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Voyage to Leadership Pacific Women’s Symposium 2024: Gratitude to Our Inspiring Presenters

March 13, 2024
Voyage to Leadership Symposium IWD 2024: Keynote and Guest Speakers

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our distinguished keynote and guest speakers of the Voyage to Leadership Symposium in celebration of International Women’s Day 2024. Your profound insights and impassioned presentations have left an indelible mark and your unwavering commitment to empowering leaders and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion has inspired us all. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and guiding us on our continued journey towards inclusive and impactful leadership.

Keynote Speaker

Sina Wendt

Chair, Centre for Pacific Languages

Governor, Board of Governors RNZ

Council Member, Auckland University of Technology

Sina Wendt, an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, is a trailblazer in governance with over 25 years of experience in commercial, public, and not-for-profit sectors.

As a Pacific woman of Samoan, German, and English descent, she excels in nurturing leadership and strategic capabilities across various organizations and communities.

Committed to Te Ao Māori and equitable outcomes for Māori and Pasifika peoples, Sina’s profound impact was evident during her tenure as CEO of Leadership New Zealand and the National Pacific Radio Trust. A founding trustee of the Pacific Music Awards Trust and a member of the Auckland University of Technology Council, she brings extensive governance experience to diverse boards. Sina, now thriving as an international consultant, frequently travels between New Zealand and Australia.

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Her work focuses on diversity, inclusion, cultural intelligence, and media. This role accentuates her adaptability and influence, establishing her as a prominent leader in the ever-evolving global landscape.

Guest Speakers

MP Liesl Tesch

Liesl Tesch

Empowering Young Women in Politics: Mastering Effective Communication and Public Speaking

Liesl Tesch is an Australian wheelchair basketball player, sailor, and politician. She is a Labor Party member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, representing Gosford since 2017.

A pioneer in that she was the first woman in the world to play professional wheelchair basketball in Europe, Tesch has also coached and worked to develop wheelchair basketball in a number of nations in Europe, Africa and the Americas. Liesl is an inspiration and has represented Australia proudly at seven Paralympic Games, bringing home two Gold medals.

A recipient of an AM in the 2014 Australia Day Honours for co-founding the development organisation Sport Matters, and amongst other things “the promotion and facilitation of sport for people with disabilities”. As a former teacher, Liesl moved into politics to advocate for better educational systems and her local community.

Hajeh Maha Abdo

Maha Abdo

Gratitude Heart Fit: Encouraging a Heart Growth Mindset

Maha Abdo OAM, CEO of Muslim Women Australia (MWA) and a Human rights leader, exemplifies faith-centered leadership with over four decades of dedicated service. Her guidance has transformed MWA into a pivotal organization for advocacy, policy advice, and support in domestic violence for diverse communities.

A mentor to numerous leaders, Maha’s wisdom and commitment have been instrumental in fostering social cohesion, particularly in challenging times. Her efforts in providing safety and assurance to new arrivals and advising on policy at various levels reflect her deep commitment to human rights and equality.

Honoured with the Order of Australia and a finalist for Australian of the Year, Maha’s impact resonates far beyond her immediate community.

MP Charishma Kaliyanda

Charishma Kaliyanda

Empowering Young Women in Politics – Mastering Effective Communication and Public Speaking

Charishma Kaliyanda is an Australian politician who assumed office in 2023 as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, representing Liverpool. She also serves as a Councillor on the City of Liverpool council.

Born in India and migrated to Australia at the age of 4, along with her family and has resided in Liverpool since. Prior to embarking on a career in politics, she focused on community engagement and workforce development that ranged to supporting engineers to mental health services to young people with Headspace. Kaliyanda is also a registered Occupational Therapist holding a Masters.

As a woman of colour, Charishma paves the way in the political domain as a fierce advocate for women, inclusion, diversity and education. Also a long time supporter of Pacific led community initiatives of note our inaugural Pasifika Women’s in Trade Program last year.

Alisi Tutuila

Alisi Tutuila

Cultural and Faith-Led Leadership: Paving the Way to Empowerment and Influence

Alisi, a proud Indigenous (Worimi) and Tongan is a proactive, multi-talented CEO at Aspire People. With 14 years in Indigenous Affairs, she champions change for her people.

As Chairperson of the Aboriginal Housing Company for 13 years, Alisi’s team ensured a sustainable social inclusion outcome. After 18 months of approvals and planning, development began in March 2019, set to finish in October 2023.

Alisi also owns Aspire People, offering workforce management and is Chairperson of Yenu Allowah, focusing on innovative Early Learning modules.

Laura Keil Hall

Laura Keil-Hall

Thriving in an AI Digital Age: Nurturing Aspiring Female Leaders

Laura Keil Hall is a distinguished figure in New Zealand’s Pacific business landscape, combining her extensive experience in banking and her significant role in government to uplift the Pacific community.

As a founding member of the Samoa Business Network in 2011, she has played a crucial role in elevating Samoan-owned enterprises through strategic guidance and networking.

Her initiative, the Pacific Business Hub, established in 2019, is a testament to her dedication, offering a supportive environment for Pacific Island entrepreneurs to thrive and innovate. Operating from two locations in Auckland, the hub provides essential business support and collaborative co-working spaces.

Laura’s contributions have solidified her status as a key proponent of Pacific business development, earning her the MFAT Pacific Enterprise Award in 2022.

Professor Jioji Ravulo

Professor Jioji Ravulo

Cultural and Faith-Led Leadership: Paving the Way to Empowerment and Influence

Professor Jioji Ravulo, Chair of Social Work and Policy Studies at the University of Sydney, specializes in health, youth, diversity, and educational leadership. With over 70 publications, he champions inclusive social work and educational research.

Jioji’s work emphasizes collaborative approaches, community-based initiatives, and the integration of indigenous perspectives. Additionally, as an Adjunct Professor at the University of the South Pacific, he contributes to regional social work education, policy, and research.

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His commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident across all his endeavors.

Selena Afeaki

Selena Afeaki

Gratitude Heart Fit: Encouraging a Heart Growth Mindset

Selena Afeaki, CEO of Crunch Fitness, is a prominent figure in the global fitness industry, known for her groundbreaking leadership.

Her career, which began with an entrepreneurial flair in childhood, has been marked by remarkable achievements. Starting as a Business Analyst at Air New Zealand, she rose to a senior Vice President role at California Fitness Centres, managing significant marketing budgets and human resources across multiple countries.

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Post-2005, Selena moved to Australia, co-founding V Club and then expanding to Crunch Gyms in Sydney and Melbourne. She also played a key role in launching UFC Gym and Hard Candy Fitness internationally.

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Her journey reflects a blend of strategic acumen, passion and purpose with faith.

Lesley Ieremia

Lesley Ieremia

Thriving in an AI Digital Age: Nurturing Aspiring Female Leaders
Lesley Ieremia, Director of Loyalty Operations for Accor in the Pacific, embodies the multifaceted roles of a wife, mother, sister, and a successful hospitality professional.

With 25 years in the industry, including 20 at IHG, she has risen through the ranks despite an initial career diversion from nursing. Lesley’s hospitality roots trace back to family gatherings in Fiji infusing her work with warmth and authenticity. Known for empowering her teams, she finds her greatest joy in family and faces challenges in mental health and wellbeing head-on.

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Lesley lives by the words of Brene Brown: “I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.”
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