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Meet our graduates

Ming, Hannah, Jessica, Andrew


2019 Policy Graduate

I studied Engineering and Arts at the University of New South Wales, and always thought I’d end up doing engineering. Little did I know a year after graduating that I would be at DFAT and be an accomplished ‘pret-engineer’.

I was introduced to DFAT after being selected as a 2015 New Colombo Plan Scholar to China. I had also learned about the development work that DFAT is involved in through my university studies. These experiences, together with my work as a project assistant with a Chinese environmental NGO, a research assistant at uni, and even work on my honours thesis, put me on a collision course with DFAT.

I was very fortunate to be placed on a China desk in the North Asia Division. I’ve been able to get stuck into a diverse array of work, including management of the public submissions process for the establishment of the new National Foundation for Australia-China Relations, and data analysis of Chinese development aid flows. Add to this a great supervisor and supporting team, and I have to say this has been an amazing placement.

Outside of my placement, I’ve also had the opportunity to work on an inter-departmental working group, and be a part of the DFAT Social Club. These have greatly increased my planning and organisational skills, whilst also giving me links to other government agencies.

Moving to Canberra has been more seamless than expected. There is so much to do, with activities such as cycling around Lake Burley Griffin, trekking up Mount Ainslie, listening to concerts and talks at ANU, and my favourite: karaoke.

Canberra, and the DFAT graduate program, is what you make of it! I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time in the program, and in Canberra.

Portrait of Ming


2019 Policy Graduate

I grew up in Sydney and moved to Canberra to study international security, economics and languages at the ANU. I’ve long been interested in working in international affairs, and I gained practical experience related to foreign policy, trade and regional issues through jobs as an editor for an Asia-focused academic publication and as a project officer for a research institute looking at Australia–Japan relations. While at university I also completed an internship at DFAT, studied abroad in Japan and Singapore and participated in an election-monitoring project in Papua New Guinea.

Since starting at DFAT, I’ve completed a rotation in the International Security Division, working on Australia’s approach to multilateral arms control and counter-proliferation mechanisms. One highlight was getting to travel to Paris as part of the Australia Group export control regime Secretariat, where I got to experience first-hand how Australia advances its security interests in a multilateral setting.

The graduate experience at DFAT has been great. We’re given extensive training and opportunities for further learning, and supervisors are genuinely interested in giving us a wide range of experiences to develop our skills in analysis, communication and policymaking. DFAT employs people with all sorts of diverse backgrounds and experiences, and I’ve formed strong friendships with other graduates and colleagues across the Department.

As someone who’s been in Canberra for a while, I would highly recommend living here — Canberra has all the services and facilities of a big city but with a remarkable close-knit community atmosphere.



2019 Policy Graduate

Characterising my path into DFAT as unconventional would be anachronistic; these days, there is no conventional route and the department benefits greatly from the diversity and inclusivity it fosters in its recruitment.

With a decade-long scientific career in my past, and an active toddler very much in my present, I can provide positive testimony that DFAT is a broad church, and that if you worry you don’t fit the mould, you’re probably a more competitive candidate for it.

Relocating to Canberra after five years abroad for a new career and with a small family in tow brought with it substantial concerns. It was a considerable relief to find the prevailing attitude in the department was supportive and compassionate and that the day to day work as a graduate officer was of substance and valued.

Though a policy stream graduate, my first rotation was with the Women in Leadership Secretariat, within the Executive Branch. In this role I was given autonomy on a number of impactful projects and exposure to the corporate workings of the department — something I believe every good officer should fully understand.

These first nine months have thrown up many pleasant surprises, but in broad terms the department’s commitment to investing in its graduates has been what has struck me the most. The training programme delivers a comprehensive curriculum, from tradecraft to indigenous awareness, to the economics of development and so much more. There is also wonderful access to informal education during lunch breaks, such as addresses from Heads of Mission and seminars from visiting experts throughout the year.

My life in Canberra is undoubtedly a step change from my time abroad, but with blue skies, clean air, no traffic and remarkable access to the outdoors I’m delighted to call Canberra, and my position at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, home.

Portrait of Jessica and friend


2019 Corporate Graduate

Like many other young Canberrans growing up in the nation’s capital, I anticipated moving away and avoiding the Australian Public Service trap my parents fell into. After completing a Bachelor of Commerce at University of Canberra I happily leapt into the cloudy waters of private sector finance working across a variety of roles in management consulting, tax mitigation and corporate restructures. Later obtaining my Chartered Accountant accreditation I began the search for bigger, more challenging projects abroad.

Landing in South Africa, I found myself in a Locally Engaged Staff (LES) role at the Australian High Commission in Pretoria managing the delivery of the Department of Home Affairs’ regional outsourcing contract for visa application and biometric collection services across Africa, giving me a small glimpse of the breadth of work offered in the Australian Public Service.

Almost a decade into my professional life, I was inspired while speaking with a colleague about their experiences in the DFAT Graduate Program years before. Interested by the extensive training program and the varied work available, I applied for the Graduate Program mid-way through 2018 and was accepted later that year. Since starting in February 2019 I have gotten the chance to work on complex, rewarding challenges across the corporate stream. I’ve helped develop solutions to better manage the Department’s finance and HR resources across the 100+ countries we operate in, assisted with a recent round of Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations and provided frontline support during consular crises that impacted a number of Australians and their families.

However, for me, the two highlights so far have been the training and the people. Through the tailored learning program I have engaged with world renowned lecturers, international universities and think tanks, and countless current and former Departmental Secretaries and Agency Heads on a range of thematic issues relevant to Australia’s interests. Along this journey I have been lucky to work with inspiring and intelligent individuals at all levels of Government and made close friendships within my graduate cohort.

One year on, I have returned home to an exciting new career in the Australian Public Service knowing I am better prepared for the work ahead.

2019 Corporate Graduate - Andrew
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