Sarah - Indigenous Cadet

Year joined


Current Position

Desk Officer, Trade and Economic Diplomacy Division

Where did you live and what were you doing before joining the department?

Before joining DFAT I was a journalist with Fairfax Media. I really enjoyed the variety of the role but after a few years in the job needed a new challenge. I had always aspired to work at DFAT and saw the Indigenous Cadetship Program as a great pathway to a long term career in the Department. I moved to Hobart to study a Bachelor of Arts majoring in International Relations/Communications at the University of Tasmania. I combined these studies with part-time work at DFAT's State Office in Tasmania during the year and summer placements in Canberra.

What qualifications do you have?

Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Tasmania (International Relations/Communications)

Have you used your qualifications/experience during your time in the department?

Working as a journalist provided excellent grounding for diplomacy, given the representation and reporting skills journalism so often demands. Equally, I found my professional and academic experiences routinely interacted as an indigenous cadet. On several occasions my university studies strengthened my understanding of the policy environment DFAT operates in and my DFAT experiences complimented and my full time studies.

Why did you apply for the graduate program in the department?

I applied to DFAT for a number of reasons: the opportunity to work with highly qualified and professional people, the opportunity to represent Australia internationally, the diversity of work and career development opportunities and the chance to work in a fast paced work environment. I had a strong interest in international affairs from a media perspective, and time spent overseas only intensified this interest.

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

The competitive nature of the recruitment and selection process is certainly a daunting element so it's important to be confident in your abilities and be clear about your career ambitions. It's just as important to get started on your application early, consider the selection criteria and provide strong evidence that demonstrates your suitability for working at DFAT.

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

I've always been surprised by the scope and diversity of work available in the department. The recent integration with AusAID means the range of opportunities available to DFAT employees has expanded.

What have been the highlights of your career in the department?

I've been very fortunate to experience a wide variety of opportunities in my early years in the Department. As a cadet I had the opportunity to spend three months working at the Australian Consulate-General NY, Australian Mission to the United Nations and Australian Embassy, Washington on a cadetship rotation. Highlights of the assignment included attending the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, assisting in high-level public diplomacy events relating to Australia's campaign for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council and gaining an insight into Australia's congressional liaison activities from our embassy in DC. As a graduate I've gained experience across a wide range of policy areas and remain ever impressed by the range of training and development opportunities available to graduates in the Department. With my first posting to Honiara (Third Secretary) approaching at the end of 2014 I'm ready to embrace the next chapter of my career in DFAT.

Why would you recommend a career in the department?

I would highly recommend DFAT as a career to prospective employees. As an employee you are placed in an environment where the scope and diversity of work is constantly changing. DFAT is well suited for those with a keen interest in Australian foreign, aid or trade policy issues but this should not deter others with broader, specialised interests.

Have you got any other insights for potential applicants?

For indigenous applicants I'd just reiterate how useful it can be to have a support base in Canberra as many applicants are recruited from interstate. 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: 17 January 2013
Australian Government - Closing the Gap Sarah