Tracey joined the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in 1993 as one of the Department’s first intake of Indigenous graduates. She has a Bachelor of Education and a Master’s in Public Policy. Tracey says she was attracted to working for DFAT because it offered the possibility of serving and representing her country, including Australian Indigenous peoples and cultures, in an international capacity. In 2003 Tracey was awarded the Secretary’s Australia Day Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Where have you worked in your time with DFAT?
I started out in the newly established Northern Territory Office, learning very quickly the administrative and policy side of DFAT. In 1998, I was selected to serve in Bougainville for three months as a civilian peace monitor. I lived in remote villages and briefed communities about the peace process. I then joined the Papua New Guinea Section where I contributed to political briefs for Ministers on Bougainville and worked on the Torres Strait Treaty. My last placement before being posted to Paris was as program manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Program – another memorable experience.
I started work at the Australian Embassy in Paris in 2005 as the Second Secretary in the political-economic section. It is a three-year posting and I am now the First Secretary.
I have a lovely office with magnificent views of the Eiffel Tower (only 800 metres away). We have around 76 staff – 23 Australian and 53 locally engaged. I interact and liaise with the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, the Culture Ministry and Civil Aviation authorities, as well as the diplomatic community.
I had no knowledge of the French language prior to being selected for the position, nor was it necessary. The Department actually provides language training for overseas positions that are ‘language-designated’. So in my case, I received approximately 40 weeks of full-time training in the lead-up to the Posting. It is a skill that I will have for life.
As First Secretary with responsibility for Morocco in Paris, I accompanied the Ambassador on a visit to Rabat in February 2008, as well as an Australian Parliamentary delegation in 2006 on a visit to Rabat, Casablanca and Tangier. Our aim was to foster parliamentary links, and trade and economic relations. We met Ministers, Parliamentarians, government officials and members of the business community. The Moroccan people are very warm and hospitable, making both visits one of the highlights of my posting, and I can say from first-hand experience that Moroccan food is delicious!
I like knowing that every day is going to be different from the day before. I enjoy having a sense of responsibility and being able to contribute in some way to advancing Australia’s interests internationally. The range of international experiences that are open to us, including the opportunity to meet and learn about other indigenous peoples and cultures, is a big plus. As an Aboriginal person, it’s important for me to be able to ‘give something back to the community’. Working for DFAT allows me to do that.
It would have to be the competitiveness of DFAT and the stresses involved in applying for overseas postings. You need a lot of patience and to realistically manage your expectations for postings.
Give it a go. DFAT employs people from all backgrounds. Ensure that you can demonstrate that you have proven research skills and that you can communicate well orally and in writing. You will also need good people skills, flexibility and adaptability. The great advantage of DFAT is that you have the opportunity to work in so many different areas, including foreign and trade policy, legal, consular, administration, security, protocol, the list goes on …