Although I was born in Israel and grew up there before moving to New Zealand, my entire family is from Argentina so I consider my ethnic background to be Latin American with a pinch of Middle Eastern.

Latin American culture is focused on three things: family, food, and fiesta. Family comes first, including friends and making them feel like part of your family the moment they step into your home. Sharing delicious foods from Argentina (i.e. empanadas, alfajores, asado) is the best way people make these connections. It’s common for a Friday night family dinner to turn into a neighbourhood event with friends and neighbours turning up throughout the night. In summer especially, the dinner will start around 8 pm and people will stay up chatting and listening to music on the patio past midnight. The Latino culture is all about sharing these experiences with others and is something we enjoy doing to help bring people together. 

Tell us about your graduate placement and your host agency.

My placement is with the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) in the Local Government (LG) branch as a graduate policy analyst within the Operational Policy team. It’s a busy time for the Local Government branch as many projects are underway: the Three Waters reform, Future for Local Government review, and the Resource Management reform being the main projects.

My experience within this project team has helped me understand the process of providing our Minister - the Hon Nanaia Mahuta - with advice on her local government portfolio. This involved undertaking extensive research and stakeholder engagement and providing our Minister with a set of options for her to consider presenting to Cabinet. Although the process is not finished yet I have already learnt so much about the mechanisms of government and the public service over these 3 months.

The people and culture found in DIA and especially in the LG branch is really supportive. There is a sense of focus on helping others and working as a team. Well-being is also something my colleagues and the branch itself really strive to support us on and something that DIA really strives to advocate for. 

Is there a career goal you are working towards?

Developing my knowledge and skills within the Public Service while being able to contribute my diverse perspectives. Throughout my time in this programme, I would like to develop these skills so that I can confidently connect ethnic communities to the Public Service sector and ensure all voices are being heard. Organising engagement events between these groups for input on projects we’re working on is something I look forward to doing in regard to this goal.

Why do you think it’s important to have a diverse Public Service?

Having a diverse Public Service brings in a range of perspectives into the sector that otherwise may be missed. The work done in the Public Service has a direct impact on the people of Aotearoa New Zealand. By having a Public Service which is representative of the makeup of our country, the approach to policy-making and changes to the system can be inclusive of the people living in our communities. By having public servants from a diverse range of backgrounds, Aotearoa can become an inclusive society and be better for all.

What advice do you give to graduates considering a career in the Public Service?

Be patient with your growth and remember your why.

Starting your career in the Public Service, with little to no experience in the sector, can at times be overwhelming. There might be a range of tasks and roles that you’ll undertake and at certain times you may feel unsure of yourself – that’s okay. In a new role, there’s usually going to be growing pains. Be patient with yourself, and don’t expect to know everything from the get-go. The colleagues around you will often be keen to help you out and guide you through these tasks. Use this time to explore the Public Service through your colleague’s experiences and don’t be afraid to ask questions to really get that in-depth knowledge.

Throughout this time, keep reminding yourself of why you were drawn to working in the Public Service. Remind yourself why you get up in the morning and go to this new role. It can be as focussed on yourself as it can be on the impact you’ll be having on the people of Aotearoa. By leaning into the growing process and exploring the public service, your why will become more refined and provide some clarity to guide you on your Public Service journey.

Posted 6 months ago by Cristian Cornejo

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