Jacqui Katona

As part of our monthly segment, Our Community Leaders - Great Australian Leaders in Focus which features the thoughts of some of Australia's great leaders, this month we feature Jacqui Katona.

Jacqui Katona

Jacqui Katona was the CEO of the Lumbu Indigenous Community Foundation, and is a noted community campaigner. A member of the Djok clan, located within Kakadu National Park, Jacqui was at the forefront of the highly celebrated campaign against the Jabiluka uranium mine. She is the recipient of the Australian Conservation Foundation's 1997 Peter Rawlinson Environmental Award and the 1999 Goldman Environmental Prize.

Our Community: Who do you consider to be the three great leaders of our time?

Jacqui Katona:
  1. Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Cath Walker) - prominent Aboriginal author and activist - for her sharp, forthright and relentless advocacy for the recognition of citizenship and land rights of Aboriginal people in Australia.
  2. Aung San Suu Kyi - non-violent resistance to repressive militarist regimes - for her powerful courage to stand up for the freedom of the Burmese people.
  3. Nelson Mandela - anti-apartheid campaigner - for his endurance to keep the hope of his people alive and strength to overcome repression and create a new future for his country.

Our Community: What are the three attributes you would consider to be essential to a leader?

Jacqui Katona:
  1. Discipline and commitment: because you must pay attention to deadlines and know your stuff!
  2. Giving others the inspiration to empower themselves as active participants: because we can all make a valuable contribution.
  3. Celebrating our achievements as they happen: because we need to value the hard work which brings about positive action.

Our Community: What are the greatest barriers to new leaders emerging in Australia?

Jacqui Katona:
  1. Lack of access to education - lack of exposure to different ideas and cultural backgrounds; increased competition for learning resources; lack of flexibility in learning modes; discouragement from exploring boundaries of issues and new ideas; and commercial imperatives overriding debate.
  2. Media control - political imperatives overriding debate; and poor examples of leadership promoted by media.

Our Community: What advice would you give to a potential leader to take them to the next stage?

Jacqui Katona:

Be sure of yourself and remember that you have lots to learn and lots to offer.

Our Community: Nature/nurture - are leaders born or bred?

Jacqui Katona:

Leaders are created through their experience. While some people may demonstrate leadership qualities, to have the courage to lead, you have to have the courage to admit that you still have to learn. Leaders are communicators and have to hone their skills over time. Leaders have to pass the baton and create opportunities for others to lead also.

Our Community: What do you consider to be the three top leadership issues facing the nation?

Jacqui Katona:
  • Health and education - Lack of planning and provision of resources by governments
  • Settlement of Australia - Lack of recognition that Aboriginal people are prevented from enjoying the rights and benefits of land which is our heritage
  • Resource management - there has been little investment in sustainable strategies for future generations

Our Community: What insights have you gained personally on your leadership journey and how have they impacted on your style of leadership?

Jacqui Katona:
  1. You have to be prepared to take a stand even though it may be unpopular: This impacted on me by making me think carefully about the stand I'm taking, why and how I can be effective. Integrity is an important quality of leadership which others take as an example.
  2. Collaboration is important: It is important to seek the views of others but true collaboration doesn't happen overnight - only through hard work. Commitment comes through ownership of the process which requires give and take.
  3. Listening, reflection and evaluation: Creating time to evaluate allows input from others about objectives achieved. Valuing of achievements must include recognition of commitment and effort.

Our Community: Who have been your own leadership mentors and how did they assist in developing your own leadership style?

Jacqui Katona:

My mother, who taught me perseverance, and that finding the solutions within, not waiting for someone else to do it for you, was worthwhile.

Published July 2006