The presentation will report from a group of academics and practitioners from Melbourne which have started in 2010 to discuss perspectives for a new approach to social policy in Australia. Starting with key concepts such as ‘risk’, ‘social inclusion’ and the ‘life course’ I will show how these and related concepts frame discourses and social policy practice (e.g. social inclusion, activation). However, it is not only conceptual but also institutional normativity which influences social policy practice and outcomes. Social policy response to new social risks is still shaped by Australian’s unique tradition of the ‘wage earner welfare’ state (Castles 1989) and the persistence of the male breadwinner model (even though now in the shape of a one and a half earner family, Lewis 2001).