2020 graduates

Simone Eckardt

A young woman with shoulder length brown hair and round glasses.

I grew up in Melbourne’s north Eastern suburbs. As a child, I wanted to be a journalist. I was always asking questions and enjoyed sharing ideas with others. I completed a Bachelor of Arts followed by a Master of Public Policy. I interned at public policy organisations in my final year, including a think tank, consulting firm and government department. I also volunteered at a newspaper in West Africa for two months. 

At university, I wrote an essay about the NDIS after listening to a podcast about the grassroots movement which prompted its launch. While I was working on the assignment I saw an advertisement for a graduate program with the NDIA and applied for it. I was lucky enough to make it through and have been with the Agency since 2020.

After completing rotations in two different business areas, I am now working as a Communications and Engagement Officer at the Agency.

I help my team by coordinating regular interactions with national peak bodies from the disability sector. Information from these interactions is included in reports and briefings to ensure the voice of the sector is considered in key decisions. The fact that I have studied public policy is an advantage. It helps me to understand the factors driving government decisions and provides context of the environment my team operates.

I am really grateful to be in this role because I get exposure to discussions occurring at a senior level, which gives me insights into decisions shaping key policy positions. All the external stakeholders we meet with have a wealth of experience in the sector. Everyone who works at the Agency strongly believes in its vision, so it’s great working with people who are passionate about social change. It is also pretty rewarding to think that the work you are doing is improving the lives of Australians with disability.

Patrick Wiggins

A young man with short brown hair and beard and round glasses.

I grew up in Sydney and then the sunny Sunshine Coast of Queensland. I then moved back to Sydney to study psychology at Macquarie University. I completed a large portion of my degree by distance while living in different parts of Australia, as well as a stint in the United Kingdom.

After working in the disability sector for a few years, I applied for the NDIA graduate program. I wanted to be able to have a direct impact on the future direction of the Scheme. I was accepted into the program and moved to Geelong with my wife and our two-month-old son. I completed a number of rotations in Service Delivery and working on systems before finding my home in the NDIA’s Policy team as a Policy Officer. 

The tasks I get to work on in this role are challenging as well as interesting. There’s always something new to look forward to. I’ve had the opportunity to expand my understanding of the Scheme and disability sector and learn how legislation, government and policy fit into the mix. It’s always exciting when a piece I have worked on goes on to have positive impacts on the participants of the Scheme. 

I am immensely grateful to be in a position to see the Scheme grow towards a future in which people with disability are representative as well as included. They are both at the centre of, and leading, the change that Australia needs.

Alexandra Dunn

A young woman with long blonde hair

I joined the NDIA in 2020 as a graduate. I have been working within the Mainstream Interface and Royal Commission Branch since then. The Branch is responsible for representing the NDIA on NDIS mainstream service system interface policy, the new National Disability Strategy, the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, and Royal Commissions. My role is a Policy Officer within the team.

I grew up in a small town in Victoria/New South Wales (border towns). I have always loved learning and had a strong curiosity about the world around me. 

After finishing my high school, I went to university in Melbourne in 2013. After graduating in 2019 from Deakin University with a Bachelor of Health Sciences, I was accepted into the 2020 NDIA Graduate program. 

My life has taken me from a country town to Melbourne, Japan, Singapore and now, to Geelong. Looking back at all the crazy times living on campus and studying at Deakin, the challenges I overcame, the people I met, and the places I have travelled, I feel a sense of gratitude for the past and excitement about all the possibilities for my future in the public service and the NDIA. 

I love knowing that I am playing a part to improve the lives of people with disability in Australia. Contributing in any way to improving society for all people is what drew me to a career in government and social policy. Despite not working in a participant-facing capacity, keeping participants at the forefront of my mind in everything I do, reminds me of why I’m here.

Howsen Kinnunen

A young man with a bright shirt with dark hair, short beard and square glasses.

I am working as a Quality Assurance Officer for our National Contact Centre at the NDIA. My job is to audit emails and calls completed by our Call Centre. I get a sense of pride when I see the results of my work appear in the form of a weekly or monthly report. 

What I love most is the people I work with. The relationship you have with the team can make or break your experience with the job. 
I grew up in Adelaide. I graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Adelaide. After graduation, I applied for the NDIA Graduate Program in 2020 and fortunately was able to make it in. 

I’ve been lucky enough to have visited the United States twice in my life after working as a pizza delivery man and saving up a lot of money. Having a part-time job at the university really helped me realise my priorities. I have been a very introverted person and enjoyed playing video games a lot. I never felt like I’d fit into an office job or the public service. But, it was something that I simply fell into. I’ve made a lot of good friends along the way, both in and out of work. It’s been a 10 out of 10 experience that I would recommend. 

Diversity of skills in my team is appreciated. We have team members with a background in molecular science and others who have not completed a university degree, but have experience in customer service and contact centres.

This page current as of
5 November 2021