Since he joined the NSW public service in 2008, Jimmy Ng has transitioned from accountancy roles to positions that require strategic insight and leadership.
Since mid-2020, Jimmy has been Director of Performance and Delivery for Education Grants in the NSW Department of Education. Following a realignment since November 2021, he has been Acting Director, Financial Controlling.
His remit covers early childhood education, which is going through a period of significant reform, and non-government school funding.
An ANZSOG Executive of Master of Public Administration, which he began in 2020, has helped broaden his understanding of the public sector, and prepared him for the strategic challenges of doing broader public policy work.
“There’s a lot of strategic work and lots of core business where we make sure grant payments go out to early childhood education providers and that funding for non-government schools is managed,” says Jimmy.
“The key challenge is around the effective use of a finite amount of funds for those two sectors — there’s always the tension of getting the best value for the public dollars which is a focus for our team. There is also always contention around government and non-government funding and we have to make sure we manage non-government funding in line with policy and community expectations.”
Early childhood education funding in NSW is also under the microscope with the NSW government looking at how funding can best be used now and in the future.
“COVID changed how we fund community pre-schools – they became fee-free. We’ve focused on redesigning programs to support that approach and are looking at what impacts that has on funding,” says Jimmy.
Since joining the NSW public service, Jimmy has been involved in a number of projects that he has found rewarding on a professional level.
“I’ve been involved in strengthening guidelines around the Building Grants Assistance Scheme for non-government schools. Recently we were involved with the NSW government decision on school banking programs and the ending of the Commonwealth Bank Dollarmites scheme,” says Jimmy. Consumer advocate organisation, Choice, had long campaigned against the controversial Dollarmites school-banking program that it described as a ’cash cow’ for the bank.
Jimmy’s first public service role was as an accountancy intern with the NSW Department of Lands in 2008. His finance and accountancy skills saw him move to increasingly senior roles in the Land and Property Management Authority and the Department of Finance & Services. In 2012, he joined the Department of Education.
“At high school, I didn’t have a sense of what I wanted to do so I did a double degree in Science and Commerce to hedge my bets. Science was my passion and I did Commerce because I knew it was practical and would help me find a job,” says Jimmy.
“If anything, I thought physics would be my career but I took on accounting, too, and while I was working as a graduate accountant in the government, they dangled a carrot in front of me and I stayed.”
In 2020, Jimmy began the Executive Master of Public Administration with ANZSOG. His manager encouraged him to apply for it, knowing that he was keen to broaden his horizons and expertise.
“I was looking to go beyond finance roles and as a career public servant to date, this was taking the next step to get broader public sector knowledge and skills. I felt the EMPA could help advance my career and help me build a network of public servant professionals across Australia and New Zealand. People in my department who’d done this course, said they’d benefited from learning from others and creating networks and lifelong connections,” says Jimmy.
As he’d hoped, Jimmy’s EMPA cohort were a diverse group of people from different states and levels of government.
“There were people involved in the delivery of programs, people in back office and people with scientific and social work policy backgrounds — a melting pot. I’ve made connections and we keep in touch. People have reached out to me to get my thoughts on how to navigate matters and I do the same,” he says.
“Listening to senior public servants and leaders in public policy, like Kevin Rudd, talk about policy challenges and getting insights into what public servants at the very top face was very interesting and the subject about regulation and governing by the rules was helpful. I draw on those learnings and frameworks.
“The public value concept and public value triangle is also very useful and so were the discussions on how leaders can support and lead change and achieve outcomes. I’ve taken things on board there, too.”
During his time within the Department of Education, Jimmy has taken on new roles and responsibilities every two years which has kept him engaged and constantly learning and adapting.
“I enjoy the purpose of the public service – it’s for the broader benefit of the community and you can make a difference to other peoples’ lives. I also enjoy the challenge of dealing with complex issues that aren’t easy to untangle. I like working out difficult things and finding a solution, which probably goes back to my physics background,” he says.
“I’m open to opportunities and to being out of my comfort zone – public policy work doesn’t faze me now and I want to build on my experience. I feel I’m committed to public service. My EMPA studies were part of that commitment.”
Find out more about ANZSOG’s Foundation Programs
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A program that challenges senior public service executives working in the public domain to develop new leadership perspectives in a contemporary and highly interactive setting.
A unique program that helps public service leaders develop the qualities needed to thrive in a senior executive role: a strategic outlook, political astuteness, personal resilience and the ability to reflect and learn continuously.