On the Couch with Tania de Jong

Tania-de-Jong-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Tania de Jong?
Many people describe me as a force of nature. I am someone who has a lot of balls in the air all the time. I am curious, courageous and very creative. I’m a soprano and love singing, music, theatre, my beloved husband and our dog Billy. I’m a serial entrepreneur that has started six businesses and four charities. I am deeply committed to creating lasting social change through my endeavors. I don’t sleep nearly enough!

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I would probably take more time to just ‘be’ and relax and smell the roses… and sleep a little more. And I’d love to do more yoga and meditate every day. And go out to lunch!

Who inspires you and why?
My mother Eva de Jong-Duldig is inspirational. A wonderful Jewish mother who despite escaping the Holocaust and surviving many other challenges is loving, creative and a very independent thinker. I feel like I’ve picked up some of her resilience and creativity as well as my grandmother’s. My artist grandmother Slawa invented the foldable umbrella in Vienna in 1929 – a pioneering feat for a woman at that time. Her incredible strategic foresight and determination is what saved her and my grandfather Karl Duldig (a renowned sculptor) and Mum’s lives.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Everything I do is to make a difference. My mission in life is to change the world, one voice at a time. That is why I started four charities which are The Song Room (since 1999) which brings arts and creative learning to disadvantaged schools around the nation. I work with disadvantaged communities through Creativity Australia’s ‘With One Voice’ choir social inclusion programs (since 2008). My husband Peter Hunt and I recently co-founded Mind Medicine Australia whose objective is for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapies to play a major role in improving the treatments available for Australians suffering from mental illness. And I founded Umbrella Productions and Events in 2021. This is a registered charity committed to telling stories that matter through the innovative use of music, theatre and other artforms. Driftwood – The Musical is our first production. We have many more projects in mind and seek the support of the community to give voice to these projects.

This is a favourite quote: I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”Rabindranath Tagore (attributed)

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I love Byron Bay and the surrounding area. There is a diverse, creative, healing and spiritual community there and it’s a place where I feel really at home. I’ve had many memorable holidays there and I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends. During lockdown in 2020 my husband and I went there for a holiday for 2 weeks and ended up being there for 5 months, moving from place to place because every time we kept thinking we’d come back home to Melbourne the lockdown extended!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I might take them to the Great Ocean Road and Mornington Peninsula for their beauty and beaches and lovely cafes and restaurants. Of course, if there’s a great show on, I’d invite them along and maybe we’d go to some of my favourite restaurants like Shakahari in Carlton or South Melbourne or brunch at Our Kitchen Table in Malvern East.

What are you currently reading?
Whole Brain Living by Jill Bolte Taylor (who also wrote My Stroke of Insight), The Diamond Cutter, Psychedelic Mysteries of the Feminine and more… I dip in and out of books. And, of course, re-reading my mother’s incredible memoir DRIFTWOOD.

What are you currently listening to?
Songs from Driftwood – The Musical, the show I am currently playing the role of my grandmother in… and producing. Anthony Barnhill has composed some exquisite and moving original songs and Jane Bodie, Anthony and myself have contributed lyrics. I find myself continuing humming them which is a good sign!

Happiness is?
Being with my husband and dog and family and friends sharing a delicious, healthy meal, swimming in the ocean, reading a great book, walking in the forest and watching birds. Being at peace.

What does the future hold for you?
Seeing Mind Medicine Australia’s vision to heal suffering from mental illness and addiction come to fruition in Australia. Touring Driftwood – The Musical around Australia and seeing productions emerge around the world, as well as the potential of a feature film version of Driftwood. Spending more time performing, presenting keynote speeches, creating, writing and maybe even a book – I’ve had publishers approach me for over a decade to write a book and I have not had the time. And having some more time for holidays and being in my happy place.

Tania stars as Slawa in the world premiere season of Driftwood – The Musical at the Alexander Theatre – The Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts, Monash University, Clayton (13 – 14 May) and Chapel off Chapel, Prahran (18 – 28 May). For more information, visit: www.driftwoodthemusical.com.au and www.taniadejong.com.au for details.

Image: Tania de Jong (supplied)