NAIDOC 2022: Jahna Cedar OAM on Strengthening Her Indigenous Community

A successful woman who has put her teeth into the male-dominated mining industry, Jahna Cedar OAM is no stranger to challenging perceptions and breaking stereotypes. She has built a career spanning two decades in business and human resources management, governance and leadership, empowering women in business and her indigenous community.

This year, her efforts have been recognized by the State of Western Australia as the winner of the WA State Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership. She will receive her award at the Women & Leadership Australia (WLA) Online Symposium today, Friday 8th July.

“As a multidimensional First Nations descendant of the Nyiyaparli people, I am humbled to be awarded [this] Leadership Award,” said Jahna.

“It is a testament to my resilient ancestors on whose shoulders I stand and whose legacy I continue to advocate. Indigenous women experience multiple layers of discrimination and cross-border barriers, as do women from other marginalized groups. As a society, we need to look at inclusive and collaborative ways to increase the participation of women – especially Indigenous women – in the labor market.”

For Jahna, a working mother herself, this is an issue that strikes a deep chord.

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“It was important to me to find a way to juggle work and still be a mother,” she explained. “So, after six years at BHP at the start of my career, I entered HR consulting, where I could set my own hours and still spend time with my family.”

Ultimately, her passion for corporate and cultural governance led her to Gumala Aboriginal Corporation, where she served as a director for two years. She is now Executive Director Indigenous Advisory, Policy, Research and Evaluation at IPS Management Consultants.

In 2012, Jahna was the youngest person to be elected to the West Australian International Women’s Day Hall of Fame. Five years later, in 2017 she also received the Telstra Businesswoman Awards WA – For Purpose and Social Enterprise Winner.

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Her portfolio remains significant as a board member of the Curtin University Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee, International Center for Radio Astronomy Research, Australian Honey Ventures, the Advisory Committee of the Institute of Community Directors and Niapaili Aboriginal Corporation.

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She explained: “I will definitely continue to do a lot of board work! But it is important for me to work on building capacity and capacity within the community.”

A proud Nyiyaparli/Yindjibarndi woman from the Pilbara region of Western Australia, with family ties to the Gija people of the Kimberleys, Jahna remains a staunch advocate for equal rights and reconciliation for indigenous peoples. In 2020 she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the WA Indigenous community.

She also represented Indigenous Australia at the United Nations on three occasions.

“I have always had a close relationship with family, culture and community. As a child, I would support my grandmother in community volunteering and it has pushed me to champion social justice and community-specific change,” she said.

In this NAIDOC Week 2022, she strongly reiterates the theme of ‘get up, get up, show up’ in her message as a business leader to Australian business.

“There is a lot of lip service, but we need to stop talking and see tangible action. We need to challenge procurement and unconscious biases and fight harmful misconceptions. For example, being an Aboriginal company doesn’t mean you are less professional than any other company,” Jahna said.

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Photo by Ben Yew. Source: delivered

She also has important tips for companies looking to improve gender diversity in the workplace:

“COVID has shown us how to be flexible and extend this to help women enter the labor market. With options such as working from home or changing working hours (some people may have to work nights), we can see companies starting to set and meet specific gender diversity targets.

“Women often struggle to raise their hands for a seat at the table, but it’s about owning our space, being confident and finding allies and champions to support us. As women leaders, we need to model what we want to see in society.”

READ MORE: Ladies, Take a Seat: Adjusting Hiring Processes to Improve Gender Diversity

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