Meet our graduates

Jordan, Molly, Brooke, Safiyah, Stephen


Jordan

2017 Graduate

I grew up in Perth and studied Engineering and Law at the University of Western Australia.

During a university exchange to Canada in 2013, I developed an interest in international law. After returning home, I started to explore opportunities away from working as an engineer in the mining industry towards a career in or involving international law. It quickly became apparent that DFAT, as the Australian government’s most internationally facing agency, would provide the best opportunity to work with international law and strategic policy.

My first rotation has been in DFAT’s Security Branches. This placement has presented a steep learning curve, but also fantastic opportunities. I have moved between the Operational Security and Security Policy sections and in just under four months have managed a diverse workload across a range of security issues relevant to the department’s operations.

By far the highlight of my so far short DFAT career was a week-long trip to Dubai to assist with a security workshop for Post Security Officers from missions in Africa and the Middle East. This offered me great exposure to senior DFAT staff working overseas and a first taste of the international work that DFAT can offer.

I moved to Canberra earlier this year with low expectations, and I have been pleasantly surprised by life in the nation’s capital. While it lacks the hustle and bustle of a Sydney or Melbourne, I have found Canberra to be an incredibly easy place to live, with a growing café and bar scene and abundant opportunities to explore the outdoors.

Jordan

Molly

2017 Graduate

I was born in the USA, raised in Sydney, and worked for a global consulting firm after graduating with an Economics Degree from the ANU. What drew me to DFAT was the opportunity to work on the biggest issues facing Australia, if not the world. As a graduate, I feel I am a crucial part of my section and the work I do matters. Not many other organisations offer such an opportunity, especially so early on.

The best part of the DFAT Graduate Program is the strong sense of support from your cohort and seniors throughout the department. The program has a strong focus on training and development, including training with young diplomats from all over the world. Part of this is a State and Territory Business Program, which gives graduates the opportunity to visit regional areas to better understand the domestic context of DFAT’s work. My team, which included participants from Panama and Namibia, visited Western Australia, meeting with senior diplomats, corporate executives and NGOs to better understand how DFAT’s work both impacts and is impacted by our domestic context.

One of my most memorable moments so far was the opportunity to work in the DFAT NSW office for six weeks, which gave me experience of DFAT’s work from a domestic perspective, including meeting with senior diplomats, attending diplomatic functions at the Opera House and speeches by some of the leading strategic thinkers in the country.

Before joining, I heard a lot about how difficult it was to get into DFAT and how you needed to have a Masters in International Relations and be fluent in five languages. In reality, the Department is far more diverse. We have graduates with degrees from all over the world in exceptionally diverse fields, there are ex-theme park ride operators and former flight attendants. If you’re thinking about applying to the DFAT Graduate Program, emphasise your achievements that may not fit your perception of the “DFAT mould”, it is the diversity within the program that is its real strength.

Molly

Brooke

2016 Graduate

Before I started the graduate program in 2016 I had been working for the Department of Human Services (DHS) in Townsville for eight years. I went back to university part-time as a mature age student in 2011 while continuing to work for DHS. I completed my Bachelor of Business (Management) at James Cook University in 2015.

I applied for the DFAT graduate program during the last year of my degree. I was drawn to DFAT for the breadth of work opportunities and the career paths available – for me personally, the amazing work that the department does in consular services and crisis management was the most appealing aspect. The opportunity to travel and work overseas was also very attractive.

During the graduate program I have had worked across some very interesting areas of the department: I have had rotations in Finance, Human Resources, Security and Crisis Management and was part of a small project team completing an IT installation at one of our overseas posts.

One of the surprising things that I have found about working at DFAT is the level and quality of support we receive from everyone – from previous graduates all the way to Senior Executives. My supervisors and colleagues in all of my placements have been incredibly supportive and encouraging and I am still learning something new every day.

The best part of the graduate program is the amazing people I have been working with, especially my fabulous graduate colleagues. The graduate cohort becomes your surrogate family when you’re so far from home; and they have been the most amazing, funny and supportive family imaginable. Working in crisis management during crises has also been incredibly rewarding even if it can be a little crazy and incredibly busy at times.

Brooke

Safiyah

2017 Graduate

Immediately before coming to Canberra, I was admitted to Court and worked as a lawyer for six months. I’d finished my Bachelors in Law at LaTrobe University a few years prior, with a strong interest in international aspects of law and politics. I was also studying my Masters of Law at the University of Melbourne, specialising in Public International Law. My travel overseas led me to my Masters, particularly an accumulative two and a half years in Jordan studying Arabic and working for a human rights NGO, working in response to the Syria crisis. I worked on the ground in emergency response, development and women’s empowerment. I have been able to draw on this experience during my first rotation in the Gender Equality Branch, where I have worked on an array of projects and learned about Australia’s approach to achieving gender equality through programs and policies.

I was a bit unsure whether coming to DFAT was the right decision for me, but since I have been here, I have enjoyed living and working in Canberra. I have also learnt so much from being in the graduate program and met so many wonderful people who share many of the same interests and passions as me. I applied to DFAT because working for an NGO and studying international relations and law led me to want a better understanding of Australia’s position in the global arena. I had also heard a lot about the quality of the graduate program itself and I have not been disappointed.

One of the highlights of my DFAT experience so far has been the continuous learning environment fostered and facilitated by the department. The best thing however has been my graduate cohort: I am lucky to be surrounded by an amazing and supportive group of people.

Safiyah

Stephen

2017 Graduate

I was born and raised on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. After graduating from Griffith University with a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) / Bachelor of International Relations, I worked for a commercial law firm in Brisbane. Having always been drawn to politics and policy, particularly in international affairs, I later completed a Master of International Studies at the University of Queensland and applied for a position in the DFAT Graduate Program.

At DFAT, I have worked in the Indonesia Strategic Political and Governance Section, as well as the Legal Division, working on both domestic and international law. Through these rotations I have produced legal advices, briefs for delegates representing Australia at international forums, and submissions to the Foreign Minister. I have also had the opportunity to attend a variety of meetings with key stakeholders, foreign diplomats and colleagues from other departments.

The highlight of my time at the Department was the opportunity to take charge of a major briefing at an exciting time for that particular international issue. It doesn’t sound like much, but writing a brief can be an amazing opportunity to understand and develop policy objectives, navigate political realities, and manage possible media attention. Most excitingly, it provides an opportunity to play a role in the development of Australia’s position on issues of international significance.

Beyond the day-to-day work, the graduate program provides extensive training from leading academics and practitioners to ensure we are well-placed to represent Australia to the international community.

Since moving to Canberra, I have found life-long friends among the wonderful and diverse graduate cohort. Like any major move, the transition to Canberra can be difficult. But it is made all the easier by knowing that I am surrounded by friends. If I can give any advice regarding a move to Canberra, it would be this: jump in. There is plenty to do and see, and you will no doubt find some incredible people with whom to enjoy all that Canberra has to offer.

Stephen
Last Updated: 17 January 2018