Natasa - Graduate profile
General Litigation and Corporate Law Section, Corporate Legal Branch
Other positions in the department:
General Litigation, Corporate and Commercial Law section; WTO Tobacco Dispute section; Cyber Policy section; China Political & External section; Indonesia Economic and East Timor section.
Where did you live and what were you doing before joining the department?
I was a Senior Solicitor at the NSW Crown Solicitor's Office in Sydney. Prior to that, I was a solicitor at Freehills in Sydney.
What qualifications do you have?
Bachelor of Laws (Hons) / Bachelor of Commerce (Majors in Government and International Relations, and Finance) from the University of Sydney
Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice, College of Law, Sydney
Admitted to practice as a solicitor in NSW
Have you used your qualifications/experience during your time in the department?
Yes. My first placement was, and my current placement is, in one of DFAT's legal sections. I am responsible for providing legal advice to other sections of DFAT on a range of issues. I also used my legal skills while contributing to the preparation of Australia's legal defence in the WTO tobacco plain packaging dispute. My posting to Jakarta will be in a role which will use my legal skills.
Do you speak another language?
Yes, conversational Macedonian and basic French. I will start Indonesian language training later this year for my posting to Jakarta.
Why did you apply for the graduate program in the department?
DFAT presented an opportunity for me to combine my interests in international relations, politics and government policy with my desire to live and work overseas. A career in DFAT would give me the chance to represent Australia in matters of national and global significance. Also, DFAT encourages officers to regularly move around the Department so the prospect of being able to work on a variety of foreign policy and trade issues appealed to me.
What was the most challenging aspect of the recruitment/selection process?
The most challenging aspect was probably the duration of the recruitment/selection process. It took almost a year from the time I submitted my initial application until I moved to Canberra. It was difficult at times to stay focused on the next stage and not think too far ahead.
Do you have any tips for applicants on how to approach the selection process?
Read widely about current foreign policy and trade issues, particularly Australia's priorities. As AusAID was integrated with DFAT on 1 November 2013, it would also be useful to be familiar with Australia's development policy. DFAT's website is a good starting point, including the Department's most recent Annual Report and the Ministers' speeches. However, consider other sources such as The Economist and think tanks. It is important to remember that the Department's business is foreign affairs, development and trade.
The interviewers want to hear about your views so be prepared to express your opinion in relation to topical foreign affairs, development and trade issues.
For the stages of the recruitment process that require you to submit material online, have a backup plan in case you experience technology problems.
Has the reality of working in the department differed from your perceptions of what it was going to be like?
Yes. Although I was aware that DFAT had a strong graduate training program, the reality exceeded my expectations. DFAT makes a significant investment in graduate training. I was impressed by the range of training courses and the calibre of the presenters.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the variety of legal work on offer in the Department. There are more opportunities for lawyers to use their legal skills and experience than I had expected.
I am learning that there is much more to DFAT than the obvious foreign policy and trade work. Other aspects of the Department's work include its corporate and consular functions.
What has been the highlight of your career with the department so far?
Although I have only been with the Department for 2 years, there have been a number of highlights. Receiving the call about my first posting to Jakarta immediately springs to mind. My role as a Liaison Officer for the Indonesian, Tanzanian and Comorian delegations at the Indian Ocean Rim Association conference in Perth in 2013 was an invaluable learning experience.
As an economist/accountant/lawyer etc, why would you recommend the department over other career options?
As a lawyer, the obvious benefit of a career with DFAT is that you are not limited to working in the Department's legal sections. You may have the opportunity to work in the Department's policy and corporate sections too. However, if you are interested in legal work there are a number of legal teams and you could be working in areas of law that might not be available in other government departments, in-house or private practice. You could be exposed to WTO trade law, international law, sea law, or privileges and immunities to name a few.
How do you enjoy living in Canberra?
I really enjoy living in Canberra. The graduate program has the benefit of providing you with a readymade social network. There is always something on – from dinners and drinks to sport and trivia. The majority of the 2012 graduates are not originally from Canberra which means there are a lot of graduates keen to explore Canberra and its surrounds. I've made great friendships and that is the best part of life here.
Canberra has a lot of the benefits of a city but without many of the downsides. You can drive to most places in about 15 minutes which makes a welcome change from Sydney's traffic. Canberra is also a comfortable drive to wineries and the south coast of NSW.
Have you any other insights for potential applicants?
Keep in mind that you will not be working overseas all the time. You will likely spend much of your career in Canberra and a lot of the important policy work takes place in Canberra.
As graduates on this website have previously advised, avoid getting preoccupied with the idea that DFAT is looking for a particular type of graduate each year. The 2012 graduate intake includes people of a range of ages, with a variety of educational qualifications, work experiences, and language skills. Do not be put off from applying by the number of potential applicants.