The Defence Graduate Program is designed to build on the skills and knowledge you developed at university. Throughout the program you will undertake an extensive learning and development package, including training relevant to your chosen job stream. You will also be given unique opportunities to visit key Defence sites as part of familiarisation activities during the program.
You will enjoy experiences that, as a civilian, you wouldn’t find with any other organisation.
Learn more through the stories of some of our previous graduates.
“The Graduate Development Program (GDP) has provided a range of opportunities I never thought possible. As a Human Resources graduate working in such a large government department, Defence has offered a breadth of experience, valuable professional development and helped build an excellent foundation for my future career. Defence has enabled me to develop an array of skills in Human Resource Management whilst also being exposed to the unique opportunities Defence has to offer. During the program, I travelled to Defence facilities throughout Australia, attended briefings from senior military and civilian leaders, worked with passionate colleagues and received invaluable mentoring advice and support.”
I commenced my first rotation in the Diversity Directorate which provided an understanding of Defence-wide operations due to the extensive reach of diversity initiatives across the department. Working in the diversity space instilled in me the importance of a diverse workforce for Defence capabilities and promoting Defence as an employer of choice.
My other rotations in the Directorate of Indigenous Affairs and the Organisational Development Unit built on this experience and provided exposure to recruitment processes, change management coordination and policy implementation reflecting Defence’s organisational strategy.
Moving to Canberra from interstate was a smooth transition due to the assistance provided by the GDP management team and the network of graduates I met during the first few weeks on-the-job. Canberra is a beautiful city with amazing restaurants, cafes, shopping outlets and outdoor recreational facilities which offer a lovely environment to live and catch up with friends.
I’ve built friendships which will last a lifetime and worked with talented colleagues who inspire me to continually extend and challenge myself professionally. I would recommend this program to anyone seeking a challenge and an opportunity to gain incredible experience whilst contributing to Australia’s national security capability.
“As a political science graduate in the Generalist Stream, I was given many opportunities to contribute to diverse, challenging and meaningful work. Throughout the graduate year, I was supported within my teams to develop skills in areas that I had not had much exposure to before. This included planning a visit by Timorese Defence officials to Australia, reviewing the effectiveness of an Army training exercise and coordinating the Department’s responses to media enquiries. I learned useful lessons in crafting policy advice for senior executives, conducting training assessments and developing communication strategies.”
One of the many highlights from my graduate year was my regional placement at an Army training academy in southern Queensland. Living on a Defence base allowed me to become closely acquainted with the dedicated and inspiring people who serve in the Australian Defence Force. I was grateful to participate in the unit’s arduous physical training sessions, discover the hallowed traditions of a regimental dinner and accompany Australian soldiers as a designated ‘UN observer’ on a patrol march in Townsville.
Another memorable experience was attending two weeks of policy seminars at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. This was just one of the many exciting learning and development opportunities afforded to me during the graduate year, which provided me with invaluable insight and candid advice from Defence leaders, national security thinkers and qualifications in project management and ministerial writing.
Moving to Canberra could have been daunting, but the entire transition was almost seamless. I had an instant social network in the graduate cohort, and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the city’s great café culture, arts scene and civic attractions with lovely and talented people. The enduring friendships I’ve made both professionally and personally have placed me in good stead for a rewarding career in Defence.
“After completing an Arts/Law degree at the University of New South Wales, a year working overseas, and a year teaching, I joined the Department of Defence as a graduate. During the program, I performed three very different roles.”
I started in Infrastructure Division, where I worked alongside the team that manages office space for Defence staff across the ACT. This experience gave me an understanding of the incredible diversity of work undertaken by Defence civilians and military personnel alike.
I spent the next three months in International Policy Division. I performed work relating to Australia’s Defence relationship with Solomon Islands and Timor Leste, wrote briefs for Defence seniors and ministers and corresponded with Defence staff overseas.
Finally, I travelled to the Northern Territory and lived on a military base for three months. I worked on emergency management plans for Darwin, and had the opportunity to visit Defence bases in Katherine. My complete immersion in a military environment was a unique experience, especially as I had little knowledge of military life before joining Defence.
Since completing the graduate program, I have continued my professional development through my new role and training opportunities. I am also able to balance work with part-time study for my Masters degree at the Australian National University.
Thanks to the graduate program, I have a close circle of friends in Canberra who help me make the most of my new hometown. Some of my Sydney friends are yet to be convinced, but Canberra is a great place to live! It has lots of natural beauty, being surrounded by mountains with the lake as its centrepiece. At the e time, it has the cultural life of a big city, including great restaurants, food and fashion markets, and world class art exhibitions.
“I studied a Double Bachelors Degree in Asia-Pacific Security Studies and Finance, with a view to work within the Australian National Security Community. The Finance and Business stream served as the perfect avenue through which to combine both these disciplines, and to understand how the finance function underpins the Department’s operations in achieving strategic objectives.”
As a graduate you are exposed to a variety of operational and functional areas across Defence in both civilian and military environments. It has been a great introduction to the Department - you get a real understanding of the scale on which the Organisation operates and the diversity of the career opportunities available to you as a young graduate. My current rotation in Audit & Fraud Control Division has been instrumental in cementing my knowledge of the business of Defence, and has provided many opportunities to engage one on one with Senior Executive level and Star-ranked officials within the Organisation. I have also worked in Investment and Resource Analysis for Royal Australian Air Force platforms, working with uniformed personnel on sustainment costs of current Air capabilities. My experience in Balance Sheet Management for Chief Finance Officer Group was great in that it was a critical, central area informing the Defence Financial Statements.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Program has been the training and development opportunities available to participants. As a graduate you are provided a plethora of highly valuable training opportunities, ranging from Strategic Policy and Ministerial Writing to Project Management Fundamentals. In addition to this graduates have received briefings by Senior Executives and Service Chiefs within the Organisation, which have provided a valuable insight into the operations, objectives and strategy of the Department. Graduates also participate in a week-long Study Tour of Army, Navy and Air Force bases across Australia - an incredible educational experience.
I would highly recommend this program to graduates seeking a fulfilling career within a highly dynamic organisation within Australia’s National Security apparatus. The opportunities available in Defence are endless!
“My graduate year in Defence was fast paced and challenging. During the three work rotations, I had the opportunity to work with an experienced and diverse group of people including Defence APS, ADF, contractors and project stakeholders in the IT space.”
My second rotation was a regional placement outside of Canberra where I was embedded within an Air Force Squadron. I worked in the training and development space where I was able to utilise my documentation skills gained from my first rotation and further my technical and programming knowledge through the development of the practical network training environment. I also had the opportunity to live on a military base, worked closely with ADF personnel, and experience the culture of a both a new city and the military. It was an unprecedented opportunity that I could not find in a work environment other than Defence.
My third rotation was also in a technical area of Defence. I was able to work with a number of areas within this rotation to give me a broad view of Defence’s cyber operations. I also contributed to the development of the training task book for the development of skills of future members of the section.
Another benefit of the program was the training and development opportunities. I participated in a variety of generalist and specialised training opportunities throughout the year. These have given me a solid foundation of skills and knowledge for any career path.
Moving to Canberra is not as daunting as it might seem. Graduates from a number of departments all move to the city around the e time so it was easy to find housemates and a great place to live. With the myriad of social events available, you can never be bored in Canberra.
I have learnt a lot about my self as a person throughout the graduate year. I have further developed my confidence, adaptability, focus, knowledge and problem solving skills and ability to manage new priorities and challenges.
“I completed my Bachelor of Engineering in Naval Architecture at UNSW. The Civilian Engineer Development Program gave me opportunities to develop my technical skills and organisational knowledge that I would not have got anywhere else. In addition to the program’s rotations I attended the Navy survival at sea training program, familiarisation tours of a couple of major Defence sites and did additional training courses such as Risk and Liability and Technical Writing.”
I found that the atmosphere in the Navy Engineering office fostered my technical learning with the more senior engineers being always willing to take the time to explain a concept well. The friendliness between the intakes of the development programs means there is an instant support group for new-to-the-workplace questions or just people to have lunch with.
My rotations included working in the Navy Engineering office, time with a helicopter procurement project and a placement outside of Defence with a company from private industry in Cairns.
The relocation support provided for initially relocating to Canberra, and later Cairns and then returning to Canberra, made the moves so easy.
Canberra is a great place to live with all the facilities of a larger city but you are much closer to everything. I have got so used to the short travel times and being able to do my exercise on the way to work (bike ride) that I think I would now have a hard time moving back to Sydney.
"I completed a Bachelor of Commerce/Arts (International Relations) at the Australian National University. I have discovered that a graduate placement within the Department of Defence has allowed me to incorporate my interests and skills in both of these areas, experiencing three diverse rotations around Australia."
As a Procurement and Contracting Graduate, I remained in Canberra for my first rotation within the Commercial Division of the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) where I gained a valuable insight into the unique complexities surrounding military capability procurement and worked on contracts ranging from acquiring ammunition to multi-million dollar aircraft.
My second rotation took me to Melbourne where I worked with the Financial Investigation Service. Here I was exposed to engaging with Defence Industry and ensuring that pricing was fair and reasonable which is a key part of acquisition within Defence. I met wonderful people and was able to experience business from a regional perspective.
For my third rotation, I worked in a project supporting a critical military capability in Sydney. Here I was kept challenged and gained valuable experience in meeting the operational demands of a large Navy capability. The team is an innovative blend of military personnel, public service civilians and industry personnel and this allowed me to engage with the core essence of how the Department of Defence does business. Being able to directly see the ships I was supporting cemented the value of being a graduate in this Department.
My overall experience has been exceptional allowing me not only to travel and live in three different cities over 18 months, but also to experience three very different areas of a huge, nationwide organisation. As a graduate, I have been welcomed into an engaging atmosphere and have received opportunities to engage with all parts of the organisation from briefings with senior leadership to hands on tours to the regional bases. I also gained access to a national network of other graduates and have made amazing new friends.
"My favourite part about the graduate program was working in three diverse areas of Defence, each in a different city. I worked in both acquisition and sustainment with my three work rotations consisting of Guided Weapons acquisition in Canberra, Collins Submarine sustainment in Perth and Air Battlespace Management in Newcastle."
After completing a Commerce and an Arts degree at the ANU, Defence was my first choice of graduate program due to the exciting work and opportunities they offered. The highlight of my rotations was inspecting and assessing the equipment that Defence is acquiring or sustaining. This included touring guided missile test facilities, multiple ships and submarines and the Submarine Escape Training Facility. Viewing the Defence equipment that I was involved enabled me to understand the relevance of my work.
As a graduate cohort we were also given exciting opportunities such as touring various RAAF aircrafts, visiting a Special Forces Training Facility and attempting the Over Water Obstacle Course at ADFA.
I was lucky enough to work on both a Navy base and Air Force base. I enjoyed experiencing life on a base, including eating lunch at the mess and participating in sport and PT sessions with Air Force personnel. It also made for interesting lunchtime walks; watching the aircraft performing aerobatics overhead at the RAAF base, or walking to the wharf to see the submarines and ships at the Navy base. The opportunity to work with APS, contractor and uniformed personnel allows for an interesting workplace.
Throughout the course of the graduate program I have made connections, both professional and social, that I would not have otherwise. The professional network I have created will no doubt benefit me well into my career, not to mention the life long friends that I have made. I recommend the Capability Pathway to anyone looking to gain experience and exposure to Defence acquisition and sustainment and kick start their career in an exciting Department, all while playing an important role in supporting the war fighter.
"I started my Defence life as part of the Capability Pathway on the Defence Graduate Program after completing a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) at Charles Darwin University. I was shipped from the oppressive Darwin humidity to the crisp air of Canberra. Our intake was large and despite a plethora of engineers, all of the graduates were friendly, easy-going and most became good mates. The extensive network of graduates in Canberra and the work-life balance made my stint there really enjoyable. What’s not to love about road trips to the beach in summer and the snow in winter?"
With no previous exposure to Defence, I was unsure what to expect. I found everyone to be supportive, friendly and knowledgeable. Settling into Canberra was daunting but in the end was relatively smooth, the graduate team and work area providing me with good assistance and advice.
The 18 month program consisted of three 6 month rotations and flexibility with locations. I took the opportunity to see the country with my second rotation as part of the Air Warfare Destroyer program in Adelaide. This culminated in me going on sea trials to conduct noise and vibration testing. Standing on the back of a warship going full steam is an experience I won’t forget. Neither is trying to sleep while they do speed and manoeuvre trials in the middle of the night.
I also had the opportunity to do a rotation external to Defence, which opens up the possibility of working in Defence industry. I continued my nomadic habits and crossed the Nullarbor to Perth for an industry placement with Austal. This gave me an understanding of how industry ticks, exposure to engineering design and the obstacles involved in contracting to Defence. I was given valuable exposure to the operation of a shipyard.
Moving around the country has allowed me to experience so much. From conducting sea trials to shooting a pass score at the Weapon Training Simulation System at ADFA in Canberra, the graduate program has provided me with opportunities to which I would not normally have access.
"I had been searching for the opportunity to pursue a career in research after completing post-graduate study and the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST) provided the perfect platform. Since joining DST, I have experienced the diversity and excitement in my professional life that I have always sought."
Working in DST has involved me in the development of capstone concepts for the Australian Defence Force (ADF). It has given me the opportunity to apply my analytical skills in new ways as well as contribute a scientific perspective. Being at the forefront of moulding the role of science in emerging technologies has been an exciting challenge and far exceeds the influence I expected to have in my first six months in DST. My role has also taken me to Enoggera Barracks in support of major Army experimentation activities. Staying on base and exploring practical issues faced by the Joint Force has given me a new perspective and greater appreciation for the accomplishments of the ADF. On the lighter side, I was also fortunate to be invited to participate in Weapons Training Simulation which allowed a group of Australian Public Service to fire a simulated weapon.
One of the best aspects of my work has been my colleagues. I’ve felt incredibly welcome within the organisation and there is a collegiate and community spirit that makes work truly enjoyable. People are always willing to help out and their willingness to impart knowledge has been an invaluable part of orienting myself within Defence. Senior leaders have also taken a personal interest in my development and have identified and encouraged many learning and development opportunities for me. In my short time in DST I have attended several courses and seminars, including the advanced ‘Apollo Course in Future War Analysis’ at the Australian Defence College.
DST Group has become more than a platform for my career; it is the expression of my career and goals. Feeling as successful as I do now, I can only imagine how I’ll feel in years to come.
“I joined ASD as a Cyber and Information Security Analyst after studying Mechatronics and Computer Science. While I always knew I wanted to work with computers, of all the choices available to me at the completion of my degree, Intelligence and Security seemed to offer the most challenging and rewarding opportunities. Within ASD, I've had the opportunity to use broad engineering principles and practices, as well as specific knowledge from my Computer Science background to tackle problems.”
As a Cyber grad within ASD, I've had the opportunity to undertake a number of rotations, in particular a rotation within ASD's malware analysis team. I was a little worried about the challenge, but the team was very welcoming and ready to help me learn the ropes.
I’ve had the opportunity to directly analyse infectious malware, to develop tools to help more rapidly identify and understand cyber threats, and to work with a team in a very challenging area. My assessment on the capabilities and threats posed by a given virus have contributed to the security of the Australian Government networks.
Moving to Canberra, I was worried about not knowing anyone. However, within a week, I’d made more friends than I had in a year – all fellow incoming grads. Those friends were the best support I could have hoped for entering the world of ASD.
“After completing a Communications and International Studies degree, I was fortunate enough to be offered a position in the AGO Graduate Program.”
The graduate program provided me with the opportunity to learn a whole new skill set and to further develop the analytical and communication skills that I had attained during university. The training prepared me well for my current rotation where I am part of a dynamic and supportive team, with colleagues who are eager to help me find my feet and share their knowledge.
The graduate program also allowed me to make friends with a fantastic group of people, both from the graduate intake and the wider organisation. Working with a diverse group of people from a wide range of backgrounds is also definitely a highlight.
The move to Canberra was a little daunting but I already knew a few people that lived here and loved it. I think the benefit of the grad community/program is that you instantly meet like-minded people who have all moved for similar reasons and don't have firmly established social circles. This means everyone is really social, warm and eager to make new friends. It's also really convenient to get around; it's close to the coast and the slopes and has a bunch of activities throughout the year (Balloon festival, Floriade, film festivals, jazz nights). Plus restaurants and bars are pretty good and better ones are popping up all the time.
I am constantly learning new skills on the job and expanding my knowledge, which keeps the work interesting and challenging. Further, the work we do as GEOINT Analysts has concrete outcomes, and seeing how this contributes to the intelligence community both in Australia and abroad, is extremely rewarding.
“This graduate year with DIO has been excellent. I have no military or public service background, but I have spent the past few months immersed in an organisational culture drawn from both worlds.”
I have a background in international studies and languages, which has set me in good stead for my home rotation on a relevant desk. DIO is training me in the disciplines of formal analysis that complement and deepen my understanding of my area of expertise, and the knowledge I have gained over years of study and travel.
But I have also had opportunities to stretch myself with time on a technical desk. There I started with no knowledge of the subject area, and finished by making contributions to analysis that went directly to Defence operational planners. It was a steep learning curve, but hugely satisfying.
In the course of these rotations, I have worked with people with all sorts of fascinating experiences and expertise - many with similar backgrounds to me, but many also with knowledge and skills I barely knew existed before this year. I have taken part in an ADF exercise, liaised with other Australian Government organisations in Canberra and overseas, and participated in training programs with officers from partner countries. I have also contributed to long-term, whole-of-Defence strategic planning; to Australian Government responses to breaking events; and to supporting Australian troops operating overseas.
The Graduate program has given me the freedom to enjoy in a few months a wide variety of experiences, to ask stupid questions, and to get started on what looks like a fascinating career.
“The opportunities to experience new and different fields of technical work in ASD continue to surprise me. I’ve done rotations working on capability development projects and cyber security forensic analysis, which has not only given me a feel for the organisation and exposed me to the breadth of work ASD does, but has also allowed me to work with all different types of people and teams, and create networks that are already proving valuable. ASD is such a diverse organisation; getting to do rotations anywhere in ASD is my number one favourite thing about the graduate program.”
I have been given the chance to continue developing my skills with a wide range of high quality technical courses available. I’ve really appreciated that the programming courses range from beginner to advanced and are spaced out well over the year. It’s pretty cool that you can do a course or bunch of courses on any of the most common programming languages.
One of the things I was concerned about was moving to a new city to a job I didn’t know much about. But when I arrived, it was easy to make friends with the other graduates as they are all in the e position, and the former graduates were there to help us when we needed it. Canberra is a pretty good place to live too – it has all the comforts of a big city but it only takes me 10 minutes to get to work every day, and it’s only 2 hours from the beach or the snow.
ASD has a really good attitude towards new starters and provides a great environment to learn from others. The flexible working hours are great, and the focus is on getting the job done properly and efficiently instead of the pressure faced in private industry to work long hours. Also, in my previous job there was this huge thing about employing minorities in technical fields. But in ASD, I’m valued for my abilities, not because I fill a quota for gender or ethnicity requirements.
The work I do at ASD is truly unique and it is great to know that I am making a real difference!
“After completing my studies in Geomatics Engineering, I joined the Intelligence and Security Development Program as an AGO Technologist in 2014. The AGO graduate program has provided a great opportunity for me to broaden my skill sets and knowledge beyond my academic studies.”
Although I was in the Technologist stream, I had the opportunity to complete the Geospatial Intelligence Analysis Course, which I felt allowed me to adapt my pre-existing knowledge to Defence applications while gaining an insight into the complete suite of work conducted by AGO.
Rotations in the Technologist stream have provided me with project management and software development skills which allowed me to engage with different aspects of my university studies. From my experience, the graduate program is designed to provide a working environment where on-the-job training and team assistance is core to daily operations.
As expected when starting any new job, I was initially nervous but this was quickly overcome by friendly military and civilian colleagues who adopt and live the AGO culture. This culture provides a safe environment to learn, to communicate and seek assistance whenever you are unsure.
AGO is an organisation which sources graduates from diverse academic backgrounds in order to provide different perspectives on a range of global issues. Due to the nature of the graduate program, I moved to Canberra at the e time as other graduates. As we were all new, we have had the opportunity to network, establish long-lasting friendships and enjoy Canberra’s offerings.