Meet our graduates

Sophie, Horace, Clinton, Stephanie, Alex, Lauren


Sophie

2018 Graduate

Following my Bachelor of Arts majoring in modern history, I realised I was interested in a career in policymaking in an international context. I subsequently enrolled in a Master of International Relations at the University of Melbourne. I gained practical experience by completing internships at think tanks, volunteering with not-for-profit organisations and working at a multiculturalism NGO. Immediately prior to DFAT, I lived in Jakarta for five months studying Indonesian full-time. After years of hard work, it was surreal being offered a position with the agency that leads Australia’s international engagement and foreign policymaking.

Given my keen interest in Asia, I was fortunate my first rotation was in the Southeast Asia Division, working on cross-cutting policy to implement Foreign Policy White Paper objectives. Highlights included organising a conference with our 12 Southeast Asian heads of mission, exploring the future of our aid program in Southeast Asia, travelling to Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, and escorting a leading Indonesian pollster around Sydney for four days.

In my second rotation in the Information Management and Technology Division, I’ve worked on the division’s women, diversity and inclusion programs – an important piece in the department’s broader cultural change agenda. Corporate rotations are important for policy graduates to understand how the department and our Posts operate, which is essential to being a good officer and leader at DFAT.

In addition to the rewarding and diverse work, DFAT is full of inspirational and supportive colleagues – many of whom also started as graduates – who are ready to share their advice and empower junior officers.

Despite coming from the cultural metropolis of Melbourne, I love living in Canberra where it takes less than 20 minutes to get anywhere and everyone loves to yarn about politics. With curious and interesting people in abundance, all of whom are passionate about what they do, Canberra is one of the best places to work in Australia.

Sophie

Horace

2018 Graduate

I grew up in Perth and studied Political Science and International Relations with a second major in Geography and Human Planning at UWA (University of Western Australia).

I have long been interested in foreign relations. While studying, I interned at the British Consulate in Perth, focussing on trade imports and exports.  I also went on exchange through the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS) Program, which was supported by the New Colombo Plan (NCP). I continued my studies in International Relations in Bandung, Indonesia, for six months. As part of my time in Indonesia, I also I interned at the Australian Consulate-General in Makassar. Working for DFAT has fulfilled my long-term dream, and revealed much more about what Australia does in the international arena.

Since beginning at DFAT, my first rotation was in the United States and Indo-Pacific Division. I was able to work with my new team members and see it develop, helping to guide the initial engagement that DFAT had within Australia, but also globally on how the Indo-Pacific was shaped. My second rotation saw me in the DFAT’s aid and development policy division; where I was able to develop a keen understanding of how Australia conducts its aid and development programs, and the monitoring and evaluation processes that hold them accountable.

A highlight for me was travelling to Brisbane for the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on Maritime Security. It was my first experience of ‘real’ diplomatic negotiations and networking. The discussions during the forum between our likeminded partners demonstrated to me how alliances and shared visions could be powerful and productive when a coalition is formed.

Moving to Canberra has been a massive shift, but an enjoyable and memorable experience. The friends you make become your family, and DFAT is full of diversity and is very supportive. I quickly adjusted to Canberra. In many ways it is like Perth. It lacks hustle and bustle like Sydney or Melbourne, and is very picturesque.

Horace

Clinton

2018 Graduate

My first exposure to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was through the Australia Korean Internship Program, where I spent seven weeks as an intern to a Korean company, developing professional cross-cultural skills and experiencing an overseas business environment in 2015. This was a defining aspect of my B. Commerce (Accounting) degree at the University of Adelaide as it allowed me to be more culturally aware, and begin to see the global integration of the world we live in.

I spent two years working at the Auditor-General’s Department before joining the DFAT Graduate Program, where I have rotated through Finance, Security, and Executive Branches. In just 12 months, I have had the opportunity to be exposed to a wide range of work, from strategic planning, to departmental financial policy, taxation, programme management, project management accounting, as well as run my own project in delivering a department-wide IT solution.

The diversity in my role has been challenging, yet very rewarding as I have had the opportunity to learn so much in a short period of time. I am given autonomy and am encouraged to innovate in solving problems, to take risks, and not be afraid to fail, knowing that I am being supported – from my colleagues, all the way through to the senior executive.

Since moving to Canberra, I have formed strong friendships within the graduate cohort, as well as outside of the department. Canberra has quickly become home, and there are so many opportunities for you make friends and meet new people by just being yourself, whether you enjoy playing sports, going hiking, doing brunch, or checking out the art galleries. Just dive right in, and you’ll have a great time.

Clinton

Stephanie

2018 Graduate

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

I worked as an engineer in the construction industry, and during my commerce degree I gained experience working for a number of boutique marketing agencies. The defining moment in my studies proved to be while researching a paper on the on the intricacies of free trade agreements. This sparked an intense interest in trade and I applied for DFAT, thinking my decidedly non-legal background would be a hindrance to pursuing a career in international relations. In fact, the opposite has proven true: diversity is prized here, and I have found many occasions where the unique skills I gained through my experience as an engineer have been highly valued.

I have had the privilege of working in two diverse areas. I was part of the team the responsible for managing the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties process (JSCOT) for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), where I was able to lead on developing briefing and advising on strategy for public hearings. Currently in the passports office, I now work on developing policy surrounding the issuance of child passports, where our team manages complex issues to do with parental responsibility, surrogacy and adoptions.

One of my many highlights while at DFAT has been a week spent at a round of trade negotiations for the Australia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement. Seeing our negotiators in action was a fantastic learning opportunity and confirmed for me that a career at DFAT is one I want to pursue.

I have fallen in love with Canberra and its people – the city is full of things to do but has the charm of a small town, and I am so grateful to be surrounded by amazing friends and colleagues who continue to support me unconditionally, challenge me intellectually, and selflessly mentor me.

Stephanie

Alex

2018 Graduate

I had an unconventional path to DFAT, studying Commerce and Marketing in Adelaide and Singapore before working a series of odd jobs doing everything from sales and project management to dishwashing and website design. My student self would have baulked at the idea of working for the government, but I’ve found the entire experience surprisingly enjoyable. You’re surrounded by smart, motivated, friendly people in an intensely liveable city with interesting work and a great quality of life.

I’ve spent time in the Media Liaison Section and the China Economic and Trade Section, where I’ve had the chance to do everything from run a media visit with Chinese journalists to being the Department’s primary media contact out-of-hours. I’ve sat in a senate committee room and taken notes while senior staff get grilled by politicians and edited documents ultimately released by ministers.

As a graduate, you have training heaped upon you, spending weeks with your fellow grads learning about everything from indigenous Australia to international law. This is a wonderful chance to both learn and bond with your colleagues – and it’s these people that make the graduate experience so special. There are engineers, lawyers, linguists, actors, development specialists – but, more than their profession or degree, they’re all good people.

Pay no heed to hearsay when it comes to Canberra, there’s never been a better time to live here. Despite the chilly winters, my time in Canberra and the DFAT grad program has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Alex

Lauren

2018 Graduate

Aside from a Juris Doctor from Monash University and a Graduate Diploma in Psychology from the University of Melbourne, I have an acting degree from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (London) and around 10 years of performing under my belt.

Suffice to say, DFAT has been a big change from acting, but some of my reasons for applying to DFAT were the same as my reasons for pursuing acting. I love variety and I love working with people. Otherwise, DFAT’s role representing Australia on the global stage seemed like an excellent, meaningful and uniquely challenging alternative to the types of stages I was used to working on.

DFAT has definitely delivered on providing variety through my placements so far. I have worked for the Executive Branch and on a European bilateral desk. The work has been interesting, I have learnt huge amounts, and I have had broad exposure to the department’s work.

I am particularly grateful for the emphasis in the graduate program on developing our knowledge through training. The continued high quality learning opportunities are a clear demonstration of DFAT’s investment in and dedication to its graduates. The program has far exceeded my expectations.

Ultimately though, the main highlight of DFAT for me has been the people I get to work with on a day-to-day basis. My colleagues and supervisors have all been positive, welcoming and encouraging. The opportunity to work with such a diverse group of engaged, committed and friendly people has been the best part of coming to DFAT.

I look forward to using what I have learnt in my training in the years to come.

Lauren
Last Updated: 29 January 2019