Women leading and influencing



LeadershipConnect ‘gave me a new way of seeing things’

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

When the opportunity to participate in the Women’s Leadership Initiative’s (WLI) LeadershipConnect program arose, Jamin Kuson saw it as a good chance to build his leadership skills, knowledge and networks.  

What the Papua New Guinean (PNG) IT professional and Australia Awards alumnus did not realise at the time was that the experience would have a profound effect on him personally and professionally.

Through the six-month online program which brings together the most popular content, guest speakers and activities from WLI’s prestigious Leadership & Mentoring Program, Jamin gained not only a deeper understanding of leadership in the Pacific, but also the barriers women face in their pursuit of it.  

Coming from a society in which decision-making is typically driven by men, Jamin noticed a shift in his attitudes during his time on LeadershipConnect, including towards his own behaviours and how they can contribute to or hinder gender equality efforts. 

His wife also started to notice huge positive changes in him, which he attributes to taking part in the program.

“Papua New Guinean men can be a little aggressive and quite emotional … I have to start taking account of myself and I look at my partner and my boys and I need to start changing the way I see things and how I treat them.

“That is the biggest part of what I took from this program and journey … It gave me a new way of seeing things and I don’t want to go back to what I was before,” Jamin says.

Making change in his own sphere of influence has led to a focus on respectful communication, more equal treatment of men and women, and encouraging more men to do the same.

For Jamin (pictured below, far right), this means ensuring women colleagues have the same opportunities as men to take on tasks, supporting people to resolve relational conflicts calmly and with respect, and encouraging more men take part in LeadershipConnect.

“It would be good to attract more males into the program. We need to support our women leaders and learn,” Jamin says.

Fellow LeadershipConnect participant Adrian Poka’waqa Winnie, also from PNG, reflects that it wasn’t until he returned home and started a new role that the lessons learned through the program could be cemented. 

“It was an eye-opener to hear of the women’s stories about prejudices and discrimination. But coming back home was even more so of an eye-opener. I was able to contextualise it to the reality of how things are here back home as well as the disparities between Port Moresby and say for a young woman or girl or mother in a remote village,” Adrian says.

Having worked for many years in social inclusion, and now in a new role focused on encouraging women to participate in the political process in PNG, Adrian is more conscious of the barriers women face. He is now “striving to address [these barriers] in small ways at home, work and within my sphere of influence”.

In this vein, Adrian recently invited his niece, who works with rural women in coffee research in Eastern Highlands, to share her perspective on women in agriculture and the cash crop industry.

“She is a strong woman in science and just needed to be given the opportunity and platform to share her knowledge ... I hadn’t connected to all the stuff I learned from … LeadershipConnect then, but it is all coming out now,” Adrian explains.

Adrian (pictured below, left) also shares how grateful he is to have had the chance to develop the soft skills, like active listening, needed for effective leadership, and sustainable practices such as self-care and mindfulness – of which he is now a strong advocate – through the program.

Adrian adds, “My previous working roles both in PNG and the Pacific have blessed me with the opportunity to meet women leaders from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific …  However, I have not been fully attuned to the subtleties of their individual and collective issues … The WLI program challenged me to be a champion for these causes.”

Click here to register for LeadershipConnect 2021 online program.

Men and women Australia Awards scholars from the Pacific Islands, and Pacific alumni who graduated between 2018 and 2021, are invited to register.