Georgina McKay - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


WLA ACT recently sat down with Georgina McKay, Legal Officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as part of the #WomenLawyersoftheACT series.

Where do you currently work and what is your position? What do you find most enjoyable about what you do?

I currently work at DFAT and have just moved to the Transnational Crime Section of the Legal Division. I love the international aspect to my work and the wide variety of work we get in the Legal Division. As a general rule though I find the people you work with to be the most important factor in job satisfaction. So, I’m fortunate to have a great Director, and work with smart, engaged and collegial lawyers in my team and in the broader branch and division.

What are some of the challenges you have faced since becoming a lawyer?

There are all the general challenges that go with starting new jobs and learning what it is to be a lawyer. I’ve worked at two different departments and have been lucky to work in different teams in each. This has been great experience as a junior lawyer but leads to its own challenges – not least of which is getting across a new area of law quickly, just as you feel like you were finding your feet in the last team!

Do you think your experiences have stood you in good stead for your career in law? How so?

All of the work experiences I had throughout my undergraduate Arts degree and JD, whether part time jobs, internships, volunteering or committees, definitely stood me in good stead when I started my career. They all allowed for the practical application of different skills that you develop at school and university, and meant that I got a much better understanding of how different workplaces worked. Working in lots of different places and with different people also meant I got a better sense of what I wanted to do when I left university. And apart from anything else, it was all useful for job applications and interviews!

You've accomplished a lot prior to completing your jurisdoctor in 2013! In hindsight what was your biggest accomplishment?

Prior to starting my JD the accomplishment I’m most proud of is my work with Oaktree, a youth run aid and development organisation. I volunteered there for a couple of years in one of their university volunteering programs and then as National Director of Administration, which sounds boring! But it meant I got to run two big conferences for all of the Oaktree volunteers. At that time, the successful execution of the conferences were probably my biggest professional achievements. It was a lot of hard work planning the conferences alongside work and study commitments, but they were incredibly fun and satisfying. While at Oaktree I learnt a lot about how to run big projects and events, how to work well with others, and the importance of volunteering and giving time and money to important causes.

You’ve been a member of WLA for four and a half years, can you tell us a bit about how you became Vice President of WLA?

I joined WLA when I first moved to Canberra. I became a committee member about 6 months later and took up the Membership Officer role. For a lot people, WLA provides a great networking opportunity. Whilst I like the networking aspect of the WLA, one of the main reasons I became a member and a committee member is that I enjoy contributing to the community and feeling a sense of community. I took on the role as Vice President because I really like what WLA stands for and what it offers to female lawyers in Canberra, and I can see how much more great work can be done. I find being on the committee very energising. Ultimately, the best thing for me is being able to hang out with a bunch of awesome women who are all so committed to women and the law.

What's on the horizon for you?

When I was studying, including when I did my law degree, I didn’t think I’d want to practise as a lawyer, but here we are four and half years later! I would like to practise for a few more years and get more international law experience, and then work overseas in some capacity.