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Australia Awards Women's Leadership Initiative

About us

The Australia Awards Women’s Leadership Initiative is an Australian Government program working to increase the number of Pacific women who hold positions of influence in all sectors and spheres of society.

The program invests AU$5.4 million over five years (2017-2022) to support Australia Awards Scholarship recipients studying at Australian tertiary institutions to develop their leadership skills and capabilities. It connects emerging leaders from our region with leaders in Australia.

The initiative is a targeted activity under the Australia Awards Linkages Framework — a coordinated approach to help Australia Awards scholars establish personal and professional links in Australia. The initiative supports participants — selected from Australia Awards scholars and alumni — to fulfil their leadership potential and drive big ideas and reforms in their communities. In its initial five-year phase, the initiative will target Australia Awards scholars and alumni from the Pacific.

The objectives of the Women’s Leadership Initiative are that:

  • Female Australia Awards alumni use their leadership skills to contribute to sustainable development outcomes for the Pacific.
  • Female and male Australia Awards alumni are actively engaged in networks and coalitions that seek to achieve change in their own countries.
  • Female Australia Awards alumni are strengthening cooperation between Pacific countries and Australia.

The program has responded to COVID-19 with online delivery and a dedicated focus on the issues presented by the pandemic.

Australia Awards Women's leadership initiative logo.
Group photo of the participants from the Leadership and mentoring 2019 cohort.

Leadership and mentoring 2019 cohort. Credit: DFAT.

Steering Committee

The Initiative is governed by a Steering Committee comprising representatives from the Pacific and Australia, including:

  • Hon. Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tu’uau, MP, Samoa (Co-Chair)
  • Assistant Secretary, Scholarships and Alumni Branch, DFAT (Co-Chair)
  • Jean Martin, Violence Prevention Manager, Oil Search Limited, Papua New Guinea
  • Teretia Tokam, Coordinator, Kiribati Women and Children Support Centre, Kiribati
  • Amanda McIntyre, Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Australia
  • Australia Awards scholar representative
  • DFAT representative from the Office of the Pacific.

Program Implementation Team

Cardno Emerging Markets is the implementing contractor for the Women’s Leadership Initiative. Under direction from DFAT, the Cardno program team develops and implements a program of activities informed by experience with approaches to women’s developmental leadership.

The Australian National University’s Department of Pacific Affairs is the research and learning partner for the Women’s Leadership initiative. The Department of Pacific Affairs provides research and learning capacity, supports M&E processes, gives access to academic networks, and provides platforms to host online events and disseminate knowledge products.

Activities and events

The Women’s Leadership Initiative will engage with women and men studying in Australia on Australia Awards Scholarships. The program will offer a suite of skills development, mentoring and other resources to build participants’ confidence and capability to exercise developmental leadership. It will create links between emerging women leaders and influential women in Australia and the Pacific, and help participants build coalitions and networks to support and sustain their leadership efforts once they return home.

The Women’s Leadership Initiative will be delivered in three ‘tiers’, allowing scholars to apply to engage at a level that best suits their individual interests, availability and commitment to developing their leadership potential.

Women's Leadership Initiative program structure

chart outlining Women's Leadership Initiative program structure.

Learning and networking events (Tier 1)

Learning and networking events will be open to all current male and female Australia Awards scholars from the Pacific. Through face-to-face and web-based learning, participants will explore key issues and challenges in our region, including barriers to gender equality, and their role as leaders in tackling those issues.

Leadership and mentoring program (Tier 2)

Tier 2 activities will be tailored for a smaller number of participants with a demonstrated capacity for exercising developmental leadership. Participants will undertake intensives and coaching to develop their confidence and leadership capabilities, and foster a sense of collective identity and purpose. Participants will also be supported to work on a ‘real life’ leadership issue or project. This will enable them to practice and apply their leadership skills and tools. Each participant will be matched with an influential Australian woman mentor, to build lasting personal connections and networks.

Workplace internships (Tier 3)

In addition to mentoring under Tier 2, workplace internships in Australian (or Pacific) organisations will be offered to a highly select group of Tier 2 participants. This will strengthen linkages between Australia and the Pacific, through mutual respect, knowledge and understanding. At least five workplace internships are expected to be offered each year. During COVID, participants and alumnae are also working on selected leadership projects to support COVID recovery in the region.

Information and how to apply

For further information on the program and how to apply see the Australia Awards — Women's Leadership Initiative.


For further information about the Women’s Leadership Initiative, contact:

Independent review

An independent strategic review was undertaken of the program in mid-2020, responding to key questions relating to relevance, effectiveness and program improvements. For the full report and one-page snapshot see:

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