Department of Social Services Graduate Program

Elizabeth Ulrick

Legal Stream, Lawyer

A little about me

I studied law and psychology in Sydney before moving to Canberra for the 2015 graduate programme to work in the legal stream.  Despite the warnings about Canberra winters, I was extremely excited to be offered a role where I would be able to use my legal skills and qualifications to assist the Department in implementing its policies and programmes aimed at improving the lives and well-being of all Australians.

My experience as a graduate

In the legal steam, I completed rotations in both the commercial legal team and the aged care legal team, which was a fantastic opportunity to experience the diverse ways in which in-house lawyers assist the Department. The work I completed in the commercial team involved providing advice in relation to all aspects of funding agreements and contracts. In the aged care team, the work had an administrative and legislative focus and involved interpreting aged care legislation, ensuring decisions were made according to law and working on legislative development. While the graduate programme already offers extensive training for the skills necessary to work in the public service, the legal area is extremely supportive of even further training. Throughout my graduate year, I attended multiple legal seminars as well as completing my Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice so I could be admitted as a lawyer earlier this year.

What I do now

Since completing the graduate programme, I have moved into the Social Security and Families legal team as a lawyer. This is an extremely busy area and I get to work on a diverse range of matters including providing advice on the social security legislation, managing the process for reviewing and appealing AAT or Federal Court decisions and developing legislation. The legal area plays a crucial role in supporting the Department and ensures that important policies and programmes can be implemented effectively with minimal legal risk.

Highlights of my graduate programme

During my graduate year, I was involved in working on an amendment to the Aged Care Act and wrote the Explanatory Memorandum for the amendment. It was an extraordinary opportunity to experience how the legislation process works in practice and very exhilarating when the amendment was passed by parliament and became law. 

Since completing the graduate programme, I have given two other legislation projects to work on more independently. 

Advice to 2017 DSS Graduate Programme Applicants

I would definitely recommend the DSS Graduate Programme. There is interesting and important work to be done across all areas of the Department with talented and passionate colleagues who are always willing to share their knowledge and experience. The work environment is relaxed and supportive with a heavy focus on a work/life balance.

The graduate programme provides numerous beneficial training opportunities and diverse workplace rotations. As many graduates move from interstate, the graduate year is extremely social and a highlight of my programme has been the many friendships I have developed throughout.