An Australian National University alumna says the university helped prepare her to scale the heights of the public service, including her latest role as Australian Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat in Jakarta.
Jane Duke (Arts / Law ’93), who began her post in late 2016, has also served in senior roles in Australia’s diplomatic missions at the United Nations in Geneva, and Malaysia.
“ANU shaped me,” the former Burton & Garran Hall resident says.
“If I hadn't gone to ANU, I may not have joined the public service, nor been aware of the possibilities of such rewarding work in shaping national and international policy.
“At ANU, I was exposed to students from all over the world, as well as many students who had grown up in Canberra and whose parents worked in the public service.”
Across her career, Jane has enjoyed both the life of a diplomat overseas and working in Canberra. She also is fortunate to travel regularly from her Jakarta base to ASEAN member states.
“In the course of my work, I have the privilege of meeting senior officials and ministers from around the region, business people, academic and think tank communities, Australian alumni and UN, NGO and other agency partners who work on our development cooperation programs. I enjoy experiencing the enormous diversity of sights and sounds, food and culture and, above all, meeting the wonderful people of South East Asia.
“From foreign and trade policy to development cooperation and people-to-people links, our ties to the region are long-standing and deep and Australia is held in very high and warm regard.”
Two-way trade between Australia and the 10-member ASEAN bloc accounts for nearly 15% of Australia’s total trade, and around 100,000 students from ASEAN countries are studying in Australia. ASEAN has a population of over 620 million people, and has the third largest labour force in the world.
It has enjoyed sustained and rapid economic growth and has a GDP of US$2.5 trillion (7th largest in the world) with the potential for further growth. ASEAN has contributed substantially to regional peace and stability over its 50 years and plays an important role in dealing with the geo-strategic challenges facing the region, such as those in the South China Sea. For these reasons, Australia is deeply invested in its success.
Aside from O-Week and the semester balls, Jane liked cycling around Lake Burley Griffin, and the quiet surrounds of the law buildings and law library.
“I recently took my two children to ANU for a visit, and it brought back so many warm memories of my life there.”
Jane chose ANU for its renowned Asian studies program, and combined it with law. She’d visited Japan as a high school exchange student and wanted to study Japanese, history and culture at university level.
After graduating with honours in criminal law, Jane worked briefly as a lawyer in Sydney before joining the public service and spent her first decade there in different roles as a government lawyer.
“The skills I learned as a lawyer have been incredibly valuable to me in policy work, and my work as a diplomat,” she explains.
“Analytical skills, representation skills, advocacy skills, negotiation and how to present a persuasive case most effectively are generic skills that are adaptable to many contexts, including diplomacy.”
Jane says she’s lucky to be able to represent Australia overseas.
“I've pushed myself to take on new challenges beyond my comfort zone and learnt from every experience, both good and bad,” she says.
“I couldn't have done it without the support of my family, including my children, who have been prepared to leave their friends and family to explore another part of the world and forgo the benefits of their home.”