Skip to content

Jacqui Allen embraces ANZSOG insights to help shape Tasmania’s ‘agile’ response to COVID-19

2 December 2020

News and media


Jacqui Allen headshot

When Jacqui Allen began her first public sector role, she expected to remain within government for a few years. More than 20 years later, she is still a public servant.

Beginning in the arts in WA, she is now a deputy secretary in Tasmania and has recently completed a lightning rollout of a Tourism Voucher Scheme as part of the Tasmanian Government’s response to COVID-19. Along the way, she completed an ANZSOG Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) which she says gave her the confidence and tools to be a more effective public servant.

In November 1998, Jacqui became Performing Arts Project Officer with the Department of Culture and the Arts in Western Australia. It was a three-year contract and Jacqui saw the role as an opportunity to broaden her experience in preparation for later moving into a managerial position with an arts-based organisation.

“I had every intention of leaving government after that first contract, but then I was offered opportunities to do different and interesting things. I also became interested in the idea of working in the arts sector more broadly and strategically, rather than working with only one organisation,” says Jacqui.

Jacqui studied Arts Management at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and spent the first six years of her career before joining public service as Touring Manager with Country Arts WA.

“Music was my interest and so I joined Country Arts WA and ran their performing arts touring program. I organised tour itineraries and contracts, booked travel and freight, organised marketing material and looked after people when they were on the road. I arranged theatre, dance, music and circus tours and loved it,” says Jacqui.

After moving to the public sector, Jacqui also went back to university to do a Graduate Diploma in Business (Marketing). She also grabbed the opportunity to deepen her public sector expertise by becoming a Ministerial Advisor in the Arts and Youth areas and then Manager, Capital Works for the Department of Culture and the Arts.

“One of the projects I’m most proud of was the development and construction of the State Theatre Centre. I was with that project from the beginning – from developing the business case to get the money to move to design stage through the design, construction and the opening,” says Jacqui.

“There hadn’t been a purpose-built state government performance centre constructed in Perth for about 20 years so it was an important and rewarding project to be part of.”

Her increasing public sector experience saw Jacqui then take on director level roles and she ended her career in WA as Deputy Director-General of the Department of Culture and the Arts.

Part of an ‘agile’ Tasmanian response to COVID-19

Jacqui is currently Deputy Secretary, Cultural and Tourism Industry Development in the Department of State Growth in Tasmania. Her portfolio includes Arts Tasmania, Screen Tasmania, Events Tasmania, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the Tourism and Hospitality Supply-side Unit.

In 2020, Jacqui has also been part of the Tasmanian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 has caused most public servants I know to dramatically change the work they do and how they do it, my team was no exception,” she said.

“The Tasmanian Government introduced a Tourism Voucher Scheme, as part of an assistance package to support Tasmania’s tourism operators, and we were given two-and-a-half weeks to stand it up.”

“In that time, we designed the program and agreed it with our Minister, redesigned some existing software to support the scheme, built a call centre, engaged and trained call centre staff, promoted the scheme and its rules and then – on the first day – issued 21,000 electronic vouchers worth $7.5m in 38 minutes.

“The government decided to go again three weeks after and we issued a further 20,000 worth $5m in one hour. The scheme is still operational and at this stage is working as intended with over 22,000 vouchers used, which has triggered over $22million of expenditure in the visitor economy.

“This was my first real experience in ‘agile’ project management where we leveraged off our existing skill sets (in grants management and industry relationships) and partnered across our agency (IT, legal, etc) with a core project team of around seven up against an extremely tight timeline.

“Everyone across my team chipped in – working throughout weekends to test software and write FAQs and even volunteering in the call centre. I’m so proud of the way we pulled together and supported each other to deliver a great result for the government and the community. I’m still pinching myself a bit that we pulled it off to be honest.”

An important element of Jacqui’s career progression – and her ability to meet challenges such as COVID-19 – has been further study. In 2008, she completed ANZSOG’s Executive Master of Public Administration.

“I was part of the first cohort from WA to do the EMPA. I’d been thinking about doing an MBA but my husband encouraged me to find something that related more to areas I was interested in and my boss at the time also recommended I apply,” says Jacqui.

“It was refreshing to undertake a program that recognised the public sector is different to business -the drivers are different and performance looks different. The EMPA program gave me confidence that the public sector is a profession and it gave me frameworks to make sense of what I was doing. The EMPA is one of the reasons why I am still a public servant.”

A number of subjects that Jacqui studied as part of the EMPA program still resonate. The public value theory provided a useful and relevant framework that Jacqui still relies on.

“I teach an introduction to public values theory in the public sector management program here and I draw the strategic triangle wherever anyone will let me!” says Jacqui.

“Another thing that sticks in my mind was what I learned from the EMPA’s regulation unit. One valuable teaching was about trust being the dark matter in the regulatory environment – it highlighted the notion that trust between the community, public sector and government, and across government, is important.”

Jacqui believes the EMPA also creates valuable professional networks and collaborations.

“It creates a vocabulary around public sector management and builds a community of knowledge. It’s a great opportunity for anyone interested in public sector management and policy,” she says.

Enjoying life in Tasmania, Jacqui sees her future within the public sector and she is keen to continue to develop and grow her professional knowledge.

“Moving to Tasmania at the end of 2012 was an opportunity to expand my experience. In a smaller jurisdiction you can learn a broader range of activities than in a larger jurisdiction where people tend to be more specialised. Here, the scale of the public sector is different and people have multiple responsibilities,” says Jacqui.

“People are much more connected in Tasmania, too. Members of the community are likely to be in a queue at the supermarket with a Minister or with the Premier – it is more intimate – and people expect to be able to have those relationships with their politicians more so than in WA.”

As part of this goal, in 2018, she spent three weeks completing the highly respected Executive Fellows Program with ANZSOG.

Designed for senior public sector executives, the program challenges participants to develop new leadership perspectives while exploring contemporary issues.

“Immersing myself in that thinking for three weeks was valuable. We formed coaching circles and coached each other and worked on issues we were facing in the workplace,” says Jacqui.

In a way, the program, with its emphasis on creativity, took Jacqui full circle, and reminded her of the value of the skills she learnt at the start of her career.

“The spine of the program was built around creativity and we took part in arts-based activities and that was also hugely valuable to me because I hadn’t engaged with that side of myself for a long time – I’d put that away in the cupboard!

“But the Executive Fellows Program helped me see that I already had a wealth of valuable knowledge and expertise developed throughout my arts career that I hadn’t fully recognised and appreciated in relation to my public sector work.”

In addition to utilising the insights learnt throughout the EMPA and EFP, Jacqui’s ANZSOG journey continues to this day. She was recently appointed to the ANZSOG Alumni Advisory Council where she help to build a strong, engaged and cohesive alumni community, and foster two-way communication between alumni and the ANZSOG executive, and between alumni and public services.

Find out more about ANZSOG’s Foundation Programs

Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA)

A part-time postgraduate qualification developed and delivered by ANZSOG exclusively for high-performing public sector managers.

Executive Fellows Program (EFP)

A three-week program challenging senior public service executives working in the public domain to develop new leadership perspectives in a contemporary and highly interactive setting. 

Towards Strategic Leadership (TSL)

A unique two-week 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.