Teresa Lifuka Drecala interns with leading Pacific climate justice advocates

Friday, February 23, 2024
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Tuvaluan sustainable development activist and WLI participant Teresa Lifuka Drecala is ready to bring new learnings, insights and networks back to her country after interning with an organisation driving social and environmental justice in Australia and around the region.

Through the Women’s Developmental Leadership Program, Teresa undertook a nine-week placement with the Edmund Rice Centre (ERC) for Justice and Community Education in Sydney.

She joined ERC to exchange learnings with Australia’s First Nations, better navigate Australian work culture, and build her Australia-based NGO networks to support sustainable development in Tuvalu.

Finding the right internship organisation

When seeking out internship opportunities, Teresa worked closely with the WLI team to find a well-aligned organisation addressing areas she is focused on, including climate change, indigenous sovereignty and self-determination.

She chose the ERC given their focus on these areas and her prior experience with the organisation.

In her previous role as the youngest appointed Director of the Tuvalu Association of NGOs (TANGO), Teresa worked alongside the Pacific Calling Partnership (PCP) – an arm of ERC focused on climate action and justice, indigenous sovereignty, and the rights of refugees in Australia.

While on Award in Australia, Teresa earned her Master of Law and Development from The University of Melbourne.

Attending the Muruu waaruu Seminar Series

During the internship, Teresa was re-acquainted with the PCP team and its Director, who would go on to secure an invitation for Teresa to attend the Murru waaruu (On Track) Seminar Series exploring a policy framework facilitating the economic empowerment of First Nations Australians.

Here, she met a number of the key thought leaders within the First Nations context, including Vice President First Nations at The Australian National University (ANU), Professor Peter Yu, and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission, June Oscar.

In the seminar discussions, Teresa says she witnessed the passion amongst the indigenous NGOs and communities that were represented and share similar climate experiences to those of Tuvalu.

“It was empowering to hear from the speakers of the economic initiatives they are carrying out in their own indigenous communities,” she explains.

Building public speaking and live facilitation skills

Teresa also had the opportunity to develop her public speaking and advocacy skills as a presenter at the Climate Action Network (CANA) Conference in Brisbane, and as facilitator of the Pacific Climate Advocacy webinar on Pacific Civil Society Leading on Climate: Kioa and Beyond.

Teresa presented at two conference sessions focused on Pacific wayfinding and the impacts of climate change on people living with disabilities in Tuvalu.

“Through this exposure I was able to expand my network, learn from other indigenous and Pacific Islanders and groups who are fighting against the impacts of climate change and for the justice we deserve and need,” she explains.

Teresa was also “fortunate” to undergo condensed media training with Rebecca Gredley, Senior Media Advisor for the Climate Media Centre, which strengthened her skills as a co-facilitator for the ERC webinar, Pacific Civil Society Leading on Climate: Kioa and Beyond.

“This was the first webinar I have co-facilitated and I look forward to similar opportunities in the future.” Teresa adds.

[Pictured: Teresa facilitating webinar on Pacific civil society leading on climate]

Learning from The Australia Institute in Canberra

As part of the internship, Teresa took on a week-long placement with The Australia Institute in Canberra where she learned from the Climate Change Team and met a number of Parliamentarians.

“I had the opportunity to expand my networks, ask questions regarding the carrying out of proper research and writing, and was able to film a short video on the importance of stopping fossil fuels.”

Teresa was also given the chance to write a yet-to-be released article for The Australia Institute’s ‘Off the Charts’ column.

Bringing internship benefits back to Tuvalu

According to Teresa, her internship opportunity has provided “connections, expansion of networks and windows of opportunities [and] practical hands on experience” to apply learnings to her own Tuvaluan context.

Now home in Tuvalu after completing her on-Award studies, Teresa adds, “I am truly appreciative of this program and the WLI and ERC-PCP team for making this happen for me."


Women’s Developmental Leadership Program participants and alumni like Teresa have the opportunity to access tailored professional development and internship opportunities to build leadership and professional skills and forge lasting partnerships and networks to support them into the future. Participants and alumni apply to access these opportunities through the WLI Leaders Hub.

Learn more about professional development and internship opportunities