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“While the familiarity made the transition [to Defence] more comfortable (as
well as the ability to ring my husband to clarify that I wasn’t looking for some
type of biblical boat when first told to ‘go and get my left and right of arc’), a
military background is not essential to fitting in at Defence.”
Adviser Alicia Porter.
Seaman Paul Berry
How has being a military spouse helped you in
your first few months working for Defence?
The military structure and way of life was completely foreign
to me before meeting my husband. Had I not been an Army
spouse I think I would have been intimidated by aspects
of Defence which are unfamiliar to outsiders, such as the
jargon, the culture and the system of rank. Also, I would not
have fully appreciated the impact of operations on serving
members and their families. However, while the familiarity
made the transition more comfortable (as well as the ability
to ring my husband to clarify that I wasn’t looking for some
type of biblical boat when first told “to go and get my left
and right of arc”), a military background is not essential to
fitting in at Defence. This was contrary to my understanding
before joining the department and I think we can do more
to promote that message in encouraging mobility through
the public service.
Did the fact your husband is in the Army influence
your decision to apply for a job with Defence?
It was the logical choice for me. It can be very difficult
to articulate long-term career aspirations to potential
employers when you know you will only be in the one
place for two or three years with no certainty as to future
localities. Conversely, postings are the norm at Defence
and the ability to stay with the organisation long-term due
to its geographical spread made it an attractive option. It
can be disheartening to build up a reputation and a certain
level of seniority in a position only to have to start from
scratch repeatedly. The department is also very flexible in
allowing my move to tie in with the Army posting cycle. The
support that Defence provides to the families of serving
members was certainly a key factor in my decision to join
Where did you work, and in what roles, prior to
moving to Defence?
I started my career as a graduate at the Attorney-General’s
Department before working as a legal officer in that
department’s Office of International Law. I then moved to
Darwin where I was employed as a solicitor at the north
Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, travelling on the bush
court circuit to remote communities, before moving to
Toowoomba, where I worked at the community legal centre
and was responsible for representing people with mental
illnesses and intellectual disabilities facing criminal charges.
It’s pretty typical for a military spouse to have a diverse
resume after a few postings, but I am fortunate to have had
varied and challenging roles in each location.
What have been the highlights of working for
Working in a supportive and friendly environment has
certainly been a highlight, as well as working in such a
highly responsive environment which is always a hive of
activity. Operating in a nerve centre of sorts in public affairs
requires you to be across the topical issues pertinent to
the various groups and services and it’s a great way to
learn the intricacies of the department quickly. It’s also
been rewarding to match the insights I have gained as a
military spouse on different postings with my professional
experience as a civilian.
What have been the challenges?
The main challenges have centred on the adjustment
from a court room setting to the governmental public
affairs space and navigating through such a large and
complex organisation. My colleagues have been extremely
supportive and have imparted a great deal of corporate
knowledge to bring me up to speed. I’ve also had to be
mindful to mentally separate my roles as an Army spouse
and departmental employee to ensure that my personal
views on policy that directly impacts on us stays at home.
Starting a new job in an organisation as large and complex as Defence can be daunting.
But Alicia Porter, a Communication Adviser in Ministerial and Executive Coordination and
Communication Division, had one advantage when she began working for Defence in november
last year. Like many people in the department, she was already part of the extended Defence
family, as her husband, Captain Cameron Porter, is an officer at the Royal Military College.
Issue 2 2012
Issue 2 2012
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