Tuakana: Lissa Chong

Lissa is not someone who I (Matariki) have known for very long, as opposed to a lot of the tuakana featured, she is a relatively new addition to my tuakanacoven. Up until very recently, Lissa and I were working quite closely together and I must congratulate her for putting up with my sass (must be admitted that she has a fair amount of it herself!) and has joked in the past that there is a reason why people thought I was her Senior Adviser instead of the other way around. Working with Lissa was a pleasure mainly because she listens she has a heart of gold and she cares (which is why she runs our Monday mindfulness classes at work and was awarded the 'Workforce Lifeforce' award at staff awards last Christmas). Her calm approach to sticky situations has made me rethink my absolute dread of conflict as she's shown me that by simply talking and listening to people can create positive change. Thanks for putting up with me Lissa!

Out of Blue by Hush

Out of Blue by Hush

In five words, describe your role in the sector.

Cross-cultural explorer and communicator

What is it about the sector that you love?

The invitation to explore the richness of our cultural histories and deepen our understanding of our heritage. I love the space this creates for dialogue and reflection on our place in the world as individuals and communities. There are so many entry points – through art, stories, exhibitions and artifacts - to consider who we are, what is our culture, how am I different or the same as you, and what does culture means to us today?

The sector celebrates our humanity and also challenges us to do better. It offers different perspectives, challenges narratives and allows for connections that might not otherwise be made. The better we understand and accept our human past, with all its successes and horrors, the more likely we are to consider how we are engaging in our world today – as individuals, as communities, and as people in a living environment - and hopefully we collectively will make wise choices for ourselves and generations to come.

What have been some challenges in your career?

Finding a clear career path, particularly one that has meaning and relevance!

I’ve worked in a number of different roles and environments, and have only recently recognized the cross-cultural nature of most of my work. There’s a lot that can get lost in translation, especially when you are working with people in relation to their cultural identity, heritage and their place in the world.

As a Chinese-Jewish woman, I have been walking in cross-cultural environments all my life, but it’s taken me a long time to be comfortable in my own skin and to find my own voice.

In a sector with so many people I respect, where everyone seems to know more than I do, I’ve also found it challenging to stand up and share my own perspective (even when most people are supportive and excited to engage in the conversation).

What challenges can you see moving forward?

Inclusive and accessible story-telling as we become a more diverse society. And particularly for Aotearoa, engaging intelligently and respectfully with the question “What does a Treaty-based multi-cultural society look like, and what is my place within that?”

What do you think people in the early stages of their careers can offer the sector?

Your unique perspective and your passion. You know your own story and no one else has experienced life quite the way you have. Recognise your cultural biases, and the complexities come with it, and don’t be afraid to share authentically from that perspective, in whatever role you have in the sector. There needs to be space for everyone in this sector, so bring your voice and be willing to engage (respectfully of course) in the ongoing dialogue.

What is your spirit animal?

The spider, possibly a katipo - I enjoy weaving together different perspectives and understandings into new intricate patterns, and spiders have a sassy side to the