’s time to celebrate the three pillars which have made today’s Australia – Indigenous heritage, European settlement and British institutions – and our vibrant migrant community.”
Isaac believes that a republic is Australia’s chance to embrace that history and walk together with a vision for a shared future as Australians.
“I started as National Director and CEO of the Australian Republic Movement in August 2023, and I’m thrilled to be playing a small part in hopefully creating history,” he said.
Isaac is forever grateful to his parents and his sister Alex and brother-in-law Ed Howarth who live in Gunnedah with their two girls Frankie and Olive and have echoed the support of his parents.
“This gave me self-belief, confidence and drive, that I could do anything if I work hard and put my mind to it,” Isaac said.
“I had a lot of great people in my life in my school years – still do thankfully.
“I should also give a shout out to my Year 6 English teacher Mr Humphries who really set me on the right path in an academic sense. But, even more importantly, he helped develop my public speaking skills and taught me to conquer those fears – and I’ve never looked back.
“I always knew I wanted to go to university and having grown up in a small business family, I was keen to study business. I was incredibly proud to be the major award winner at my high school graduation and that really gave me the confidence to keep reaching for my goals.”
Isaac says that although he was “a pretty average student” for most of his time at school, he kicked up a gear and studied a lot harder in Years 11 and 12, but still only just managed the UAI he needed.
“I’m proof that a public-school education can get you places, but compared to the facilities and opportunities which exist in private schools, the public system is pretty woeful,” Isaac said.
“I’ll be forever grateful to people like Judith Walpole who used her own resources to buy music books and instruments for our class, because the school couldn’t afford it. I guess that helped develop my sense of work ethic and that push to go the extra mile.”
Growing up in Gunnedah surrounded by his extended family, Isaac spent many fun weekends at Keepit Dam water-skiing, camping and fishing and every other weekend out at mates’ farms learning to drive in their dodgy old paddock-bashers.
“I did end up studying business at Newcastle Uni and graduated with Honours. It’s been a really solid foundational knowledge base, but ultimately, it’s a very expensive piece of paper and its primary purpose is a door opener.
“In a practical sense, you learn a lot more on the job, but you need it to get an interview and give your potential boss the confidence they need to hire you. I majored in Management and Human Resources Management and I was lucky enough to be one of only 80 people selected from over 3000 applicants to join the Department of Defence Graduate program when I finished my degree.”
In that grad year, Isaac worked in three areas: the industrial relations team, Army Future Land Warfare and Strategy, and Defence Force Recruiting.
“Following the program, I stayed on with Defence Force Recruiting having developed a real passion for communications and marketing,” he said.
“I was there for a few years, before I was encouraged to consider a career in politics. I went on to work at Parliament House in Canberra and have spent most of my career since in and around politics.”
Isaac’s professional career at the Department of Defence as a graduate, involved a position as a project manager and Deputy Director at Defence Force Recruiting, where he designed marketing campaigns to increase the number of women and multicultural Australians joining the Australian Defence Force.
“I took a junior adviser position in the Office of the Leader of The Nationals at Parliament House in Canberra and went on to work for the NSW Nationals head office in the Communications/Campaign Team for the 2013 federal election,” he said.
“I became a policy and media adviser for the assistant Minister for Employment and worked on a number of major programs, like the reintroduction of Work for the Dole, before being asked to join the office of Michael McCormack MP, across multiple portfolios from Defence and Veterans’ Affairs to Finance, Small Business and Treasury, and eventually Infrastructure and Regional Development when he became Deputy Prime Minister.
“In the DPM’s office, I took on the role of principal private secretary where I looked after all the politics, communications, cabinet and parliamentary duties for him and I ran The Nationals’ campaign team in the 2016 election in Coalition Campaign Headquarters.”
When government’s leadership changed from Malcolm Turnbull, Isaac decided to leave politics after eight years, much stress and countless sleepless nights and then started his own small consultancy firm, AptStart – which he still manages today.
He then took a position managing public and government relations across Australia and New Zealand for a multinational tech company, but it was hit really hard by COVID so he made the choice to head back to Canberra, embracing his country roots as CEO of the National Irrigators’ Council – an industry and advocacy body for farmers – where he stayed for two and a half years.
“At uni, I thought I’d spend my career in human resources, but that only lasted a few months, and I happily fell into communications and politics,” Isaac said.
“I guess the takeaway is that school was the gateway to uni and uni to the workplace, but you don’t have to live or die by those choices – there are so many options out there. Some of them you have to pursue, others will just happen.”
Isaac has since completed a Master of Politics and Public Policy from Deakin University and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He recently started a Juris Doctor but has paused it while he considers doing his PhD in political science.
“I think post-graduate qualifications are incredibly important – the first degree opens the door, the next one helps you move up the ranks and beyond that further education is a way to show you’re keen to learn new things and continue your professional development,” Isaac said.
“It’s also just interesting to get into the weeds and study new things. Ultimately, I’m very keen to do my PhD, most likely in political communications.”
Away from politics, Isaac has revisited his interest in piano, but says it’s a “real work in progress”.
“I first learnt from Chris Rodstrom in Gunnedah but had a few years off in between – now I have a new Kawai piano which I annoy the neighbours with but my main hobby is writing,” he said. “I’ve published five novels under a pseudonym – Xavier Wallace. They’re based on the protagonist Max Shaw who I named after my great-grandfather. He’s an Australian spy at the fictional Australian Intelligence Service – something like a gay Australian James Bond or Jack Bauer. I started writing after one Christmas holiday when we were up at Byron Bay where it rained for three weeks solid and I read five books.
“Once I’ve read a novel, I give it to my grandma, June, to read. I handed Dad the last one I read, so he could take it back to Gunnedah, and he said, ‘all that money we’ve spent on uni and study, why don’t you write a book instead of just reading them?’.
“I’d never really thought about it, but on the flight back to Canberra I wrote a rough outline of the first novel, Shaw Vengeance, and within a couple of months it was done.”
Isaac said he uses writing as an escape – a way to unwind and just let his mind explore ideas.
“I’m part way through writing a sixth book in the Shaw series and have a couple of others on the go too. I originally published them under a pseudonym as I was working at Parliament
House and didn’t want people to draw any conclusions about who certain people might be in the books, which are absolutely fictional.”
He has entered the books into a few awards and has turned the first one into a screenplay, which has also been submitted to several competitions.
“If any of those awards came through it would certainly get me thinking about pursuing writing full time at some point in the future,” Isaac said.
“Communications has become my speciality, particularly political communications. It wasn’t the original path I chose, it just happened to be going by and I jumped on board.”
Today Isaac lives in Canberra with his partner, Ryan, who works for the Commonwealth Treasury Department. Their dog Atlas is a jet black Groodle – a fun mix of cute and trouble.
Isaac has had many memorable moments during his life, as captain at both schools, Young Citizen of the Year in Gunnedah 2004, senior residential assistant at college, writing and publishing an academic paper on his Honours thesis, the youngest deputy director at defence, the youngest chief of staff at Parliament House, and being appointed CEO of two companies.
“Being able to help shape public policy and things that matter to every Australian was humbling,” he said.
“I’ve been overseas several times, including South Korea and Brazil for work, the UK, Ireland, France, Italy, Croatia, Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and Hawaii for holidays. I’ve travelled the country for work and holidays, including driving from Perth to Canberra and kayaking in the Katherine Gorge.
“I’ve written and published five novels and I think signing that first contract was incredible.
“The two proudest and most memorable moments for me were the births of my two nieces – I was just overwhelmed with love.
“Alex works at St Xavier’s and Ed is at Daracon. Frankie is in Kindergarten and Olive is still a couple of years away from heading to school. I am so proud of all of them.
“Like everyone I’ve had ups and downs, especially during COVID but I know there are so many people who have been less fortunate than me. There’s always someone who has it worse or a lot worse than you. So, I’m thankful for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had – they’ve helped shape who I am today. “COVID was a terrible time all round for people. It was a lonely and isolated time and tragically a life-or-death moment for others. Its long scars continue today, but it really is amazing that modern medicine and science was able to rally and respond as it did.
“We should all be thankful there are some smart people out there who can find these solutions.”
Isaac’s future plans include his hope of securing a referendum on the republic in the next few years and to run a winning campaign.
“After that, I wouldn’t mind spending some time overseas. I love Italy, so maybe Rome for a year. I have a dream about living there and writing a best seller – one might be easier than the other. I’m also going to do my PhD, then maybe move into academia – unless of course I write that best seller first.”To order photos from this page click here