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Australian Bureau Of Statistics (ABS)

  • #4 in Government & public services
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Lucinda Fretwell

There are definitely a lot of ways you could contribute to the ABS, so don’t let a narrow view of what we do hold you back.

What's your job about?

The ABS provides the official statistics that inform key decisions around Australia. As an organisation, we work to create statistics that tell the story of Australia and Australians in areas such as the economy, population, society, and environment. My job is with the Centre of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics. The work I do constantly changes. In the year that I have worked in this section, I have worked on a variety of tasks and projects – such as contributing data to National Reporting like Closing the Gap, working on improving the collection and dissemination of Census data that is relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and writing analytical pieces for the ABS website. At the end of the day though, the work I do contributes to the improvement of the quality and accessibility of our data for our stakeholders and data users.

What's your background?

I grew up in Sydney and moved to Canberra for university, where I have stayed to start my career. At university, I studied history, sociology, French and European political science. I have always loved qualitative research, and I’ve explored all sorts of diverse qualitative questions from WWI commemoration during the centenary years, to the production of Utopias and Utopic visions of the future. I never touched statistics. So, it is still a surprise to me that I ended up at the ABS!

I applied to the ABS grad program on a bit of a whim, not expecting to get very far, but at each stage of the recruitment process, I felt the ABS was actually assessing me and challenging me to show how I think. It was as good as a recruitment process can be, and made me think I was actually prepared to take up a position when I was offered one.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely! The ABS needs people from a lot of different backgrounds. In my day to day work, I am not often deep in the quantitative statistical analysis that typically comes to mind when you think of the ABS. Most of the time I am using the problem solving and critical thinking skills I developed in my Arts Degrees. There are definitely a lot of ways you could contribute to the ABS, so don’t let a narrow view of what we do hold you back.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

What I love most about my job is knowing that I am doing something valuable for the Australian public as a whole and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities specifically. By helping our clients with data requests, improving the quality of our data, and creating diverse statistical products, we help improve the usefulness and accessibility of our data. We make it possible for our stakeholders and data users – individuals, businesses, governmental and non-governmental organisations, and researchers – to make evidence-based decisions that can help improve the lives of all Australians.

What are the limitations of your job?

There aren’t many limitations working in the public service. In general, you have a lot of flexibility with how you work. That being said, sometimes your workload can demand longer hours. And sometimes tasks you have to do can be repetitive, or feel like a hard slog, but I have found the camaraderie of working in with my team, and keeping the larger goal of the project in mind keeps the work both manageable and satisfying.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

I would tell myself to keep following my interests– in study, in work and in my free time. Your interests can take you down unexpected paths! But at the same time, don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from trying. Being willing to try things is such an underappreciated quality. Afterall, how can you ever succeed if you don’t try?