Meet our graduates
I joined the DFAT graduate program directly after completing my undergraduate studies at the Australian National University in Asian Studies and Law. I became interested in applying during my time in Myanmar as a New Colombo Plan scholar, which gave me a little bit of exposure to DFAT's work overseas.
There's no set path to joining the graduate program. My cohort is a diverse mix from all walks of life, and we are equipped with equal opportunity to thrive in the program.
“The graduate program is a fantastic experience if you are curious about many things and enjoy stepping up to a challenge.” I monitored the 2019 Sri Lankan bombings while at the Sri Lanka and Maldives desk, helped run a global affairs forecasting competition at the Strategic Policy branch, I've taken phone calls at the Emergency Call Unit from Australians seeking assistance around the world, and I've worked overnight at the Covid-19 Coordination Unit to prepare updates for the Prime Ministers' office during the height of the pandemic.
“The training and learning opportunities at DFAT are extensive.” For instance, on top of the comprehensive graduate training package, I've had the opportunity to complete a four-week economics crash course run by the Diplomatic Academy in collaboration with the ANU.
I can confidently say that life in Canberra is what you make of it, having lived here as both an outgoing university student and a more introverted young professional. There's plenty of nightlife and entertainment options, and a great range of people to meet due to the annual influx of fellow APS graduates. But Canberra also perfectly suits a quieter pace of life—whether that's fitness, gardening, cooking or another hobby shared by a multitude of Canberrans. The broad employment opportunities across the wider APS and the excellent universities in Canberra also provide a range of work and study options for relocating spouses.
Growing up in Brisbane, I never really imagined I would end up at a place like DFAT. I found International Relations interesting, but I was clearly a generalist (and not a policy expert), and my background reflected this.
In high school and university, I had my eyes fixed on medicine and the health sciences field. This was still the case when I ended up doing an International Relations and Chinese degree. But then I embarked on a career backflip and enrolled in a Master of Business Management. Along the way, I worked at Starbucks, participated in case competitions, spent time in Taiwan and Norway and ended up working at the Commonwealth Bank. Thinking I would inevitably end up as a Business Analyst or in Consulting, I thought I'd give DFAT another crack.
“One year on and Canberra has been an unexpected but pleasant surprise.”
“Canberra is a very misunderstood city – those who don't live here don't quite understand the city with community charm and convenience.”
As a graduate in the corporate stream I have had a wide variety of experiences, from supporting efforts to secure new funding and ensure budget sustainability, contributing to a concerted APS effort to support Services Australia process JobSeeker claims in the throes of COVID-19, a brief stint in a Minister's Office at Parliament House, and the wide ranging corporate services supporting the Indo-Pacific Group.
“Though I never expected to end up where I am now, I am thoroughly enjoying the breadth of career opportunities available, including overseas postings, the ability to engage with a range of stakeholders, or being involved in whole of government initiatives. If any of these things pique your interest - DFAT is the place for you!”
I studied a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws at Monash University. Throughout my degree, there was a lot of pressure to go into commercial law, and while I undertook clerkships, I very quickly realised that it wasn't for me.
After finishing my undergraduate degree, I enrolled in a research Master's and wrote my thesis in international law and human rights. The areas I researched, coupled with my longstanding interest in history and foreign affairs, made me take a serious look at the public service – and the DFAT graduate program in particular. I applied without fully understanding what DFAT did, but I decided it was worth a shot, and I'm so glad I went for it.
“Working at DFAT has been a real adventure.” Since I started, I've worked in areas such as trade policy, human rights, and organisational strategy, and supported Australia's bilateral relationship with the US, and our preparations for COP25 in Madrid. I was worried that people would be unfriendly, but by and large everyone I've met has been incredible, and “I've made some amazing friends and mentors here over the last two years.” The people who work here are seriously impressive, and there is a lot of investment in training you to do your best. While it's often said that the DFAT graduate program will take you places, I never expected that by the end of it I would get posted to Brussels, where I'll spend the next three years advocating for Australia's interests in the Australia–European Union Free Trade Agreement.
Coming to Canberra has also been great. Prior to moving here I'd only visited briefly, so I was a bit nervous about living somewhere new where I didn't know anyone. But it's an incredible city, the people are genuinely friendly, and once you're settled in it's a really great place to live. I've had a blast, and I'm sure you will too!
Growing up in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, I always had a strong interest in pursuing a career in global politics. Rather unsurprisingly, this led me to undertake my tertiary studies at the University of Sydney, from which I graduated with a Bachelor of International and Global Studies (Hons) and a Masters in Media Practice. It was during the course of my undergraduate studies that I first started considering a career at DFAT, after a departmental representative came to speak to students about the graduate program and the very many exciting career paths it offered. Fast forward a few years, following some time and experience working in the media industry, and I suddenly found myself packing for the big move to the nation's bush capital.
I've found my career at DFAT thus far to be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. “There is no such thing as a ‘typical' day at DFAT, nor a ‘typical' DFAT officer, which makes it all the more fun and exciting.”
“DFAT encourages diversity of views, experiences and opinions, and provides everyone with the opportunity to bring something different to the table as we work together on critical, and sometimes very fast-moving, global events.”
I've been fortunate enough to rotate through some incredibly interesting areas in DFAT – including the media section, India economic bilateral desk and the Secretary's Office. I am proud to have also had the opportunity to spend some considerable time working in our Consular Division, where I helped with flights to facilitate the return of overseas travellers to Australia during the global COVID-19 pandemic. It is hard work sometimes, but it's all worth it when you know you've made a positive difference to someone's life. I'm looking forward to starting Japanese language training later this year, for my first posting to Tokyo!
Having been a Sydney-sider most of my life, the idea of relocating to Canberra was somewhat daunting – even if it's only 3.5 hours away. But I've loved every minute I've spent here. Canberra is a great place to live, bringing together all the elements of a vibrant city coupled with the tranquillity and magnificent views of a more rural location. Your graduate colleagues also quickly become your graduate family, and it's reassuring to know there is a strong support network always here for you in Canberra – and sometimes overseas too, should you choose to apply for an overseas posting!