What drives me is my passion for the empowerment of African women, and the need to see that every African woman in Australia is treated as a person who is part of the Australian system. I would like to quote Madeleine Albright: ‘There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.’ This emphasises my belief in the importance of assisting and encouraging women to learn to help themselves.
Juliana Nkrumah is the Statewide Coordinator of the NSW Police Force Multicultural Community Liaison Officer Program, assisting and supporting local area commands to develop strategies for their work with local multicultural communities, and educating these communities to understand and work with the police. Preceding this, she was the assistant manager of the Refugee and Network Support Team at Centrelink.
Juliana is deeply committed to her community initiatives, particularly action against female genital mutilation (FGM) and the work of the African Women’s Association to empower African women. In 1994, after a meeting with the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA), she was asked to establish the NSW education program against FGM. She worked with the Ethnic Affairs Commission of NSW and the NSW Department of Health to design a program which identified practising communities, recruited and trained women from these communities to oppose the custom, worked with health services to support women’s physical and psychosocial health, and studied ways to prevent the re-visitation of the practice on the next generation. In 2005 Juliana conceived and helped found African Women Australia (AWAU) which represents, trains and empowers African women and their communities to engage in decision-making in the wider Australian community, including all levels of government, in relation to relevant Australian social policy.
Born in Salt Pond, Ghana, Juliana attended a local primary school and a Methodist central school. After doing council exams, she qualified for the first high school of her choice, Wesley Girls High School, Ghana. The school followed an English curriculum, and Juliana feels that by surrounding her with high-achieving girls, encouraging leadership in every student, and promoting the motto ‘Live Pure, Speak True, Right Wrongs, Follow the King’, Wesley GHS shaped her character and her career. She started her tertiary education at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, and continued at the University of Zimbabwe, finishing with a Masters in Sociology and Social Anthropology. Living and working in Zimbabwe from 1983 to 1988 her social consciousness developed as she witnessed at first hand the black-white divide and its consequences. She believes it was her British education which helped her to straddle the social divide, and gave her the courage and ability to constantly articulate her criticisms of the society around her. These outspoken comments made her unpopular with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. When her husband travelled to Australia to study, Juliana followed him. They remained because of the degenerating political situation at home.
Juliana’s awareness and experience of gender and social inequality naturally led her into the women’s movement in Australia. She has been an advocate since 1989, especially through her work for the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women. She was one of the Eminent Australians invited to review the Australian Citizenship test, served as a board member at the Institute for Cultural Diversity, was four times Chair of the Australian National Committee on Refugee Women, and is a sitting member of the Nepean/Blacktown Regional Advisory Council of the Community Relations Commission of NSW.
Juliana has participated extensively and energetically in the Australian community in many areas including the NSW Police Commissioner’s Committee on Responsive Policing, the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA) Women’s Steering Committee, and the National Steering Committee of the Living in Harmony Partnership Project implemented by the Family Court of Australia. She was the first women’s representative of the African Communities Council of NSW and the originator of the African Workers Network in Sydney.
Among the honours conferred on Juliana is her inclusion in the 2013 Australia Day Honours List, awarded Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) for her significant service to the community, particularly the welfare of women and refugees. In 2014 the University of Western Sydney presented her with their Woman of the West Award for her contribution to the development of the region.
Juliana would like to see more young women, African and others, engage with the continuing issue of women’s equality, which she emphasises will result from education and empowerment. However, she believes that much has been achieved already, that many African women have become active in the Australian community, speaking out for themselves rather than being represented by others, and assisting with the empowerment of other women. It is obvious from the breadth and the depth of Juliana Nkrumah’s work and passions that she has played a significant role in these advances.