1. Please tell us about your career journey – what inspired you to follow your passion?
It began at age 7 when my brother and I held our first performance – a magic show where we charged audience members five cents for a ticket. As I got older I discovered my love of singing and at age 14, I desperately wanted singing lessons. My friend was taking them and I asked her to teach me as well. She told me I shouldn’t bother because I wasn’t good enough, and I believed her. It wasn’t until year 11 that I summoned up the courage to audition for a part in the school musical and I got the lead role. I believe that children should be told that they CAN sing and be encouraged to be creative. Every child should be given the chance to participate in music and the creative arts because this can improve academic performance, greater participation in school life and better social skills.
2. What was the first “box” that you had to break out of to discover yourself?
I came from a migrant background and as a result often struggled to belong at school. This made me realise how important it was to be inclusive of everyone, and that everyone deserves to feel like their voice matters and that they can be part of something larger than themselves. Realising this helped me break out of this box of isolation and strive for a more inclusive community.
Through our innovative Wish List program people find friends, mentors, wellbeing, new skills, self-esteem, employment, partners, fridges, assistance with wills and more. It’s amazing to witness how we have helped people find their unique voice, not just their singing voice, but their meaning and purpose in life. Whether it be assisting new migrants connect to their community and services, long-term jobseekers gain employment or work experience or people with a disability or depression improve their self-esteem, or executives really understanding the true meaning of diversity, everyone feels a greater sense of connection and belonging.
3. What do you believe fundamentally makes people afraid to voice themselves?
When giving keynote speeches, I will often ask the audience ‘who has been told they can’t sing?’. I’ve found about 85% of people raise their hand. So many people have been silenced and aren’t reaching their full potential. People too often compare themselves to celebrities or worry that other people will judge them. It’s considered taboo by many people to sing, or even speak, in public, but it shouldn’t be – we’ve all been given a voice to express ourselves and tune in with others. Voice is the language of the heart.
4. Have you had any inspirational mentors throughout your life and through the creation of your charity? Who are they and why are they inspirational? How did you meet them?
Dame Elisabeth Murdoch was a friend, mentor and inspiration to me from the time I met her when she was 88! My group Pot-Pourri performed as the feature act at her 90th and I was fortunate enough to spend many very happy times with her one-on-one over many years where she would share her stories, insights and advice. She was a truly visionary social innovator and philanthropist and her legacy lives on.
She came to all my concerts and sat in the front row singing along. I’ve also had a number of male mentors who’ve been incredibly supportive to me, including the wonderful Hugh Morgan who challenges my thinking and understanding at many levels.
5. Do you believe that women in particular have their voices stifled?
Yes I believe women’s voices are often silenced, especially if they are strong leaders. I am an enterprising, passionate, resilient, courageous, determined woman and I think outside the box! I am not invisible.
Some men find that really confronting, though many are supportive. However, it’s other women that are most unsupportive of disruptive, strong, determined women. If someone is trying to bring me down, most of the time it will be a woman. And often, it’s another strong woman. Sometimes I am labelled as ‘pushy’, ‘relentless’, ‘persistent’ and so on. Perhaps it’s because they feel threatened and, in some cases, jealous. But would we say that about men? Wouldn’t they be called bold, fearless, change-makers? It’s time we developed a real sisterhood and hopefully the best girls’ education will help us to truly support one another and not cut down the tall poppies who speak out bravely and try to create positive change.
My goal is to change the world, one voice at a time. Women and girl’s voices are very important in this equation.
Tania de Jong AM has had over 10, 000+ views on her TEDTalk “How singing together changes the brain” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_HOBr8H9EM). Watch to be inspired by Creativity Australia, which is changing the world one voice at a time!
Visit Tania’s websites:
Thank you for your message. We'll be in touch as soon as possible!