When considering whether to apply for graduate programs in 2019, I couldn’t really picture what it would be like to work for a government department or live in Canberra. Reading the profiles of graduates who had written ‘day-in-the-life’-style snapshots made it so much easier for me to picture myself living and working here. Even in the frenetic year that has been 2020 I’ve had such a good time since moving down to Canberra, at work and outside of it.
I’ve been waking up early to go for a walk around the lake near my house in Campbell, or do some Pilates – our house has a big backyard so now that it’s getting warmer I like to set up my mat there. My housemates and I usually have a good chat in the kitchen - since March, we’ve been variously working in the office or at home. Three of my housemates work at other government departments so it’s always interesting to hear what everyone is up to.
I’m on rotation in the Public Law team in PM&C’s Legal Policy Branch at the moment. I’m getting in to work early today because it’s sitting week so we have to update our Live Issues Briefs, which are used to brief the Prime Minister each day. We make the updates by monitoring the media and any activity in Parliament from the day before and then updating the Briefs – usually on ‘hot topics’ for which our area has responsibility – to reflect those updates. I actually really enjoy this job because, even though it requires an earlier start, it is a big help to my team and it helps me stay across the important issues in our area. Some of these include the Palmer v WA litigation and the proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission.
Once the Briefs are in for clearance and we can all exhale, my team members and I go across the road to Hideout for coffee. I have a wonderful team who make me feel so welcome as a graduate and always bring me on board to get involved in high-profile work.
A few weeks ago I was given an exciting opportunity to work on the Commonwealth’s voluntary submission to Victoria’s COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry – specifically, on the issue of ADF assistance to Victoria. This involved developing a detailed timeline with the Department of Defence and working with the Australian Government Solicitor to refine our submission. It was very exciting to see our submission tabled in the Inquiry and then on the front pages of various newspapers the next day. Now I’m watching the Inquiry’s live hearings to monitor whether anything is mentioned in relation to the Commonwealth – it’s important for us to remain across anything that touches on the Government and where necessary provide these updates to the Prime Minister’s Office.
I always like to swivel my chair around and see what everyone else in my team is up to. Generally, the four of us tend to work on different tasks as there is always a lot going on and it is easier to have carriage of a particular issue or task and then progress it up the line (I ask a lot of questions, always). One of my colleagues is responsible for providing updates to the PMO on the Palmer litigation challenging Western Australia’s border closure. I love discussing this with her because constitutional law was my favourite subject area at uni and here it’s being deployed to very practical effect in the arguments Palmer’s counsel, the Commonwealth and Western Australia are putting forward.
I finish a few bits and pieces of work – at PM&C we get lots of consults from different areas that we are asked to provide comment on. Since the UN Human Rights Council is currently in session I’ve been reviewing several draft resolutions that come through for comment from DFAT. On the days I start early to do the Live Briefs my team try to get me to go home a bit earlier, so I’m logging off before five today.
I’m meeting a friend for a drink at Pedlar, the bar at the bottom of my street. It’s so nice to sit outside now that it’s getting warmer and staying light longer. My friend and I know each other from uni and she now works at the Attorney-General’s Department. There are so many grads in Canberra – the longer you’re here the more you realise what a small place it is, and pretty soon it starts to feel like a village.