Damien - Staff profile

Year joined

I joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1995 as an Indigenous cadet, which involved part time work in Canberra during university breaks, and then won a position as a full time graduate trainee in 1999

Current position

Australian Ambassador to Denmark with non-resident accreditation to Norway and Iceland

Other positions in DFAT

Before taking up my current position in Copenhagen I was Australia's Deputy Ambassador to Germany (2010-2013). Prior to that I held a number of director positions, including as head of the Afghanistan Section (2009) and the Corporate Planning Section (2007-2009). I have also held various desk officer jobs focused on South and South-East Asia (2003-2006). My first posting was as Third Secretary at the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia (2000-2003).

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

I was a full-time undergraduate student at UNSW in Sydney before joining DFAT as a graduate trainee. I also worked part-time in the Sydney office of Minter Ellison law firm in my last 12 months as a law student and also worked part-time at the Indigenous Law Centre at UNSW.

What qualifications do you have

I have a graduate diploma in foreign affairs and trade from Monash University (which was a component of the DFAT graduate program in 1999). I also have a combined Bachelor of Arts/Laws degree from UNSW, which I completed in 1998.

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

Every day I use the writing, reasoning and advocacy skills I developed during my university studies.  My tertiary focus on international law and international relations has proved invaluable. It has really helped having a solid understanding of the international legal system and the various state and non-state actors that operate within it.

Do you speak another language?


Why did you apply to DFAT?

I always wanted to live and work overseas and to engage with different cultures. In primary school I came across a brochure on DFAT – I knew from then this was the place I wanted to work.

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

Not knowing what questions the selection panel might ask in the interview. In preparation for the interview I read everything I could about Australia’s foreign and trade policy priorities and current events. The DFAT annual report and The Economist were essential reading.

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

Relax, be yourself. Make sure you’re well prepared for all stages of the selection process. It’s always good to start by reading the speeches of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affair, the Minister for Trade and the DFAT Secretary on Australia’s foreign and trade policy priorities. It also helps to be across the breadth of the department’s operations, which includes important corporate, consular, passports and media liaison functions. The DFAT Annual Report provides the best overview of DFAT’s operations.

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

My DFAT experience has been better than I could have imagined. I spent most of my career working on a range of interesting projects involving South and South-East Asia, including the negotiation of the Lombok treaty with Indonesia. I’ve also worked on some of the most pressing foreign policy challenges such as Afghanistan. I’ve done trade advocacy work, including promoting the Thailand-Australia FTA. Now, I have the great honour of serving as Australia’s Ambassador to Denmark – where I get the opportunity to drive our bilateral relationship across a broad agenda.

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

Undoubtedly, being the first Indigenous Australian to serve as an ambassador. It’s also been great to see the emergence of a strong and growing network of Indigenous colleagues across the department. There are now more than 50 Indigenous staff working in Australia and abroad.

As a lawyer why would you recommend DFAT over other career options?

It’s a great privilege to represent your country as a diplomat. My varied DFAT career has been exciting, challenging and rewarding. Every role I’ve had in the department has helped broaden my horizons and my professional skills.

How do you enjoy living in Canberra?

Although it may not be obvious to an outsider, Canberra is constantly changing. There have been many positive developments over recent years – including a more interesting food and cultural scene and more cycling paths. As a DFAT graduate you arrive in Canberra with an instant group of friends with whom you can explore the city.

Have you any other insights for potential applicants?

I’d highly recommend DFAT as a career for those wanting to play a direct role in shaping Australia’s foreign and trade policy. I’d also highlight that the department greatly values the diversity of its employees and considers it important that DFAT reflect the diversity of Australia.

Last Updated: 17 July 2013