Women in leadership: what it means to be elected as the first female leader in the Pacific

Student lecture


H.E. President Hilda C. Heine


Hedley Bull Theatre 2, Hedley Bull Centre (130), Garran Road, ANU


Tuesday, 16 May, 2017 - 14:10 to 15:00


H.E. President Hilda C. Heine is the first female president of any independent Pacific island nation and one of only three women serving in the Marshallese parliament. She is perfectly placed to offer an alternate path for her people who are living with the effects of climate change.

Join Dr Heine as she discusses the threat to the Marshallese of becoming climate change refugees, the reality of losing her islands and how to rise above the challenges and focus on the opportunities that can be harnessed from her position.

She will highlight the importance of women at the forefront of leadership roles in politics and their wider communities and discuss more intimately her influence as a role model to her daughter, who is an accomplished poet and climate change activist.

The Marshall Islands are located in the Central Pacific and made up of 1,156 individual islands and islets that form part of Micronesia.

Low elevation, extreme floods and persistent droughts have left the Marshall Islands and its people at the mercy of rising sea levels and under threat of losing their homes. Due to nuclear tests during the Cold War period, parts of the Marshall Islands are uninhabitable to this day.

About the speaker

H.E. President Hilda C. Heine was elected in January 2016 and is currently serving as the eighth President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Dr Heine is the first woman to ever hold the presidency of the Marshall Islands, the first female president of any Micronesian country as well as one of only three women in the Marshallese parliament. She is also the first Marshallese citizen to earn a doctorate degree.

Prior to assuming office Dr Heine served as the Minister of Education from 2012-2015 Previously, Dr Heine was Program Director, Pacific Comprehensive Assistance Centre, Pacific Resources for Education and Learning in Honolulu. Heine has also been involved with the Pacific Islands Climate Change Education Partnership, the Leadership Pacific Advisory Board, the Commission on Education in Micronesia, and the Human Resources in Health Task Force. She is a climate change and gender issues advocate and the founder of the women's rights group Women United Together Marshall Islands.

Dr Heine completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Oregon and graduated with a Masters degree from the University of Hawaii. She has co-authored a number of publications and reports amongst them A Marshallese Islands perspective, Tree of Opportunity: re-thinking Pacific education, Intergenerational programs and practice in the Marshall Islands: Implications for cultural preservation, and Culturally responsive schools for Micronesian immigrant students.

About the ST Lee Lecture on Asia and the Pacific

The ST Lee Lecture series was established following an endowment from Dr Seng Tee Lee (ST Lee) of the Lee Foundation in Singapore. It supports an annual lecture that provides the opportunity for a distinguished figure from the Asia Pacific to speak on developments or trends in the region.


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