Dre Vorst-Parkes (TC 2003) shares his career journey and advice as well as what it was like living in his 'own X-Mansion'.
1. When did you come to Trinity and what first attracted you to the place?
I first started at Trinity in February 2003 when I started my Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne. I had absolutely no preconception of what residential colleges like Trinity were about. So, when I applied to Unimelb I remember simply reading the websites of the big colleges to get a feel for them and what they had to offer. After this rudimentary research, I selected Trinity as my number one choice. I was attracted to Trinity because it seemed the most socially progressive; first to go co-ed, early adopter of multiculturalism and being the only to actively seek Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Also, the Bulpadock looked like a great focal point.
2. What were the highlights of living at Trinity?
At Trinity I felt like I had finally arrived at my own X-Mansion (home of the X-Men) or Hogwarts. Which is to say, as an academically strong student I had felt different from the majority of people I went to school with. At Trinity I was surrounded by other academically minded students, we had our own base, colours and importantly each other. It wasn’t easy moving from the other end of the country with no friends, family and community. At Trinity I won the trifecta on arrival. That camaraderie continues well past college, some of my best mates are other alumni, and there is always an esprit de corps when you meet another Trinitarian out in the wide world.
When I needed someone to talk to or needed some direction, I always felt I could rely on our Padres (shout out to Peter French and Andreas Loewe), tutors, mentors others in the pastoral care team.
I also really relished the opportunities to grow as a person and try new things. I used to do cartoons for the Beergarden Quarterly, after four years of trying I finally got into the seconds rowing squad, and we started a club to organise an annual Aboriginal cultural exchange trip to the NT. I might not draw any more, but I definitely learned a lot from running a club and I row to this day.
3. What did you study at university and how has it shaped what you’re doing today?
I started with a BA majoring in Politics and Cultural Studies and pulled this into an Honours in Politics. After a year with the then Australian Customs Service (now Australian Border Force) I decided to come back for the first cohort of the Melbourne Model Juris Doctor (JD).
I was always interested in this amorphous idea of ‘politics’ and as an Gurindji and Woolwonga person who is also a second generation migrant, cultural studies was a great fit. I took a long journey to work out that what I really enjoy is public policy in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, European Union or the broader Australia spaces.
4. You’ve worked as both a lawyer and in policy for both NT and NSW territory and state governments respectively. Are you able to share briefly about the different roles you’ve had since finishing university?
I started at the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service between degrees. While undertaking the JD, I did a vacation clerkship with the Northern Territory Department of Justice (DOJ). This helped a lot to secure a graduate clerkship the next year. During my clerkship I undertook three-month rotations in Legal Policy, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and Solicitor for the Northern Territory (Litigation and Commercial divisions). After my clerkship I did a stint in the Aboriginal Land Division (ALD).
During my time with DOJ, particularly ALD and NT Consumer Affairs, I realised something very important, most lawyers operate within the narrow confines of written law. If you get into policy you have far greater agency to advocate for legal and policy change, guide the executive to design better statute and policy or design policy that applies statute better than the status quo.
This led ultimately to a side step to policy positions, first with the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and then to the NSW Department of Family and Community Services – Aboriginal Outcomes Team.
5. What are some tips or advice you would give current students as they look to enter the workforce?
6. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?