Pacific Connect Community members make connections in Fiji

I’ve just returned from Fiji where I was asked to co-facilitate training to 20 middle management leaders within HFC Bank, Suva and was also invited to speak at the Fijian Human Resources Institute (FHRI) Annual Convention. I was absolutely exhausted at the end of this (in a good way!) and I reflected on how I had gotten to this point on my flight home.

In November 2018 I was asked to attend the Pacific Connect Dialogue in Honiara where the dialogue pariticipants concentrated efforts on projects that were aligned to education within the Solomon Islands. This Dialogue was particularly successful in gaining funding for a project called ‘Every Building is a Classroom‘ and for which I am a part of the project reference group. For this project, we were able to devise a project around mapping all buildings located across the Solomon Islands and determining if they could be used for educational purposes outside of their normal business hours. It uses the idea of AirBnB for buildings to be used outside of their normal daily functions for educating the nation. This will assist Government with assessments on whether there is a need to build further infrastructure as the aim is to fully utilise the buildings already there.

Another project that a number of the dialogue participants are continuing to work on is around developing networks of businesswomen to provide upskilling, resources, support, coaching and mentoring for businesswomen across the Pacific. Women are more likely to be excluded from existing social networks that can help them advance their career. Dedicated women’s networks are an important opportunity for women to plan for business growth, by accessing resources available through an organised network. The aim here is to help develop these networks not just within each nation but across nations, so that women in the Pacific have more support. As the Hon Julie Bishop stated in the Women and Business in the Pacific Report (2018), “Gender equality means that women can fully engage in the economy through their work, operating a business and as an employer. It also means women are leaders in their workplaces, communities and governments. Across the Pacific, in the majority of nations, women are yet to reach that level of engagement. There is enormous untapped potential for greater economic growth and community leadership. Women should be encouraged and supported to engage in education and training so that they have the skills to embrace opportunities and meet challenges.”

The obvious next step was to attend the next two International Centre for Democratic Parnterships (ICDP) Pacific Connect Dialogues that were held in Brisbane around women entrepreneurs. The opportunity to be in a room with leaders from across the Pacific and Australia has been invaluable. I have managed to make connections and develop relationships across many of the Pacific nations. During these events I have been fortunate enough to extend invitations to others I know would benefit. In my role at James Cook University, I was often the connector between local business people and the university.

It was through this role that I was able to connect Kylie Ellwood, founder of Insight Collective Group with ICDP and she was invited to attend the Dialogue on Technology Enabling Inclusiveness held in Fiji. Another connector, like myself, Kylie was able to foster relationships with local businesses based in Suva, Fiji, and she is currently part of a project team collaborating on a great project from that dialogue – Mobile Me. The ‘MobileMe Project’ is a community project in partnership with the Fiji Disabled Peoples Federation that is organising a Street Level Map-a-thon to collect data within the Suva CBD to identify accessible places for Persons with a Disability. This is phase one of the project, with future phases exploring provision of an online services platform to empower job creation in the disability sector.

Associate Professor Anna Blackman, James Cook University, Australia

Associate Professor Anna Blackman, James Cook University, Australia


Dr Blackman is an experienced Associate Professor with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. Skilled in E-Learning, Career Development, Coaching, Data Analysis, and Research Design. She is a strong education professional with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) focused in Business Coaching from James Cook University. Dr Anna Blackman’s areas of expertise include business coaching, Human Resource Management, Business Management, Rural and Regional Leadership and using technology for innovative teaching techniques. She has published her work in journals, book chapters, case studies and presented at local, national and international conferences and forums.