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APS Indigenous Pathways success stories

In their own words, these past Indigenous Pathways Graduate, Trainee and Cadetship participants talk about why they chose to work in the APS, what they have learned, gained and contributed so far, and their goals for the future.

The following stories are only just a few examples of the kinds of opportunities and achievements within the Australian Public Service that could be waiting for you.

Nadine

Where are you from?

Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

Who's your mob?

Wongatha

Job title:

Lawyer

Agency:

Australian Government Solicitor

What aspects of working in the APS appealed to you?

I chose to study law because I was passionate about making a difference, not only for my community, but for all Indigenous Australians. Through my studies I discovered that the best way to achieve this was to work within the APS. The APS not only encourages ongoing learning opportunities throughout your career (both formal study and on-the-job training), but it also provides you with challenging and satisfying work.

Please describe your current role and what you enjoy about it.

I currently work for the Australian Government Solicitor within their Commercial Group as a lawyer. I enjoy the people around me and the responsibility I'm given. No two days are the same, the variety of work/cases available always ensures I'm busy and working on something I find interesting.

What are some of the positive aspects or benefits of working in the APS?

As an APS employee you are encouraged to seek many training and educational opportunities, maintain a healthy work-life balance and develop your personal/professional skills (e.g. presenting at meetings, writing speeches). I'm encouraged to exercise at lunch and after work, attend seminars and become involved in community programs.

What are some of the highlights or interesting stories from your APS career?

My employer strongly encouraged me to complete my Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice through the Australian National University last year with a group of colleagues. It was challenging to balance full-time work and study, but studying and graduating with my colleagues and friends at the end of last year was incredibly rewarding. Once I obtained my Graduate Diploma I was able to be admitted to the ACT Supreme Court of Australia as a Lawyer. This truly has been the highlight of my APS career, being admitted with my friends and having my Wongai family watch on. I still can't believe that as a bush-kid from Kununurra, I'm working in Canberra.

Can you describe a time when you had an experience or encounter that inspired you and impacted upon your career direction?

When I first applied for the APSC Cadetship program, I didn't get the Department I thought suited me. While I was discouraged, my mum told me to 'never give up' and apply when I finished my degree. I know it sounds cheesy, but this was and is the best advice I have ever received. It made me work harder to get there and I wouldn't accept 'no' for an answer.

How do you see your experience in the APS contributing to your future career goals?

Working with the APS has provided me with a strong foundation to my career. The professional experience I have gained will help me develop leadership skills to become a role model to other Indigenous people.

Based on your personal experience and opinion, what are three key messages that you would hope to send to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about careers in the APS?

  • Firstly, if you're not too sure what you would like to do with your career, I would encourage you to consider the APS. I never really knew what I wanted to do with my career and life; I knew I just wanted to make a difference. Working in the APS is one of the most influential places when it comes to creating and managing Indigenous affairs. This is where they create laws and policy that affect the lives of our people, it is so important that law makers hear our views and perspectives during the entire process.
  • Secondly, if you're worried about applying I would encourage you to just give it a go.
  • Finally, if you are unsure about the process I would encourage you to contact the APSC pathways staff. When I first applied I was worried about my experiences and what I should talk about, it really helped talking/email the APSC pathways staff. Most of them have been through the process and can explain the 'stages'. They can also answer those 'silly' questions that you may be too worried to ask somebody else.

Matt

Where are you from? Who's your mob?

Currently live in Canberra, ACT. Thursday Island (Waiben) background.

Job title:

Client Feedback Officer

Agency:

Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP)

What aspects of working in the APS appealed to you?

A career within the Australian Public Service (APS) provides the perfect opportunity to gain experience working on a wide range of policy and social issues which affect all Australians. The APS provides working conditions comparable to, and often far superior to employment within the private sector. For example, employer superannuation contributions are generally significantly higher than private sector employer contributions.

The APS also provides generous leave provisions; including exceptional support for those with parental/carer responsibilities. APS employment is widely accepted as offering a more family-friendly environment to work in compared to the private sector. The APS empowers its staff to effectively balance work and family commitments, and provides the opportunity for further advancement within the APS on a merit-based system.

Please describe your current role and what you enjoy about it.

My current role as a Client Feedback Officer involves managing escalated and complex feedback received via the department's official feedback channels. The most rewarding aspect of my current role is working alongside some wonderful people, and under the guidance and support of a great Supervisor. The role requires the ability to manage a wide range of feedback from clients and to provide complainants with a resolution that satisfactorily resolves all of the issues raised, and which achieves a suitable Immigration outcome for the department.

What are some of the positive aspects or benefits of working in the APS?

A career with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) provides me the rare opportunity to work for an APS department that covers all of the major governmental policy areas including; economic, social, and national security.

What are some of the highlights or interesting stories from your APS career?

The most enlightening aspect of working for DIBP is the realisation that what one reads in the newspapers, and views on the television, are rarely accurate accounts of the great work DIBP does in its management and facilitation of movement and settlement of people through the Australian border. After working for a number of other public service agencies; making the move to DIBP has been the best career move I have ever made. The work of the department is fast-paced, challenging, rewarding, and plays an important role in shaping Australia's future.

Can you describe a time when you had an experience or encounter that inspired you and impacted upon your career direction?

The most positive experience I have enjoyed has been my participation in DIBP's Mentoring Program. The opportunity to be personally mentored by senior Public Servants' (with a wealth of policy administration experience and knowledge) is both valuable and rewarding. Access to guidance and support from senior staff within an organisation is not so readily accessible within the private sector. Participation in the department's mentoring program provides me with the support, tools, and the network, required to achieve my future career ambitions and goals.

How do you see your experience in the APS contributing to your future career goals?

I have been fortunate enough to work for a number of APS agencies through my previous participation in the Australian Public Service Commission's (APSCs) 'Pathways Program' as both a former Indigenous cadet, and a former Indigenous graduate. The opportunity to work for various departments, working on different policy areas has provided me with a broader exposure to the work involved in public service administration.

How do you see your career within the APS progressing?

I hope to work across a variety of policy areas with my current employer in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of the work of the department. I also intend to undertake further study thanks to the support of my employer; 'studies assistance' being another generous benefit of APS employment.

Based on your personal experience and opinion, what are three key messages that you would hope to send to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about careers in the APS?

  • The three key messages I would like to offer Indigenous people thinking about a career in the APS is that firstly, entry to the APS is probably not as difficult as many Indigenous people may think. The APSC offers dedicated pathways for Indigenous people interested in an APS career; depending on a person's particular circumstances.
  • The second key message is to choose the Department of Immigration and Border Protection as your 'first preference' when applying.
  • And lastly, as a new public servant, to make sure to connect with other Indigenous people by joining your department's Indigenous Employee Network; if the department you choose has one?

DIBP has one of the best Indigenous Employee Networks in the APS, and is considered a leader in developing policies and providing opportunities that are supportive of its Indigenous staff.


Kawatag

Where are you from?

I am a Queenslander. I was born on Thursday Island and did my schooling in Bundaberg.

Who's your mob:

My mother's family is from Saibai in the Torres Straits and my father's side is of English and Irish origin.

Agency:

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

What aspects of working in the APS appealed to you?

I became interested in how Government policies were developed and delivered into communities. I also wanted to be more proactive in engaging locally with community members felt that being a part of an Australian Government organisation would give me opportunities to one day give back to my community. The Australian Public Service gives every employee a gateway to network with staff from all around Australia, this aspect also appealed to me greatly.

Please describe your current role and what you enjoy about it?

I currently work in the ACT/NSW Office of Indigenous Affairs formally known as the Indigenous Co-ordination Centre (ICC). I am a Corporate Support Officer and a Community Engagement Officer. My office is in the delivery part of the Department; meaning I am constantly engaging with NSW/ACT Stakeholders and community members. My responsibilities can vary each day, for example one day I might be sitting in the office assisting a program manager with collating information into templates and the next day I might be travelling to a Community Service Organisation that we fund in NSW with a Program Manager. I enjoy working with the Program Managers as they are ensuring that programs created by our National Office are transitioned into the Community. It is a big task to work directly with Community and I have a lot of respect for the NSW/ACT network I work with.

What are some of the positive aspects or benefits of working in the APS?

All employees are bound by the Australian Public Service Act 1999 which includes the APS Code of Conduct which all employees must adhere to so this means that our conduct at work is bound by Australian Legislation and the working conditions are of the highest standard. All Departments are apolitical.

What are some of the highlights or interesting stories from your APS career?

The highlight so far would be completing the Certificate IV in Government through the Indigenous Pathways Program. Through completing the program I now have an understanding of the role of the Australian Public Service and also made some very good friends throughout different Departments.

Can you describe a time when you had an experience or encounter that inspired you and impacted upon your career direction?

Prior to working to in the APS I was doing Contract work in Brisbane. Temping can be stressful as you are waiting on your employment agency to contact you in regards to work opportunities and I decided that I did not want that lifestyle. I wanted a career and I spoke to my family about it and they suggested that I look into applying for the Australian Public Service.

How do you see your experience in the APS contributing to your future career goals?

Completing the Indigenous Pathways Program has been a very rewarding experience as I have made several networks throughout my Traineeship. I now have a better understanding of the APS, especially since working in the Delivery part of the Department. I'm enjoying the opportunity to see the positive outcomes and opportunities programs can create for community members both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

How do you see your career within the APS progressing?

If you are patient and work hard you can really build on a career in the APS. I am enjoying my current role and I will continue to challenge myself, access more training, utilise my networks and hope to advance through the APS Corporate ladder.

Based on your personal experience and opinion, what are the three key messages that you would hope to send to Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people about careers in the APS?

Accept change. Throughout the commencement of your career in the APS you will realise there is a new culture with the work environment where you will have to learn acronyms, community programs, computer programs etc.

Look for positive role models throughout your Department and be one yourself. To help me through my traineeship I networked with the previous year's Indigenous Pathways trainees. They all went through the similar changes and overcame their challenges. Also younger trainees will always look for positive role models, especially those living away from home.

Never give up. Some days it may all seem a bit much but just remember to hang in there and never forget why you applied in the first place. Finishing the traineeship is a great goal to aim for and once you get there you will never regret it.


Ricky

Where are you from? Who's your mob?

I grew up in Nambucca Heads area, so I am a Gumbaingirr man.

Job title:

Indigenous and Human Rights Section, Multilateral Policy Division (I have responsibility for International Indigenous engagement, including at the United Nations)

Agency:

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)

What aspects of working in the APS appealed to you?

Good, accountable governance is the cornerstone to a successful democracy. Being interested in politics, I decided that in order to be a fully informed, politically aware Australian, I needed to know how government works from the inside-out. That is why the APS appealed to me. Working for the APS gives me the chance to see where grass-roots policy originates and how major decisions are made. It gives me a wider perspective of our political system and the opportunity to create change.

Please describe your current role and what you enjoy about it.

DFAT is the lead federal agency on Australia's engagement with the United Nations and other international multilateral organisations. I currently work in the Human Rights and Indigenous issues section as our Indigenous officer. I get to work on Australia's engagement with the UN and other international bodies with our overseas missions in Geneva and New York, as well as the opportunity to participate in high level meetings such as the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. I love being able to represent my people through my work and contribute to issues which affect Indigenous populations. It's a fantastic opportunity and one that will help me to contribute back into my community and hopefully with time, into our political system.

What are some of the positive aspects or benefits of working in the APS?

The APS is dedicated to ensuring equity for Indigenous employees. Through the Pathways Program and at individual agencies, Indigenous recruitment is valued and sought after. The APS is generally very culturally aware and understands the value of maximising workplace inclusivity. The work we do is valued and diversity is encouraged.

What are some of the highlights or interesting stories from your APS career?

  • Winning the Great Graduate Debate in 2012 by stripping to my undies.
  • Meeting Julia Gillard during the launch of the Closing the Gap report in 2013
  • Meeting the Diplomatic Corps at the DFAT Secretary's NAIDOC concert

Can you describe a time when you had an experience or encounter that inspired you and impacted upon your career direction?

Meeting the former Senator Aden Ridgeway inspired me to represent my people.

How do you see your experience in the APS contributing to your future career goals?

Undertaking a graduate program in the APS is a fantastic learning experience designed to equip employees with the foundations for a success career in almost any industry. For me, with politics as my main aim, it has given me insight into the inner workings of government and taught me how government policy is research, tested and implemented. The international experience I have gained through DFAT is also particularly beneficial. Being able to represent Australia internationally is not also a fantastic training opportunity but an honour and one I very much intent to continue working towards.

How do you see your career within the APS progressing?

I see myself progressing through the ranks of DFAT, expanding my working experience and learning about international affairs.

Based on your personal experience and opinion, what are three key messages that you would hope to send to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about careers in the APS?

Be passionate about the job you do. Be prepared to work hard to achieve your goals, nothing worth your time comes without a challenge. And lastly don't be afraid to be proud of your culture, whatever form that may take.


Maiala

Where are you from? Who's your mob?

I am Maiawali, Karuwali and Pitta-Pitta woman from out near Boulia area with Kamilaroi blood from my father who is originally from St George, south-western Queensland.

Job title:

I work in the Diversity Team where I focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce in the department.

Agency:

Department of Health

What aspects of working in the APS appealed to you?

When I applied for the traineeship I was completing my last year of high school and wanted something secure that provided ongoing development. I was looking at something that laid the foundations necessary for me to build a life for myself. The freedom of being independent was a huge aspect that contributed to my decision of going into the public service. I wanted something that helped me break the barriers of todays socially accepted high school graduates who have developed a commonly recognised co-dependency with their parents. By moving to Canberra away from all major support systems, I struggled, but also built resilience that will be useful in my ongoing career and everyday life.

Please describe your current role and what you enjoy about it.

I work in the Diversity Team where I focus on recognising diversity in the department. I work on projects and events that celebrate diversity and the importance it has in creating a sustainable, culturally acceptable department and public service. The main area I work on is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce which I love because it helps me use my upbringing and my culture, which I am so very proud of, in everyday circumstances. Being a strong Aboriginal woman and working in the space I do I get to contribute to how the department both recognises and appreciates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture which gives me a sense of achievement and pride.

What are some of the positive aspects or benefits of working in the APS?

All aspects of working in the public service appealed to me. It is beneficial and full of opportunities. It is huge asset for networking and building relationships you can utilise throughout your ongoing career. It is full of support systems, development and is a well-recognised bridge to success. The public service is also culturally accepting and constantly adapting with the ongoing social change of today's society.

What are some of the highlights or interesting stories from your APS career?

During my short time in the APS I have been giving huge opportunities to demonstrate my passions, knowledge and commitment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce.

  • I have had the opportunity to run internal conferences which provided exposure for event management;
  • I have attended HR Forums which was a great opportunity for cross agency networking;
  • I have also worked on many internal departmental events that recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and help spread awareness including National NAIDOC Week, National Reconciliation Week and the Anniversary of the National Apology. Last year's National NAIDOC Week Opening Ceremony, which I worked on, was a huge event that had Secretary Involvement, Torres Strait Islander Dancers and had huge staff interest, including from other departments.

Can you describe a time when you had an experience or encounter that inspired you and impacted upon your career direction?

I have been fortunate enough to meet many extraordinary people during my time in the public service. There is so much support and so many opportunities for growth. During my traineeship program I was given the opportunity to undertake a rotation in the Publications team which helps with my development as I am heavily interested in communications. This rotation gave me clarity as to whether I really wanted to work in that specified area. After I finish my traineeship I want to go on to study a Bachelor of Graphic Design. The rotation exposed me to what working in publications consists of and how it benefits the whole organisation. It helped me come to a definite decision on what I planned to do next within my career.

How do you see your experience in the APS contributing to your future career goals?

Starting so young I am surrounded by opportunities of growth and development. I see my career being heavily crafted by working in the public service and can honestly not see myself leaving any time soon. The public service hosts an environment that is built on ongoing success which I feel will hugely support me and help shape my ongoing career.

How do you see your career within the APS progressing?

The public service is a domain I have grown comfortable with and can see myself being a part of quite predominantly. Not only is it filled with opportunities but there are so many different pathways available. I am already looking at further studying and have had a tremendous amount of support from the people around me. I think working in the public service is about constantly developing and the environment is built on exceling and bettering both the organisation and yourself. It is an area I can see myself working in indefinitely throughout my future career.