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Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF)

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Frances Zewe

Frances Zewe– Graduate in Veterinary and Export Meat Branch Studied at the University of Sydney, completed a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2020.

What's your job about?

The department is responsible for overseeing the import and export of goods into and out of Australia. My role as a veterinary graduate is to have input into animal health and welfare matters.

I am working on how the branch can attract more veterinarians to work for us! To achieve this, I am talking to veterinarians in the department about what they love about their jobs. I am only one graduate, so I work with lots of other people to achieve this goal. A typical day could see me meeting with my supervisor (who is very helpful and knows the department well), the media and communication teams, the Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer, or veterinarians located at any of 80+ locations in Australia. No 2 days are the same.

I am a veterinarian performing a non-typical veterinarian role. My training in veterinary science is important as I can understand the principles of animal health that our veterinarians deal with in their day to day lives.

What's your background?

I grew up in Redcliffe in southeast Queensland. I have moved to Canberra for the graduate program – I'm not sure about the cold weather. Lucky DAWE has lots of office locations and flexible workplace arrangements, so I might make it back to Queensland one day.

I have taken a different pathway to graduate life than other grads. Veterinary science was a second career pathway for me. I first studied zoology and wildlife management and worked in this area for 5 years.

I have been a veterinary grade for one year and I wouldn't change anything. When I went to Sydney University, I knew I didn't want to be a dog and cat vet. I always wanted to work for the Australian Public Service – I wanted to deal with animal health at the national level. I haven't looked back.

During my veterinary degree, I got to meet some departmental veterinarians. They were fantastic people and veterinarians, and I was so intrigued. I kept in touch with them, and they supported my decision to apply at DAWE.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

The DAWE graduate program is so diverse, including specialist and generalist streams. The veterinary stream is open to qualified veterinarians. There are lots of non-veterinary skills that are just as important to allow you to thrive as a graduate. Communication is a big one – it's all well and good understanding the top 5 diseases of beef cattle, but can you describe the relevance of these to colleagues or stakeholders?

What made you pick DAWE as your graduate program?

DAWE is the leading agency responsible for veterinary public health – it was a no brainer for me.

When you graduated from university, what were your goals for your future?

My goals were centred around 'big picture' problems. How can we ensure the welfare of our food-producing animals, whether they are here in Australia or being exported internationally? How can we keep out exotic pests and diseases? How can Australia maintain its 'clean and green image in terms of international agriculture? Little did I know that many of the corporate goals of DAWE are directly in line with my personal goals!

How has DAWE helped you achieve these goals?

The graduate program is an excellent start to an APS career. My goals were varied and spanned the live animal export and the meat export areas. I have had the chance to explore both during different rotations! I also had the chance to do some totally different things, including a secondment to Services Australia to assist with the processing of COVID-19 disaster payments. This is a totally unique experience.

What is the culture at DAWE like?

Working at DAWE is an exciting opportunity. During my time in the graduate program, the department released its 'Core 4' values: working together, courage, diversity and excellence. During my rotations, I have seen all 4 of these in action. I have found that staff are happy to help and share information with graduates and encourage us to bring novel ideas to the table.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is that I have the opportunity to make a difference. During my first rotation, I was helped with a review of cattle welfare onboard live export ships. Some of the ideas I discussed with my team were incorporated into the final recommendations. This means a lot to me; knowing I can help animals in a different 'big picture ' kind of way.

The best aspect of any rotation is the people you meet along the way. Yes, the subject matter is often interesting (sometimes it's not, but that's life), but I have found the teams were the best part.

What 3 pieces of advice would you give yourself when you were a student?

University isn't just about learning the facts of your degree. It's also setting the pathway for working with others and refining effective communication.

Can you meet someone in the area you want to work? For example, I met vets in the department while I was still a student. Highly recommend.

Enjoy your university holidays – when you start working full-time, you will cherish your time off!!!!