Mentorship helps Dorothy Jolly increase community access to education in PNG

Wednesday, September 1, 2021
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Australia Awards alumna, Dorothy Jolly, believes the professional and community development opportunities that she took up through the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) have helped hone her leadership skills.

While on the program, Dorothy was mentored by a leader in the Australian education sector, attended and delivered a speech at the 2018 Australia International Education Conference, and steered a COVID-19 leadership project that connected three rural Papua New Guinean (PNG) elementary schools to clean water.

Now back home in PNG, the Master of Information Technology Networks graduate and Manager of Server and Storage for the National Department of Education is continuing to empower her community.

Mentoring with Rachel leads Dorothy to speak at education conference

As part of her involvement in the 2018 WLI Leadership and Mentoring program, Dorothy was matched with mentor, Rachel Colaso, who is a passionate advocate and leader with over 25 years’ experience in Australian and international education.

“Rachel really spent time and listened to what I was going through and the challenges I was encountering,” Dorothy says.

“One of the areas I told her I wanted improvement in was public speaking and she made it possible for me to get out there on stage in front of people and present as one of the scholarship students through Australia Awards at the AIEC [Australia International Education Conference] in Sydney.”

Dorothy not only delivered a speech at the 2018 AIEC but was also a member of a panel discussion that Rachel chaired on the topic: Capacity building in workforce development – the power of innovative education models and how they can impact communities, industry and countries.

During the three-day conference, Dorothy attended sessions and networking events and was introduced by Rachel to many different people who could all play an important role in Dorothy’s professional development.

“This was one of the amazing experiences I had and will never forget,” Dorothy adds.

The WLI Leadership and Mentoring program also provided a rich experience for mentor Rachel who “was honoured to be involved in the program and work with Dorothy”.

“I learnt a lot about leadership in the Pacific context from Dorothy,” Rachel says.

“Her passion and drive were infectious and I am very proud of all that she has achieved.”

[Pictured: Dorothy Jolly and her mentor, Rachel Colaso]

Increasing community awareness of education and employment opportunities

Dorothy says attending the conference also helped her gain a deeper understanding of how Australian universities are trying to offer high-quality education to international students like her, so she can try to encourage more peers to take up available opportunities.

“I would like as many applicants as possible to get on the Australia Awards Scholarships Program back home,” Dorothy says.

To aid this sharing of information, Dorothy set up a Facebook page for prospective Papua New Guinean higher education students and alumni within her community.  

“I try to provide information on job opportunities, scholarships and other important educational information for my local community to access,” says Dorothy.

“I have also tried to get them on the Australian Labour Mobility Program and have written to the local Member [of Parliament] for his support and endorsement.”

Applying leadership learnings to real community projects

Since returning home, Dorothy has been busy supporting community health and communication projects on the ground in PNG.

In 2019, Dorothy managed the ICT (Information Communication Technology) District Rollout in Tambul-Nebilyer District of Western Highlands Province.

The project was funded through the National Department of Education, and Dorothy’s team set up a satellite dish, connected computers, and trained the District Education Managers, inspectors and teachers on how to access and navigate the new online services.

Then, in 2021, Dorothy led a group of WLI alumni to establish a sustainable rainwater catchment system in three rural elementary schools within each member’s local community through the WLI Leadership for COVID-19 Response and Recovery initiative.

“This project was a success and as I speak, the school children and the surrounding communities are accessing clean water from this project,” says Dorothy.

For her mentorship opportunity with Rachel and the WLI COVID-19 Leadership project that she was supported to deliver in her community, Dorothy expresses her deep gratitude.

“I would like to thank my mentor Rachel Colaso, DFAT and WLI for the support in mentoring and coaching women leaders in the Pacific,” she says.

“Not only that, but also for coming up with great initiatives such as the COVID-19 projects where we get to put into practice our management and leadership skills to do impact projects within our local communities.”


Dorothy’s attendance at the Australia International Education Conference (AIEC) was funded and supported by the WLI Workplace Internships program, which Leadership and Mentoring Program participants are eligible to participate in.

Find out more about WLI workplace internships