What's your job about?
I work as a government lawyer in the Department of Human Services, one of the largest government departments in Australia that services almost the entire population.
I worked in the Employment Law Team for my first rotation and have completed an Indigenous placement, travelling on remote servicing trips around Broome to provide Centrelink services to Indigenous communities.
I am currently working in the Programme Advice Team within the Legal Division of the department. My main role is providing advice to other branches within the department who have questions about welfare programs and whether they meet legal requirements. Because of the seemingly endless number of programs the department implements, my advice can range from considering the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to the review of child support payments. I have had the chance to seriously develop my statutory interpretation skills – my work is almost like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle made of pieces of legislation. When you see the final picture it’s a very satisfying moment!
What's your background?
Despite having lived in Canberra for over a year now, I still cling to my identity as a Sydneysider (I miss the sea). I grew up in the leafy northwest suburbia on the edge of the city, in a suburb so small that it (to this day) does not have a single shop. I studied history and law at university, crossing the harbour bridge on the train twice a day to get to and from campus.
During my studies I developed a strong liking for administrative (i.e. government) law, which was really where my interest in the public service started. I also did three separate exchanges, spending some time studying in England, Germany and China. Through these experiences I really cultivated my love of travel, getting the chance to explore different cultures and perspectives.
A job in a Commonwealth department seemed like the logical choice, especially after I did a year-long stint in a large corporate law firm and decided that the long hours, limited responsibility and ‘live to work’ culture was not a good fit for me. And I’ve never looked back. Moving to Canberra and working as a government lawyer, with the varied work and balanced lifestyle that entails, was one of my best decisions. It has even involved a bit of travel!
Could someone with a different background do your job?
Anyone with a degree in law (no matter the nature of their previous legal experience) would be eligible to join the legal pathway. However, you must be committed to completing your practical legal training and becoming a lawyer. I know countless people who have completed this post-university training while working in the department, so it’s certainly something that is supported by the division.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
My favourite thing about my job is that I have responsibility for my own matters. I see a task through from start to finish, and that can be a very rewarding experience. The client comes to me with a question, we build on our relationship by discussing the issues, and I work on the advice and provide the client with a response. Solving someone’s problems can be quite thrilling. And getting a thank you even more so. Not to mention the skills I learn in the process.
What are the limitations of your job?
Working as a government lawyer can be stressful at times – people look to you for solutions and you won’t always have them at the ready. It is a fast-paced environment, and urgent requests for advice do pop up. If you like that adrenaline rush go for it!
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