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From Gold Coast school girl to international diplomat

​Former Gold Coast schoolgirl, Emily Pugin, is now a diplomat in Vienna

​A lot can happen in 10 years.

A decade ago, Emily Pugin had just finished Year 12 as school captain at Nerang State High School, juggling study with her leadership responsibilities, full extra-curricular schedule and part-time job at Kmart. Fast forward to today and Emily is an Australian diplomat working for the United Nations and living in Vienna.

Emily attributes her success to the committed teachers at her local state high school.

"Nerang High taught me life skills, gave me lifelong friends and provided a solid foundation for me to pursue further studies," Emily said.

"The teachers at Nerang High significantly shaped my learning experiences, and my desire to achieve more and constantly push the boundaries.

"They gave so much of their time to students and did not expect anything in return – it wasn't about the pay cheque, you could see they cared deeply about students' futures."

 In fact, it was one of Emily's English teachers that suggested she should become a diplomat.

"I was never entirely sure exactly what career path I wanted to take – I knew that I enjoyed a good challenge, helping others and giving back to my community," Emily said.

"To be perfectly honest, I didn't know what a diplomat was but it planted the seed for where I am today.

"My teachers always went the extra mile. I can still remember my legal studies teacher, Mrs (Margaret) Harburg, preparing us for mooting and model UN competitions — she coached us out-of-hours, bought us snacks from her own pocket, and drove us to the competition in her spare time.

At school Emily was involved in a wide range of extra-curricular activities including debating, public speaking, mooting, model UN competitions, the Gold Coast City Junior Council, youth parliament and writing for a local newspaper.

After finishing Year 12, Emily was awarded a collegiate leadership scholarship to study Law and International Relations at Bond University. From there, Emily moved to Canberra to work at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before being posted to Vienna where she has a range of multilateral and bilateral responsibilities to advance Australia's interests. Her primary responsibility is managing Australia's engagement with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) where she negotiates international drugs policy. She also represents Australia at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which covers a range of global security issues.

"I am where I am because I had teachers at Nerang High that believed in me, supported me and went the extra mile – and for that I will always be truly grateful."

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0) ( )
Last updated
30 April 2019