Updating Results

National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA)

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Sai Lyons

I love that I really feel like I am contributing and making an impact to improve the lives of Australians.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Canberra and stayed here for university. While I was studying, I worked at Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre. It was great to work in an environment so focused on promoting science and learning, where I could really utilise my STEM background. 

I studied a lot of interesting topics in my undergraduate degree, including human evolution, bioethics, microbiology and ancient health and disease. Through my degree, I was also lucky enough to travel to Cambodia to conduct research on primate behaviour. All these experiences led me to the decision to continue my studies for a postgraduate degree. 

How did you get to your current job position?

I completed a rotation in the Indigenous Affairs Group of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet from February 2019 to July 2019. This was just prior to the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) being stood up as its own Agency as part of the 2019 Federal Election. 

How did you choose your specialisation?

I had developed a diverse skillset in my science degree, so decided to pursue a job in a generalist pathway. I was excited by the opportunities to work for the Australian Government and the breadth of work I could do.  

What was your interview process like?

The application process was really different from others I had experienced in my search for a graduate job. Firstly, there was a written application, followed by online psychometric testing. We were then invited to an assessment centre. There, we participated in a written assessment to test our written communication skills, a speed dating style interview, and an escape room! The interview room was set up with eight or so stations, each with different interviewers who asked different questions. You had about ten minutes at each station, before a bell rang, and you moved on. I really liked this system, because moving to a new station felt like a fresh start, particularly if I had just answered a particularly tough question, or wasn’t really confident with my answer. The escape room was designed to test our teamwork and problem-solving skills. It was a fun challenge that helped calm our assessment centre nerves.  

What does your employer do?

The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) is committed to implementing the Government’s policies and programs to improve the lives of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The NIAA works to influence policy across the entire Australian Government. We liaise closely with State and Territory governments, Indigenous peak bodies, stakeholders and service providers to ensure that Indigenous programs and services are delivering for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as intended.

While I was at the Agency I was in the Legal, Employment, Environment and Evaluation group where I specifically worked in the Policy Analysis and Evaluation Branch. It was so rewarding to be working on a policy that will have an impact on the lives of First Australian’s in our community. 

What are your areas of responsibility?

My team provides thoughtful policy advice by thinking deeply and creatively and consulting widely. The NIAA has many areas of focus including Closing the Gap, Community Safety, Constitutional Recognition, Economic Development, Education, Employment, Health and Wellbeing and Indigenous Voices to name a few.   

Can you describe a typical workday?

One of the many great things about my job is that every day is different. Depending on the priorities at the time, I could be providing policy advice, consulting stakeholders, writing a brief for a Minister, or doing some research for a deep dive analysis, to name a few examples. 

What are the career prospects with your job?

My grad job has given me experiences and skills that will help me in any career path going forward. At the moment, I see myself continuing in a policy career. 

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now? 

Throughout uni, I knew I was really interested in pursuing a career in which I could use my studies to have a meaningful impact on people’s lives. If I wasn’t in the career I am in now, I think I would still be working with policy, or pursuing a career in the health sector. 

What do you love the most about your job?

I love that I really feel like I am contributing and making an impact to improve the lives of Australians. I also really enjoy working in a fast-paced environment with people who really care about their work and know their stuff.

I love that I have been able to put my STEM background and skills to use in so many different policy areas. Whilst at the NIAA I worked in the Indigenous Data Analysis and Research Section. I worked specifically on overcrowding in remote Australia where I had to contribute useful data to the development of a brief. It was awesome to be able to use my research and analytical skills developed from my degree to provide the most up to date research for my team. 

What’s the biggest limitation of your job?

Sometimes a work-life balance can become slightly skewed especially when there are tight deadlines. However, I have a very supportive team that helps me work through these periods and we are always looking out for each other and encouraging one another to take time out and time off when we can. Rejuvenation is key and thankfully this is a top-down approach. 

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?

  • You might be really eager to head into full-time work, but remember to enjoy your time at uni as well. 
  • Be open to new opportunities, even if they aren’t part of your plan. You never know where an unexpected opportunity might lead you. 
  • Remember to update your resume frequently, especially when new examples are fresh in your mind so that the workload doesn’t pile up later on. This will also help make sure you’re prepared to jump at new opportunities.