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University of Sydney
James studied Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science at University of Sydney
What's your job about?
The Department of Health’s primary roles are to provide policy advice to the Government, program management, research and regulation of Australia’s health system. The size of the portfolio is huge, both in terms of content and finances, and affects the lives of all Australians.
At the moment I’m working in Ageing and Aged Care Services Home Support Branch in a team that is responsible for developing policy positions and advice in relation to a range of complex issues impacting both current program implementation and future aged care reform directions. As a graduate, I provide support across the section where needed. Right now, I’m working on facilitating a workshop for aged care provides around Australia. Other days might include writing research papers or analysing data – whatever is needed at the time.
What's your background?
Most of my childhood was in Canberra; I lived here for ten years. I’ve also been lucky enough to live in Tokyo (2 years), Washington DC (3 years) and Geneva (3 years). I would say the most important period of my life was the three years I was living in Geneva. I graduated high school there, met my wife, formed some of my closest friendships, and had the opportunity to travel Europe.
Returning to Australia and choosing to go to university in Sydney rather than in Canberra was also a big decision. It was the first time I had lived away from my family and a valuable growing experience for me. I’ve since moved back to Canberra for the Grad Program and love it here.
The applications for the grad program were pretty standard, including some testing, an assessment centre and interviews.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Yes, someone with a different background could do my job. I majored in environmental studies at university; there are some overlaps with health, but it is not particularly relevant to the job. The most important things you need in the job are the ability to think critically and write well. During the Grad Program at the Department of Health you will undertake three different rotations of 3 months each – which isn’t as long as it sounds! It is also important to be able to work well in a team and integrate yourself quickly so you can make a real contribution.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
In terms of the grad program as a whole, the coolest thing about my job is the variety of work I’ve been exposed to – not in the clichéd “every day is different” kind of way, but that we are enabled to work across three different areas in the Department over the course of a year. It’s really fascinating to get an insight into how different areas of the Department function and how they interact with each other.
I had a pretty cool experience in my first rotation. The first job I got given was to put together a list of indicators that could measure the performance of our health system – to see it get published in the Department’s Corporate Plan 6 months later was awesome.
What are the limitations of your job?
There is no guarantee that you will get a rotation in the specific area you would like; it wouldn’t be possible for everyone to get exactly what they wanted. It’s not a huge limitation, but if you have a very clear idea about where you want to go although you can get there it may not happenimmediately.
Some people would also consider having to relocate to Canberra a pretty big limitation!
3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...
The three pieces of advice for myself as a student would be...
- Work harder. I was guilty of doing the bare minimum during university. It’s so much more rewarding to go that little bit further – particularly when you move into full-time work and what you do affects others.
- Get to know more people. It probably sounds a bit cynical, but you never know where people are going to be in a few years’ time. They might be in a position where they can help you out professionally, or vice versa.
- Get more sleep. I can’t believe the hours I used to stay up to when I was younger. Obviously I’m getting old now.
Why did you choose the Department of Health?
The decision was pretty easy to make for me. The work done by the Department of Health affects the lives of everyone in Australia. In some way or another, everyone will interact with our health system. It’s really cool to be working on projects that will affect people’s lives in a positive way.
What are you interests?
I play basketball every week with some other grads from around Canberra. It’s been really good to get to know some more people from outside of Health – plus it’s a good way to unwind after a long day at work.
I’m a big sports fan – pretty much all of them. Never been much of an AFL person though. If I had to pick one; probably football (soccer). I’m a huge Liverpool fan.
I’m a pretty reserved person – not particularly loud or outgoing. I’m laid back and I’d like to think I’m pretty easy to get along with, although others would have a better idea of that than I do. And I think I have a pretty good sense of humour. But everyone thinks that of themselves.