Cohort 7 completes first leadership intensive through Womens’ Developmental Leadership Program

Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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28 Australia Awards scholars from the Pacific have now successfully completed their first of two residential leadership ‘intensives’ through the 2024 Women’s Developmental Leadership Program.

Travelling to Canberra and Tharwa in February 2024, the leaders were introduced to each other and a range of activities, resources and concepts designed to help them test and expand their leadership limits and build deep connections, while learning from prominent Pacific and Australian leaders and experts.  

The emerging leaders conquered their fears by abseiling down cliffs and climbing mountains, slept under the stars of the Australian outback, and came face to face with Ambassadors and Members of Parliament at Australia's Parliament House.  

[Image: 2024 WDLP participants (from left to right) Sarah Kiniafa, Tuimala Aleamotua, Melanie Raire, Marika Moala and Lily Chan in Tharwa, ACT]

Breaking records and meeting Australia’s Gender Equality Ambassador at Outward Bound

After touching down in Canberra Airport, participants travelled to Outward Bound Australia in Tharwa where they were greeted with a welcome to country and smoking ceremony by Ngunnawal Elder, Serena Williams, and briefed on their intensive week ahead.  

Participants were introduced to the process and leadership of change, self-care and reflective practice, ontological leadership, and Pacific notions of leadership among other lessons and concepts.  

Moving into the field, the emerging leaders took part in a range of outdoor team and confidence-building activities, including a problem-solving expedition and abseiling down a cliff-face.  

According to Outward Bound facilitators, the 28 women participants became the only group of leaders in Outward Bound history in which every member completed their abseiling task.  

"Attending the intensive reinforced that taking one step can lead to one giant leap,” said Papua New Guinean participant Connie Battiwale, “My giant leap was going beyond my limits and facing my fears during the activities at the intensive.”

[Pictured: WDLP participant Pamela Mirr completing abseiling task at Outward Bound Australia]

Participants hiked the Booroomba Rocks, slept in the Australian outback under the stars of Namadgi National Park, and laughed endlessly with each other, forming life-long connections.  

They were also greeted in the field by Australian Ambassador for Gender Equality Ms Stephanie Copus Campbell AM who described the meeting as an opportunity to combine her “two great passions – women's leadership and Australian nature".  

Ms Copus Cambell reflected, “I loved spending time with Australia Awards scholars from the Pacific undertaking the 2024 WLI Women’s Developmental Leadership Program [and am] wishing these change-makers all the best!"

[Pictured: WDLP participants (from left to right) Lily Chan, Vanessa Teutao, Tuimala Aleamotua, Connie Batiwale and Mary Bagita-Vangana with Australian Ambassador for Gender Equality Ms Stephanie Copus Campbell AM (centre, back)]

Meeting Australian Members of Parliament

The week-long intensive concluded with a celebration dinner and special visit to Parliament House during which participants came up close and personal with Australian Members of Parliament, including Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon. Pat Conroy.  

Minister Conroy said it was, “Such a pleasure (and a great way to end a Parliamentary sitting fortnight!) to meet this impressive group and welcome them to Parliament House."

[Pictured: The Hon. Pat Conroy MP (left) with WDLP participants (from left to right) Sarah Kiniafa, Marika Moala, Albertine Ayius, Faith Pwea, Pamela Mirr, Dulcie Mausen, Vanessa Teutao and Joanna Siarivita]

Next steps for WDLP participants

During the first of two leadership intensives, each emerging leader was supported to clarify a ‘real world’ development issue or topic they hope to positively impact and influence on their return home to the Pacific.

Over the next 18 months on the Program, participants will work towards these developmental leadership goals and increase their readiness and networks to step into leadership roles in their communities, workplaces and countries.

According to the program’s first participant from the Republic of Marshall Islands, Rachel Bigler, the leadership intensive experience was “both great and challenging in so many ways”.

She explained, “I was able to develop myself professionally, build a new network of strong Pacific Island women leaders [and] go out of my comfort zone to learn new skills.  

“I would like to thank WLI for this amazing opportunity and hope more Marshallese women are able to participate in this training so that they may grow from it, just as I have.”

[Pictured: 2024 WDLP Papua New Guinean participants (from left to right) Albertine Ayius, Priscillar Napoleon, Pamela Mirr, Rebecca Emori, Sharon Koitut, Dulcie Mausen, Melanie Raire, Mary Bagita-Vangana, Henao Rakatani, Sarah Kiniafa, Rose Alphonse and Joanne Siarivita]


After their intensive 18 months on the Women’s Developmental Leadership Program, alumni stay part of the WLI network and are supported to build skills, networks and take on leadership for positive development in the Pacific.

Professional development opportunities, leadership coaching, and access to dedicated counselling continue to be available to alumni when they return home. WLI Alumni Representatives and alumni events are currently being rolled out across the Pacific.

Alumni of WLI leadership programs (including LeadershipConnect) can take part in networking opportunities, attend events, and have a chance to access leadership funding.

Learn more about the Women's Developmental Leadership Program