Leilani - Staff profile

Year joined


Current position

Policy Adviser, Office of the Special Coordinator, Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI)

Other positions in DFAT

  • Executive Officer, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean Section, Americas and Africa Division
  • Manager, Australian Cultural Program, Shanghai World Expo
  • Manager, Indigenous Program, Cultural Diplomacy Section, Consular, Public Diplomacy and Parliamentary Affairs Division

Where did you live and what were you doing before joining DFAT?

Prior to joining DFAT, I lived on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. I was employed by the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) as the Health Policy Officer, but was previously the Manager of the Gab Titui Cultural Centre and Arts Development Officer for the Torres Strait Region at the TSRA.

What qualifications do you have?

Graduate Certificate in International Relations (Deakin University), Masters in Cultural Heritage (Deakin University), and a Bachelor of Business (Central Queensland University).

Have you used your qualifications/experience during your time in DFAT?

Most definitely. In my current role, my business background has been valuable to understand economic development issues in the Solomon Islands.

Secondly, the Masters in Cultural Heritage significantly contributed to and shaped policy and program matters regarding cultural heritage for our overseas posts. As Manager of the Australian Cultural Program at the Shanghai World Expo and for my work on cultural diplomacy more broadly, my tertiary studies and expansive experience in the arts industry was greatly valued.

Do you speak another language?

Yes - Solomon Islands pijin

Why did you apply to DFAT?

To make a strong contribution towards the overseas representation of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culture and heritage.

What was the most challenging aspect of the recruitment/selection process?

The length of time for the security clearance process.

Do you have any tips for applicants on how to approach the selection process?

Yes - be specific in what you are looking for at DFAT. There are several pathways to gain employment in DFAT ranging from entry level to specialist positions and general bulk round vacancies. Ensure that one's experience and interests align with the specific mode of recruitment. For example, if one's background is in corporate, then consider applying for the corporate graduate program if one has recently completed tertiary studies, or consider the general corporate bulk vacancies at the appropriate lateral level. This will minimise a mismatch of expectation for both the applicant and DFAT.

Has the reality of working in DFAT differed from your perceptions of what it was going to be like?

Absolutely. At first, I was unsure what it would be like to work in DFAT and how the institution operated. However, over the years, I have enjoyed the diverse work opportunities and overseas experiences DFAT has provided to me. Every area is different and challenging across both the corporate and policy sectors. 

What has been the highlight of your career with DFAT so far?

Working on the Shanghai World Expo and being part of a very cohesive team on such a grand scale. Creating awareness within a predominant Chinese audience about Australia, its people, cultures and societies was one of the greatest highlights for me. It was such a challenging and rewarding experience.

How have you found the overseas posting experience?

Very educational and informative. I completed a short term assignment in Shanghai in 2010 and am currently deployed to the Solomon Islands. The Solomons experience is very different to what I have done in the past, but at the same time, it reminds me of the Torres Strait. There are similiarities and differences between the Solomons and the Torres Strait and I have learned a great deal both personally and professionally on this deployment.

As an economist/accountant/lawyer etc, why would you recommend DFAT over other career options?

DFAT offers a range of opportunities both domestically and internationally as well as diverse work placements across policy and corporate areas. I believe keeping an open mind and a 'can do' approach to any work environment enables one to embrace a full range of work experiences DFAT has to offer.

How do you enjoy living in Canberra?

I have lived in Canberra for 13 years and it does provide a unique lifestyle as the nation's capital. There are lots of events one can be involved in through DFAT and outside of work. I maintain a strong network within the arts industry and am involved in activities when I am in Canberra. Striking a good work/life balance is essential and I would encourage new recruits to maintain their hobbies and interests.

Have you any other insights for potential applicants?

It is important to have support in Canberra as many applicants are recruited from interstate. Most new recruits have never lived in Canberra and it can be a little daunting at first. However, one should allow themselves time to adjust and become familiar with the work, social and cultural environments. There is usually something for everyone in Canberra, it just takes a little bit of time to work out how to fit in and establish good networks.

Last Updated: 7 March 2013