Defence Graduates share their stories, program experiences and exciting career journeys.


Policy and Corporate Pathway, HR Stream
Bachelor of Business (Human Resource Management), University: Swinburne University of Technology, 2020

Katie Lin

I found out about the Graduate Program because my partner is in the Air Force and encouraged me to apply. He had great stories about Defence and the interesting work. 

My experience with the program has been great, the highlight has been the social and experiential learning, especially the training on 5 Defence Values, Ngunnawal Language workshop and the base tours. 

The base tours were great because I never thought this is something civilian staff could do.  

I think it’s important to be part of program like this because we get the chance to try out different things that we won’t be able to when we’re not a grad anymore. This program gives me an insight into how our decisions can impact everyone in the future.  

Looking forward, after all the cool experiences I’ve had as a graduate, I would love to be involved in the ADF exercises and that could involve attending briefings, researching and writing tasks and planning the exercises. I would love to witness the ADF exercises one day. 

My advice to future graduates and STEM cadets is to not be afraid to ask for opportunities or experiences, because you won’t know until you ask. Use your time as a graduate to your advantage and take up all the experiences and opportunities while you’re on the program.


Research and Innovation Pathway, Specialised Coatings and Corrosion Science 
Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Chemical Sciences) and Master of Engineering (Materials), Flinders University, 2021 

Nicholas Tugwell

I was attracted to the Defence Graduate Program because I liked the idea of being embedded within a defence organisation. I always look forward to Defence experiences such as base tours, experiencing military-led activities, military history, working on high-tech defence platforms and having a strong purpose about my work.

Fishermans Bend has less graduate program activities on offer in comparison to other sites or pathways, but my rotations at DSTG and industry were fantastic. I’ve become well fitted in the Specialised Coatings and Corrosion Science Group.

What most surprised me was the amount of people who relocate as part of the program. This is part of the appeal of the program for people such as myself who were looking for a change of scenery.

It’s also been beneficial going through the program with a number of other graduates. Having other colleagues working through the program means that you have an extra level of support.

This experience was my first full-time STEM role since completing university, so it has been the first step in my career and it will hopefully set me up with good skills and work ethic to continue to progress. 

My best advice to future graduates and STEM cadets is to think about where you would like to end up at the end of the Graduate Program and develop your skills in that direction. This includes understanding the intricacies of the organisation and getting to know its high-ranking people.


Policy and Corporate Pathway, HR Stream 
Bachelor of Business (Human Resource Management), University of Canberra, 2022

Natasha Nappo

The Graduate Program has been a great opportunity and chance to start my career after graduating from university. It gives me exposure to different work areas, work with different management styles and I can make new and diverse connections. 

My experience with the program so far has been great. I have sat in high-level meetings and understand the significance of the tasks I am working on and how they contribute to the bigger picture. I’ve also been lucky enough to participate in the Graduate Learning Experience. I’ve been on base tours, gone to Parliament House for question time, listened to stories from extraordinary ADF members and networked with other graduates and Defence personnel. I can also use my HR knowledge throughout my rotations. 

I knew that the work during my 3 rotations would be different, but I’ve found that the work has been very diverse and gave me the opportunity to use what I learnt in university as well.  

Being a part of a program like this is important for experience. You get to understand 3 different work areas, all vastly different, with new people, different tasks and outcomes. Networking is crucial in defence and overall in the APS. The Graduate Program makes it easy to widen your network. It gives you perspective on diverse management styles and the range of opportunities available to you in the future.    

I see this experience taking me further into the Department, it’s a great stepping stone into Defence and the broader APS.

One piece of advice I would give for a future Graduate or STEM cadet is that you have a year in the program, so take every opportunity you are handed and give everything a go. You may surprise yourself and enjoy something you never would’ve thought of participating in or working on.  


Research and Innovation Pathway, Specialised Coatings and Corrosion Science
Bachelor of Science (Chem), 2019, Master of Science (Chem), 2021

Julia Johnson

I applied for the Defence Graduate Program because I wanted to work in a STEM-centred program with research opportunities outside of academia. Working in the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) has been a great place to work so far, with interesting projects and welcoming people.

My 8 month rotation was a rewarding challenge, working in an area of research I had not encountered before. The special benefit of the Research and Innovation pathway was the opportunity to work with industry or academia. The techniques and skills I gained during my time on the program has been invaluable and I was able to bring this knowledge back to my home group.

The Research and Innovation pathway allows you to be a part of an organisation where research has a tangible impact. The innovative research work that DSTG does directly contributes to Defence and national interests. There are few public organisations where you have that opportunity.

This has been an introduction to working in the public service which I believe will stand me in good stead for my career. Having a research background prepares you well for all types of jobs that require curious and analytical minds.

My advice to future graduates and STEM cadets is to take all opportunities that come up and be proactive in getting involved. It is difficult, but put yourself out there and meet people so that you can have a broad experience and learn as much as possible. The program is what you make of it.


Research and Innovation, Specialised Coatings and Corrosion Science
Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) and Bachelor of Science, Monash University, 2021

Shanae Lay

I found out about the Graduate Program after completing a Summer Vacation Placement with DST Group during my undergraduate degree. I really enjoyed the unique nature of the work and the friendly team I worked with. After completing my placement, I knew I wanted to come back and work at DST Group when I graduated. 

Defence is a big organisation and I like that the Graduate Program allowed me to get experience working in different areas on a range of projects. 

Through my work on various projects, the highlights have been the opportunity getting on board different Defence ships and submarines. It’s been exciting to see the type of platforms we deal with, and experience the unique style of work. I’ve really enjoyed getting out in the field to collect data and solve challenging problems to help support the ADF. 

One of the benefits of the program is having an instant network of other graduates joining DST Group at the same time as me was helpful. We were all able to support each other during the on boarding process. Connecting with other graduates in the program also helped me to learn about the different areas within Defence and some of the opportunities available to me.

After completing the Graduate Program, I now work on corrosion prevention for ships and submarines. This field of work aligns strongly with my studies in Materials Engineering and right now I am really enjoying researching challenging corrosion issues and looking at ways to improve the sustainability of Defence platforms. 

I would encourage all future graduates and STEM cadets to take the time to explore Defence. There are lots of areas within Defence that specialise in different STEM fields. It can be a lot to take in at first but by getting to know people and learning about the research they do you will find an area that you enjoy working in.