Date posted: 03/04/2023 5 min read

Our latest Leadership in Government Awards recipients share the secret to their success

Joyce Low FCA and Elisha Toey CA have been awarded CA ANZ Leadership in Government Awards for their outstanding work in the public sector.

In Brief

  • As part of its support for the public sector, CA ANZ gives two annual awards to chartered accountants demonstrating exceptional leadership.
  • Elisha Toey CA (at the ATO) and Joyce Low FCA (with the NSW Public Service Commission) are the deserving winners.
  • Both Low and Toey exemplify the CA ANZ vision of making a difference, for the benefit of their organisations and the Australian public.

Every year, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand recognises two chartered accountants for their contribution to the public sector, with the Leadership in Government Awards. Elisha Toey CA – executive advisor to Janine Bristow, chief financial officer at the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) – received the A$10,000 Achievement Award. The A$20,000 Outstanding Contribution Award went to Joyce Low FCA, chief financial officer of the New South Wales Public Service Commission.

Watch the video to hear what work Elisha Toey is doing with the ATO and how she feels about receiving this recognition from CA ANZ.

Strategic partnerships at the ATO

As with any large and complex organisation, the ATO has a spectrum of financial needs. CFO Bristow oversees everything from resource management and strategy, budgeting, financial accounting and tax reporting to procurement and contract management, project management, and property and facilities management services. She entrusts Toey with delivering professional development programs with equally disparate demands.

“We develop and drive the capabilities, skills and knowledge requirements of ATO staff across nine professional streams,” says Toey. “I feel really fortunate to have the opportunities that come with this range of responsibilities.”

Taking skills to a wider community

Elisha Toey CA and Janine BristowPictured: Janine Bristow, chief financial officer at the Australian Taxation Office (left) and Elisha Toey CA

Toey constantly seeks out ways to benefit a wider group of stakeholders. “Skills like good communication and the ability to present information are transferable,” she says. “Within our professional stream of financial management we talk directly to about 600 people though, when we open up our program up to all ATO staff, the number goes up to about 22,000. We’ll be going a step further this year by including all APS (Australian Public Service) agencies.”

As many challenges are common to the sector as a whole, Toey is keen to drive collaboration.

"I’ve been developing relationships and connections with my colleagues across the APS, so we avoid investing twice over by sharing our programs,” she says.

She helped to develop an accounting and finance capability framework for the whole of the APS, as a member of the Australian Public Sector Professionalisation Working Group.

“We wanted to understand how requirements differ from agency to agency so that we could create a minimum standard, taking all of these needs into account,” she says.

She also sees collaboration as key to attracting, building and retaining skills in the public service. “I believe that connecting with other agencies, leveraging the work we’re all doing and sharing our expertise supports opportunities for staff,” she says.

Looking for challenges

Throughout her career, Toey has looked for opportunities that will interest and challenge her.

“I want to use my skills to produce something meaningful,” she says. “Within the public service, there are many things we can do at a grassroots level. It isn’t only the big programs that make a difference, change can come through daily interactions with colleagues and conversations that can lead to shared solutions. I think my future lies in searching out opportunities and helping colleagues to make those connections.”

Toey is even consulting with colleagues on how to spend her A$10,000 prize money. “It’s such a wonderful opportunity, I want to be sure it’s put to the best use,” she says

“I want to use my skills to produce something meaningful.”
Elisha Toey CA, ATO

The courage to challenge the status quo

Joyce Low FCA joined the public service more than 22 years ago. She is recognised for her outstanding contribution to the public sector, including a step change for the benefit of the Australian public.

We hear, in Joyce Low’s own words, about her career and why her CA ANZ membership has opened many doors for her.

“That wasn’t a single event but more the result of having the resilience and courage to question whether things could be done differently,” she says.

One example is her work with the Department of Education during the rollout of an enterprise financial planning/forecasting system to all public schools.

“This was designed to integrate the schools’ cash projections so we could consolidate projections to Treasury,” she says. “I knew from experience that the best way to introduce and integrate a new finance system is to put yourself in the user’s shoes, so you see the challenges from their point of view. We brought in a user experience company for the first time – a precursor to what’s now called human-centred design. This enabled us to take an approach that genuinely met the needs of people using the system.”

Low says her courage to speak out is underpinned by the core values of the NSW Public Service Commission – integrity, trust, accountability and service. “To my mind, if I uphold those values, I’m doing the right thing,” she says.

For much of her career, Low has been working to bring finance out of the back office.

“Finance is fundamental to the success of any project,” she says. “And managing financial risk allows us to make the most of limited funding for the benefit of the Australian public.”

Joyce Low FCA Pictured: Joyce Low FCA 

“Finance is fundamental to the success of any project (...) and managing financial risk allows us to make the most of limited funding for the benefit of the Australian public.”
Joyce Low FCA, NSW Public Service Commission

Leading by example

Low’s award also recognised her ability to lead by example.

“I started in the service in a very junior role and, as I gained experience, I felt very strongly that everyone in a team should have a voice,” she says. “Since I started managing my own team, I have listened to what they have to say and challenged them to find new and better ways of doing things. We sit down and talk things through and, sometimes, have very robust conversations without ever taking anything personally.”

She believes that leading by example means continuously modelling the attributes of a good leader, including honesty and authenticity.

“If, for example, I made a decision that didn’t work out well I would own that, rather than try to hide it or pretend that nothing was wrong,” she says. “We could then discuss how to do it better next time.”

Low has also been vocal about the need to develop soft skills within the finance profession. “We have high levels of technical expertise but I’ve learned that the ability to communicate, negotiate and build relationships enables us to make a more significant contribution,” she says.

Like Toey, Low is still considering how to use her prize money.

“I feel very privileged to work in the public sector and to serve the people of New South Wales,” she says. “I want to make sure the money benefits the sector that’s been so generous to me.”

Diarise now

Nominations for the 2023 CA ANZ Leadership in Government Awards open in early August 2023. Visit the CA ANZ website for details on how to nominate a CA working in the public sector, and to view past award winners.

Visit the CA ANZ website