Former Graduate (2020)
The alarm goes off. It’s cold. It’s Canberra cold. It’s greyhounds wearing jackets and booties cold. Thankfully, the grad program is full of domestic expats, so there’s no shortage of friends with which to complain. Just don’t complain to Tasmanians. It’s not that cold.
Despite valiant efforts, I’m not a morning person. Coffee, banana, beanie, tooth brush, bus. The quicker this occurs, the better.
I get to the office at about 8:30, coffee in hand, from my local, or my aeropress – willpower dependent. Find a quiet spot to meditate – existential resilience dependent.
The office is quite a lovely space and most mornings start with a round of hellos. People really love grads. We may not be experts in the field, but by golly we’re enthusiastic.
First order of business is taking stock. Emails. Every morning there is a round-up email of all the latest Department-related news stories from across the media platforms. I usually scan for stories related to my branch: the Online Safety Branch. Later in the morning a colleague wraps up the news specifically in the online safety space. There are a couple of stories about world leaders discussing the protection of children online at the recent Paris Summit. My section, the reform and research team, keeps up with initiatives from around the world, so I take note.
I also respond to some emails regarding the Department Social Club, which the grads take responsibility for running. As a sports coordinator, there’s a bit of correspondence about the lunchtime social Public Service Football Association. The mighty Infrastructure Aviators are yet to win a game (but we did come out with a very impressive draw). We didn’t play today, but I take every opportunity to shoe-horn an action shot of the Aviators (see below) where I can.
Time to meet up as a team. Because of the COVID situation, many of my colleagues are working from home, so we meet via skype. We’re currently working on the consultation of a new legislative instrument, designed to support the reporting and proactivity of platforms and services in their response to online harms. My supervisor outlines tasks for the day and we delegate tasks.
I check the inbox to see some new submissions to the consultation process. Anyone can make comment and it’s our job to take into consideration the views of industry, social organisations and the public in our advice to the Minister. I’m working to compile the recurring themes and summarise industry recommendations.
“Who wants coffee?” Well, the caffeine is already bouncing me across the walls but this sounds like a professional development opportunity, right? “Yes, please!” We go to Makeshift café at the ground floor of our building. I catch up with a few of my colleagues. The branch has a lovely culture and the collegiate environment makes the office a really nice place to be in.
But back to business. I continue to monitor the inbox for new consultation submissions, but my attention turns to an upcoming meeting this afternoon. Our Branch Head is hosting discussions with a major tech platform based out of California. My team prepares the meeting brief. We need to compile some background on the organisation and its representatives. We try and identify the issues they might wish to discuss. We look through the records of previous meetings and consider the current political and legislative context. Together, we put together some talking points and information to support and inform our branch head at the meeting.
Lunch! In what can only be described as an immense display of willpower, I walk straight past Fekerte’s (excellent) Ethiopian kitchen. Peanut butter sandwich in hand, I’m walking to the grass by Lake Burley Griffin. Often I’ll have lunch with some of the other grads. We’re a very close, collegiate group and it’s always nice to hear stories about other corners of the Department. It’s such a diverse department with so much going on. Arts policy, aviation, regional development, there’s always something to be surprised by.
Back to the desk. There are a few emails in the inbox. I’ve been assigned a piece of Ministerial Correspondence. When somebody sends a letter, or email to a Minister regarding online safety, it comes through to us for our subject-matter input. I chat with my supervisor about a response. I look through previous correspondence regarding similar questions. I draft a response. This then goes to be cleared by my supervisors and returned to the Minister’s Office. Ms Citizen will then have an answer to their question. What a win for democracy.
It’s time for our meeting with the major tech platform. Because online safety is such an international space, many of our meetings occur online, often across time zones. It’s my job to take some notes. The meeting goes well! The platform representatives share their concerns about how the new legislative instrument could be interpreted. They identify challenges in implementation and seek clarity on the finer details – on what these new changes really mean for them. My Branch Head offers her response. While all these people are highly skilled and in important positions, they are all very friendly and committed to having a productive, good-faith conversation.
Time to debrief. I chat with the team about the salient points of the meeting, before translating my rambling, frantic notes into English. I share and file these notes, so we can record and consider the points raised
Well how about that. The day has flown and it’s almost time to go. One last email check, a calendar check and some preparation for the following day. A normal day is a good mix of steady, predictable work and ad-hoc tasks that come through the inbox. Where possible we make sure we’re on top of what can be predicted.
Woohoo! Home time! Well, gym time. I lift the heavy things and start to switch off from the day.
Time to make some dinner, make tomorrow’s peanut butter sandwich and zonk out for a bit. But not too long! A couple of the grads are off to play social beach volleyball which is conveniently located next to the Old Canberra Inn.
Never a dull-moment. Except for sometimes. Time for bed.
Office in the time of COVID – all my (working from home) friends!
The kitchen has quite the view for an afternoon cup of tea. Look closely for some familiar buildings.
The Department Social Club lunchtime soccer team playing against Department of Agriculture