Day in the life profile—Xénia Keighley


My toddler son wakes me up wanting a morning cuddle and story from his dad before we start the day. As a family we read ‘Cars, trucks and things that go’ pointing out the funny pickle truck and trying to spot gold bug on each page.


Story time is over, we get up, shower and sit down together for breakfast.


My husband gets our son’s childcare things together while I tidy up. They both head off as I wave goodbye. I come into our spare room, which has become the ‘working from home’ office. At the moment I am still at home most days and have only just started going into the office for half a day a week.

I begin work by checking my emails. At the moment I am in my third and final rotation with Maritime Environment and Trade. We received a few emails overnight with recent news articles regarding Australian port closures, as well as some emails from colleagues in other Departments regarding an international agreement Australia has signed on green shipping routes.

working at home


I have finished going through my emails and open up the document I began drafting last week. It is a briefing for the Australian delegation to the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee which will be held later this month. My task is to go through all document submissions relating to greenhouse gas emission reductions made by other countries or organisations that observe the week-long meeting. I read through each submission, create a short summary and draft Australia’s position on the issues discussed. To do this I draw upon previous interventions Australia has made internationally, as well as the current negotiating mandate agreed to by the Prime Minister. This set of briefings has focused on whether the IMO will create its own research and development fund to help accelerate the development and implementation of alternative fuels and technologies for greener shipping.


I finish the briefings and send them off to my supervisor for comments. As we will soon be having our regular team meeting I prepare my first coffee for the day and have a quick read through some new emails that have come through about whether to renew existing sulphur emission regulations.

morning tea working at home


I join the virtual meeting with the rest of my team. Some of my colleagues are in the office today and we have a quick chat about how our weekends have been. We then go through what our current tasks are for the week, any new developments that have arisen over the weekend, and where we might expect new issues to develop. We learn about a critical incident exercise that my Director will be completing later this week. The exercise is a crisis simulation and allows the Department to practice, and strengthen, our response to a maritime crisis. For example, what would we do if a cruise ship became stranded in the Great Barrier Reef? Realising it is almost 10am we say our goodbyes and get ready to join the next meeting.

video team chat


I join our meeting with the entire branch to hear what each team is currently doing. It is a chance to hear about other regulation, policy and legislation work that is currently underway across Maritime and Shipping.


I have been sitting at my desk for a while now, so take a short break. I head outside, get some sun and water my garden. It is a nice moment to notice the new seedlings that have germinated and pick some mint for my cup of tea.


I return to my desk to resume working on the committee briefings. This time there are some papers discussing whether the IMO should adopt zero-greenhouse gas emissions as a revised ambition for 2050. There are seven papers in total on this issue. They have been submitted by a range of countries in support of the new ambition, environmental organisations urging action, and some industry bodies highlighting the need for increased research and development funding to assist the transition.


I send my supervisor a quick message checking if she is free to catch-up via Skype so that I can ask her some questions. We chat about the papers I have just read and how we might be able to frame Australia’s position. It is nice to have someone to share ideas with, and to learn more about these negotiations.

video meeting with supervisor

video meeting with supervisor


I am starting to get hungry and sign out for the morning. I sit with my husband outside to eat a sandwich and then we go for a short walk around the block.


This afternoon I will spend some time working on our Major Research Project. As part of the graduate year we are given a policy problem to research. I have been working with four other grads on researching the decline in local printed news in Australia. We are putting together the final touches to our report before sending it off to our Departmental sponsors and University supervisor for approval. I fill in some tables about local newspaper availability in Local Government Areas and put a copy of our interview questions into the appendix. I can see the changes my other team members are making to the document as I work. It is great to see it coming together and we should be ready to send off soon!


I make myself a fresh pot of chai tea and read through a bid for my final placement. I will be chatting with a potential future supervisor in a few minutes and want to familiarise myself once more about the job description. At the end of the graduate year we put in Expressions of Interest statements to the teams and branches we are interested in working with on an ongoing basis.


I have a virtual meeting with the Office of Road Safety’s data analytics team to learn more about the advertised role and the type of candidate they are looking for. Despite being the first time we have spoken it is easy to talk with the potential supervisor. I have been pleasantly surprised at how relevant my Science background is to the Department, and how many different positions rely on some form of analytics.


I have one hour left of work and decide to return to the briefings from this morning. The time passes quickly and I soon have to say goodbye to my team and log off.


I jump on my bike to go and pick my son up from childcare. It is lovely weather and I take the chance to ring my family interstate to see how they are going.


Back home it is time to start preparing some dinner as we have some friends coming over to eat. I have decided to make some nachos so it should be fairly quick and easy.


Our friends arrive. We have some drinks and dinner before it is bedtime for my son. He goes to bed after a few stories and songs.


We now have the chance to spend a few hours playing board games, and have a go at a new game one of our friends brought along. I lose both rounds, but it has been great fun.

11:00pm: It is time to try and squeeze in some sleep.