Esther completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at the University of Melbourne. She currently works as a Policy Officer with the Victorian Government.
What did you study and what inspired you to pursue this path?
I completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at the University of Melbourne, graduating in 2011. I majored in English Literature and International Politics, but I did my honours in Literature. I would love to say I had a great reason for doing an Arts degree, or that I was inspired by something brilliant – the truth is, I was good at English, I liked to read a lot, and to write, and I wasn’t sure what else to do!
Once I finished my undergraduate study, I did a Masters in Public Policy and Management, also at the University of Melbourne. I chose the Masters program because I was (I am!) interested in international issues and solving big problems that impact vulnerable people.
What is your current occupation?
I am a Policy Officer in the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet
What aspects of your role do you enjoy the most?
I work on family violence reforms, which has been an area of real focus over the last few years. There is an incredible amount of work going on in that area, and a huge number of passionate people working towards real change. It’s amazing work, and no two days are ever the same.
Thinking back, what was a highlight of your time at university?
Reading all the time! I spent the better part of my undergraduate degree reading on South Lawn and writing essays in cafés. Sitting in cafés reading and writing is still pretty much my favourite thing.
Were there any co-curricular activities you found particularly valuable while at university?
The internships and volunteering that I did during my postgraduate study taught me the most about what I was interested in. I volunteered with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, World Vision, and Young Australians in International Affairs. This is definitely not something that I needed to wait until postgraduate study to do – I just took a while to work out what I was interested in.
How do you think your humanities education has shaped you personally and professionally?
My Arts degree taught me to ask questions. I learnt not to assume something is true just because I had heard it somewhere. I learnt to look for information from other sources, to find people who disagree with me and talk about things that matter, and to ask questions that I might not like the answer to.
What career advice would you give to current students or recent graduates?
Look for opportunities, and put your hand up for stuff. The graduate world is tougher than it’s ever been. I think the best thing you can do is find things you love and care about, and contribute to causes or activities as much as you can. You’ll find some valuable real-world skills, build networks, and probably have a better idea of what you want to do in the long term by the time you finish your degree. To recent graduates – stick with it. No job is harder to find than the first one, and it’s worth it in the end!
Tell us about a book you read recently that truly captured your attention?
I just finished reading ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara. It was 700 pages long and I didn’t even notice. I cried five times, I laughed, I wish I could read it for the first time all over again.
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