Women leading and influencing

Steering Committee


The WLI Steering Committee is comprised of influential leaders from the Pacific region and Australia, and representatives from DFAT.  Steering Committee members have an important ongoing role in supporting and promoting the program, providing ongoing contact and connection with alumni on their return home, and fostering productive linkages between the Pacific and Australia.

The WLI Steering Committee meets twice per year, with at least one meeting to be held in person (in the Pacific or Australia) each year if possible.  Key responsibilities of Steering Committee members include:

  • Provide ongoing advice on the strategic direction of the program.
  • Take an active interest in the direction and performance of the program.
  • Represent and promote the program and connect with program activities/ alumni.
  • Contribute insights, experience, networks and knowledge to program discussions, plans and activities, including to reintegration support activities for returning/ returned alumni.
  • Flag any potential risks in program activities (and suggest risk mitigation strategies as appropriate).
  • Assist in connecting the program and its participants/ alumni with women and men change agents in the Pacific and in Australia.
  • Advocate for women’s developmental leadership in the region.

Current WLI Steering Committee members are listed below. It is anticipated that these members will remain in place for the duration of the current program phase (to 30 June 2026).

Adimaimalaga Tafuna'i (Chair)
Executive Director, Samoa Women in Business Development Incorporated

Adi Tafuna'i is a co-founder and the Executive Director of Women in Business Development Incorporated (WIBDI), an organisation dedicated to strengthening village economies in Samoa in ways that honour indigenous tradition, use traditional and modern technology, and promote fair trade.

Adi’s leadership over the past 20 years has seen WIBDI revive Samoa’s traditional practices of fine-mat weaving, transforming it into a legitimate income-generating activity for many women. Adi was also instrumental in bringing virgin coconut oil pressing to Samoa and in facilitating trade with global and regional partners, including The Body Shop, Ethique, All Good Organics, C1Espresso, and Chef Robert Oliver and the Pacific Island Food Revolution. Adi was one of the initiators of the Pacific Organic Ethical Trade community and has assisted countless Pacific communities and organisations to become organically certified and participate in world markets.

Hon. Kessy Sawang MP
Member of Parliament, Papua New Guinea

Kessy Sawang is a politician and former senior civil servant from Papua New Guinea (PNG). Kessy was first elected to the 11th National Parliament in the 2022 National General Election for the Rai Coast Open seat as a member of political party People First. She was subsequently appointed as the Vice Minister for International Trade and Investment in the Marape Government. Prior to her election in August 2022, PNG had been one of only three countries globally without a woman in its National parliament.

Kessy has an undergraduate degree in Commerce from the University of Papua New Guinea and is currently studying a Masters in Economic & Public Policy, under the UPNG-ANU Partnership Program. After beginning her career as an accountant, Kessy quickly climbed the ranks of the PNG public service and would go on to hold several high-profile positions, including Deputy Commissioner of Customs, Head of Secretariat for the PNG Taxation Review and Principal Advisor to the then Minister for Inter-Government Relations.

Jessica Bulger
CEO, Australian Indigenous Governance Institute

Jess Bulger is Wiradjuri from Tumut and Brungle in country New South Wales. She grew up in a big proud Aboriginal family, connected to culture, involved in her community witnessing effective community governance and leadership through her Elders.

Jess is currently the CEO of the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute (AIGI). AIGI is an independent, Indigenous-led centre for governance knowledge and excellence connecting Indigenous Australians to world-class governance practice, resources and professional development to meet their self-determined governance needs.

Jess is passionate about Indigenous governance, leadership and capacity building, and seeing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities thrive. Jess began her career as a teacher and has worked in education, employment and the not-for-profit sector for the past 15 years, including with the successful internship program CareerTrackers.

Jess also as Co-Chair of the board of Outward Bound Australia and External Co-Chair of the GHD Reconciliation Action Plan Advisory Committee.

Nanette Tutua
Entrepreneur and Indigenous Business Advocate Solomon Islands

Nanette Tutua has over 30 years’ experience managing businesses in Solomon Islands across a diverse range of sectors such as agriculture, food industries, insurance, sustainable timber processing, retail and transport. She has represented the business community of Solomon Islands regionally and internationally, including at the World Indigenous Business Forum in Canada in 2016 and as the Vice Chair of the Indigenous Business Council of Solomon Islands and the Association of Indigenous Solomon Islands Businesses.

Nanette also has also served in several key public sector roles, including in the Ministry of Agriculture and Prime Minister’s Office. She was also on the Board of the Public Service Commission for eight years before resigning to seek political office. She contested the seat of South Choiseul twice (at the 2019 National General Election and subsequent bye-election in 2021) but was unsuccessful.

Nanette is an Australia Awards alumna, having graduated with a Masters in Business Administration from University of the South Pacific and a Bachelor of Applied Science (Food and Nutrition) from the University of Western Sydney in 1995. She is a founding member of the Solomon Islands – Australia Scholarship Alumni Association’s Executive Steering Group.

Teretia Tokam
Coordinator, Kiribati Women and Children Support Centre

Teretia Tokam is a leading advocate for gender equality and ending violence against women and children in Kiribati, and the Coordinator of the Kiribati Women and Children Support Centre (KWCSC).

She played a key role in the development of the Te Rau N Te Mwenga (Family Peace) Act 2014. In July 2021, under her leadership KWCSC opened its second branch on Kiritimati Island – the second most populated island after South Tarawa.

Teretia graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of the South Pacific. Following her degree, she worked for the Attorney-General's office in Tarawa, becoming the Kiribati country focal point for the Regional Rights Resource Team of the Pacific. She then joined the then-Ministry of Internal and Social Affairs, as the National Coordinator on Ending Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

Teretia is an Australia Awards alumna, having completed a Master of Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development at the Australian National University. She is also a member of the Pacific Women Lead Governing Board.

Rhona McPhee
Director, Global Education and Scholarships Section, DFAT

Rhona McPhee began her career as an environmental scientist working on water quality, river health, and marine environments.

Her transition to the aid and development sector came about when she spotted an ad for an Australian volunteer with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), in the Federated States of Micronesia. This led to a career working with the former AusAID and now the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), focusing on Pacific development issues.

Prior to commencing her current role as the Director of the Global Education and Scholarships Section, Rhona held several senior roles and postings with DFAT, including two years as Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner for Tonga, where she headed up Australia’s development program, including oversight and growth of a strong gender program led by excellent local partners.

Rhona holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Environmental Science with Honours from The University of Queensland and a Master of Science (Forest Management/Forest Resources Management) from the Australian National University.

Jane Bastin-Sikimeti
Director, Pacific Gender Section, Office of the Pacific, DFAT

Jane Bastin-Sikimeti is Director, Pacific Gender Section, at Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). She has held a range of Pacific and human development positions with DFAT covering Pacific labour mobility, education and health.

Overseas, she has served in Solomon Islands and Tonga. Prior to joining DFAT her work included Australian community and regional development, including with Australian Indigenous communities. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the Australian National University, majoring in Women’s Studies and Anthropology.