Date posted: 04/11/2022

Building a toolkit for the future of the Australian public service

Amy Fox FCA has a toolkit of experiences, skills and knowledge from her career in the public service. They were built from the strong foundations in the accounting and finance profession. 

In brief

  • The Australian Public Service has undergone a cultural change and the challenge is to keep our foot on the accelerator. 
  • In a 20-year public service career, Amy Fox FCA has built a toolkit of knowledge and experience.  
  • She draws from a deep foundation of understanding of business, finance risk and good governance.

After a 20-year career in the Australian Public Service, Amy Fox FCA believes now is a great time to be involved in the public sector as it undergoes a cultural change ignited by the global pandemic.

In her role as Assistant Secretary in the federal government’s Department of Finance, Fox has had an interesting and varied career, including as part of responses that provided the financial backbone to the government’s initiatives during COVID-19.  

“We made rapid decisions but also made sure that we considered all the inputs. We definitely showed that innovation is possible in the public service,” she says. “The challenge now is to keep the foot on the accelerator, not put the brakes on and revert to the ways of the past.”  

The pandemic provided the impetus to drive cultural change in the public service, she says, such as adopting flexible work practices and virtual team meetings, which were previously unheard of or technologically impossible. Innovations were put in place to act quickly and get things done.  

It has also affected what people want from their working conditions, she says. “It’s no longer enough to have an interesting job that pays well. It’s the non-monetary things that people care about that affect their wellbeing so people can have a balanced life.”  

"I draw from a deep foundation of understanding of business, finance risk and good governance.”
Amy Fox FCA, Assistant Secretary in the Department of Finance  

Accounting default  

As a teenager, Fox never imagined she’d become an accountant. Instead, the burgeoning world of technology was her passion. “I was the first kid in my high school to have a dial-up modem at home and I was already writing code for websites and making banner ads for companies.”  

In the midst of her degree, the Dotcom crash in early 2000 changed everything. “My dad advised me that going into IT would be a really bad career choice,” Fox says. “Instead, he suggested accounting, so I switched to a Bachelor of Commerce with double majors in accounting and IT.”  

Growing up in Tasmania and attending university there, Fox says that after she graduated she was “bedazzled” when Ernst & Young offered her a Sydney-based job in technology risk consulting.  

A lot of her role in that first year involved exposure to work in Canberra and government departments and she became more interested in the public sector. So, as soon as she could, she applied for a job in the public service and made the leap.  

“I fell into the public service by accident really and planned to stay for a year,” she says. “And 20 years later, I’m still here and have never left. There have been challenges at times, but I’ve enjoyed working in an amazing variety of different roles.”  

Amy Fox FCA, Assistant Secretary in the Department of Finance 

These have included ten years in the Senior Executive Service, and roles in trade, water policy, corporate finance and a 16 month-long secondment to the Australian Veterinary Medicine and Pesticides Authority as Deputy CEO.  

Fox also travelled with her different roles, including a secondment to the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. She has spent time in remote areas of regional Australia, consulted with the World Bank, led delegations to North Asia, and attended the World Trade Organisation in Geneva.  

She says she’s developed an extensive toolkit of experiences, skills and knowledge that she can dip into and always pull out something useful, depending on the challenges she’s faced with.  

“I draw from a deep foundation of understanding of business, finance risk and good governance,” says Fox. “I spent a lot of time doing audit in the early years and that also taught me the importance of good communication skills.”  

Her advice to other financial professionals coming into the public sector: always put your hand up for different opportunities and find a mentor.  

“The public service has some great people who are genuinely interested in your development,” she says. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t had people who believe in me show an interest in my potential, and who could see the value I could add.”

Exploring the future of senior finance leaders in the Public Sector

Find out how government organisations have adapted and responded to the pandemic, and how it will impact their future in a joint report with ACCA.

Read the report

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