Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa delivers powerful keynote at leadership for inclusive development conference

The Institute for Human Security of Social Change (the Institute) welcomed Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa to La Trobe University as their Keynote Speaker for a leading international development conference on leadership for inclusive development on June 12 and 13.

Co-hosted by the Institute and the Research for Development Impact (RDI) Network, the conference saw over 300 delegates from across Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Philippines, Malawi, Tonga and the region exploring what leadership is and what it does from diverse perspectives – gender, ability, youth – and many others.

La Trobe Vice Chancellor John Dewar formally opened the conference and introduced Hon. Mata’afa, who presented a powerful keynote about the importance of courageous leadership in the face of crises affecting our region such as climate change.  She spoke about her own journey as a leader and the characteristics of good leadership in the Pacific, including its deep cultural roots, working collectively and acting for the common good. She called for a more respectful and mature dialogue with Australia and New Zealand which recognises Pacific sovereignty and capability.  You can watch her speech here.


Hon Fiame Mata’afa was also interviewed by ABC Foreign Affairs reporter Stephen Dziedzic about the Australian Government’s Pacific Step Up Program. In the interview, Hon Mata’afa discusses how China’s Belt and Road Initiative is creating a new dynamic for the global picture, she also argues that Australia has sometimes been patronising towards the Pacific. Listen at the Pacific Beat website.

Srilatha Batiwala’s keynote spoke about the challenges of enacting feminist leadership – that despite valiant efforts, patriarchal, exclusionary, hierarchical societies still produce patriarchal, exclusionary, hierarchical organisations. She noted that for feminist or social justice organisations, these inequalities can become submerged or hidden, in what is called the “deep structure” or “deep culture” of organisations. She explored the concept of “power under” as another challenge for feminist leaders and organisations. Srilatha’s vision for transformative feminist leadership is, rather, about mobilizing inner power and the power within others to become co-architects, co-visionaries, and co-creators of open systems. Watch her speech here.

Dan Honig’s keynote drew on the data from his recent book Navigation by Judgment to discuss how donor agencies often favour top down control over bottom up management and, in doing so, undermine local leadership and reduce the flexibility and adaptability necessary for success in unpredictable environments. He spoke about new forms of accountability centred on dialogue, developing organisational systems which encourage risk taking and about shifting decision rights to local actors/Watch the video here.

The closing panel explored how the rise of identity politics around the world from different perspectives shapes - and is shaped by - different kinds of leadership. In particular, the panel considered: Under what conditions does identity politics produce progressive social change? Under what conditions does it lead to fragmentation and an undermining of the common good? What forms of leadership are required to forge intersectional alliances, enhance solidarity and ensure no-one is left behind? And what does this mean for activists, development agencies and universities? View the closing panel here.

The Institute received great feedback from attendees, especially about our wonderful keynote speakers – Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Srilatha Batliwala and Dan Honig:

“The keynotes were fantastic and tied the theme together well. Speakers and panels were more diverse than other development focused conferences that I had attended. The overall informal atmosphere also easily facilitated conversations and networking.”

“The content of the conference overall was excellent and very timely for our sector. This was mainly carried by the keynote speakers who delivered multiple challenging/confronting messages and calls to action.”

For more information about the conference theme, program, speakers and links to videos of the keynote speakers and photos from the conference, please visit the RDI Network website.

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