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Jenna Hawes, Republic of Korea and India, 2018

Jenna Hawes says her time in the Republic of Korea and India gave her experiences that were instrumental in building her career in international development.

A Wiradjuri woman who grew up in Muloobinba (Newcastle) in New South Wales, on the lands of the Awabakal people, today Jenna works for Ninti One, an Indigenous-owned professional services company that builds opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders through research, innovation and engagement.

Jenna says her time in India and the Republic of Korea through two NCP mobility projects opened her eyes in important ways.

"I think both trips broadened my understanding of the Indo-Pacific and helped to contextualise what I was studying in my Bachelor of Developmental Studies at the University of Newcastle," she says.

"In Korea it was practical learning about disaster relief and building climate resilience in infrastructure, a highlight being a youth workshop on green infrastructure for climate resilience on Jeju Island.

"And in India, I think it was much more experiential, so that I came back with a better understanding of the Indian culture and economy and its relevance in the region and worldwide.

A women standing in a door way.
Jenna says her NCP mobility project in India gave her a better understanding of the Indian culture and economy and its relevance in the region and worldwide. Credit Jenna Hawes

"The big benefit for me was being able to link study to the life experiences I was observing during my travel, and more generally being more engaged and open to people and opportunities when they arise."

And her NCP experience didn't end when she returned home. Jenna says one of the most valuable aspects of the program is the ongoing interaction she has with a diverse cohort of Australians through the NCP alumni program.

"I have made some great friends through the program and had incredible opportunities to connect with other alumni and attend conferences and programs that I would otherwise not have had access to, including events focused on international affairs," she says.

"This is all invaluable in my current role and in a general sense, it keeps me tapped into the region."

Jenna's current role is the international development project manager at Ninti One. She says that while most of Ninti's work is within Australia, she is part of a small international development team working on projects overseas.

"We work primarily with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) managing contractors to increase First Nations' participation in various Australian government aid programs, primarily in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Southeast Asia," she says.

Jenna is deeply invested in ensuring that the cultural knowledge held by traditional owners both here in Australia and across the Indo-Pacific is understood and valued within business and government.

"Inclusion is a fundamental goal in what we do, and while the Indo-Pacific is complex and layered, it is vital that through all the challenges nations may face – natural disasters, the fallout from climate change – we have built-in a respect for Indigenous knowledges and cultural understandings," she says.

"We organise ways of showcasing Indigenous communities' capacity for contribution on an international scale," she says.

Two people standing out the front of Korean temple.
Jenna gained practical experience in the Republic of Korea on disaster relief and building climate resilient infrastructure. Credit Jenna Hawes

Recently the team hosted a visit from Timor-Leste around the topic of clean energy and included First Nations owned organisations in the clean energy space to present their work in addition to providing cultural learning experiences for the delegation by Indigenous owned and operated businesses.

"The breadth of the projects we work on keeps me excited and engaged and the fact that we can make change by being innovative in the space of Indigenous inclusion is important," Jenna says.

"I think it's a long journey to make a difference, but slowly and surely, we are."

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