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Leadership programs

Cultivating high-impact leaders in Southeast Asia

We work with Australian and Southeast Asian partners to build capacity in the region through specialised training programs for civil society, the education sector and the public service.

From its strategic position within The University of Sydney, the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre and its members are well-positioned to share leadership expertise and knowledge with partners in the region.

Our focus is on developing leadership skills specific to each group, ranging from project management and organisational governance for leaders of non-government organisations to influencing policy.

Leadership programs

In January 2018 the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre hosted 20 leaders from Indonesia for a two-week course to strengthen the leadership and management skills of key disability advocacy organisations in the country.

The course was designed to give participants the practical skills they need to help drive change in Indonesia. 

“The course will help me build the capacity of our board members and members of the organisation. Then our organisation can show the public and the government our ability to be involved in the development of our city,”

- Umi Salamah, Chair of the People with Disability Organisation in the Kediri district of East Java.

During the course, participants engaged in activities designed to develop practical skills in public speaking, engaging with government and project management.

They also visited the Australian Museum, Government House, the Museum of Contemporary Art,  and attended the GIO Oz Day 10K Wheelchair Race on Australia Day

The group completed the program with a course in Jakarta in March where they presented on a project that they had designed while in Sydney and had each implemented within their own organisations. 

Since starting the DFAT-funded organisational leadership and management practices course, SSEAC have trained 41 leaders from Disabled People’s Organisations and 51 women leaders.

In January 2017 the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre hosted 26 women from across Indonesia for a two-week course to empower Indonesian women leaders. Funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and managed by Australia Awards in Indonesia, the course was aimed at equipping participants with real-world management, communication and organisational skills that they can use everyday in their leadership roles.

As the women themselves attested, this knowledge is urgently needed to address the problems at home – from violence against women, to a lack of access to reproductive health care, to the prevalence of childhood marriage, and more.

“In our quest to support women and fight for women’s rights back home, we are facing a lot of challenges, which is why outside support is so important for us. This course is a great opportunity to learn from others and [it] gives me a lot of hope.”

- Yanti, division coordinator with Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence against Women.

“We need a strong women’s movement fighting for our rights, and for human rights in general, as that is the only way to increase democracy at home. Hopefully, I can take the knowledge I gain here and the spirit of the course home with me and improve the way we work on a daily basis”.  

- Nani, Muslim women rights organisation in South Sulawesi

The program also provided the participants with a unique opportunity to learn as a group and be inspired by each other.

During the course, the participants engaged in activities designed to develop practical skills in public speaking, engaging with government, project management, and more. They also visited non-government organisations focusing on female empowerment including Asian Women at Work, Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association and the National Council of Women of New South Wales.

At the end of the two weeks the participants put theory into practice by pitching projects to donors, international NGOs, as well as staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the University of Sydney.

In January 2016, 24 emerging leaders from disabled people’s organisations across Indonesia visited Sydney for a two-week course on organisational leadership and management practice. Funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through its Australia Awards program, the initiative is a vital investment in Indonesia’s disability sector, and provided a life-changing experience for participants, both personally and professionally.

Guided conversations with inspirational leaders such as Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum, former Dean of Sydney Law School and the first visually impaired person appointed to a full professorship in Australia, had tremendous impact on participants’ perceptions of success.

“These two weeks have been full of so much knowledge and so many experiences that have equipped our organisations with the ability to empower and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.”

- Edy Supriyanto SEHATI, Central Java

The course also showcased best practice on accessibility in Australia, which inspired participants to advocate for similar services in Indonesia. Participants undertook site visits to the City of Sydney and the Sydney Cricket Ground, hosted by Sport Matters. These visits provided examples of disability advocacy and accessibility in Australia and enabled participants to better understand partnership models, interact with staff and form useful connections, while visiting a large, accessible sports stadium.

The group embraced these opportunities, particularly the 10-kilometre wheelchair road race held on Australia Day. Participants met with and exchanged experiences (and wheelchairs) with several Paralympians, one of whom led the group on a tour of Sydney’s tourist attractions.

“Today was an extraordinary day, learning directly from these people and seeing what sport can do.”

- Zulhamka Julianto Kadir BILiC, West Java

Participants applied their learning through a return-to-work project. Topics ranged from developing more effective administrative processes to improving social media so that communities can share their stories and better advocate for disability rights. These projects help participants to bring about positive change in their communities.

The Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s first leadership training initiative saw twenty-five emerging female leaders from Indonesia engage in a two-week course from 15 – 28 March 2015.

Aimed at improving participants’ leadership, management and organisational skills, the course was designed to assist in strengthening partner NGOs of the Australian Government’s Empowering Indonesian Women for Poverty Reduction (MAMPU) Program funded by through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In addition to learning about the course themes, participants were required to plan and implement a short project. Project topics ranged from monitoring leadership in public institutions to increasing the capacity of field staff and supporting the regeneration of female leadership.

“The training is incredible, it is extremely important for the NGO female leadership cadre in Indonesia. Everyone has the opportunity to be a leader – a leader that must be able to hear, and not just be heard.”

- Juliana

Participants from Aisyiyah – Dahniar Makkaraka Sada, Hajar Nur and Islamiyatur Rakhmah – were one of a number of outstanding groups. Since returning to work, their short course project has prompted them to implement a more participatory management style and create a more progressive empowerment model for their members. Aisyiyah have since developed a women’s empowerment guide to be distributed across Indonesia that focuses on building community knowledge and skills in healthcare and financial management.

During the course, participants attended the Sydney Southeast Asia centre’s inaugural annual forum ‘Women and Leadership from Southeast Asia to Australia’. Lydia Santosa, Jane Brock and Angelica Casado, three female Australian leaders of Southeast Asian background, discussed their views of leadership, the challenges they have faced and what their connection to Southeast Asia means for their leadership experience.