60 Seconds With Jacqueline Wong

Founder, The Swim Project

This month, we’re chatting with Jacqueline Wong, the founder of The Swim Project, a social enterprise with the vision to empower, educate and support young adults from multicultural backgrounds to learn to swim and increase their awareness of water safety. Jacqueline is also the Founder and VIC lead of the Chinese Language & Culture Group (CLCG) programme across Westpac Group within the Cultural Diversity Leadership space. You can support The Swim Project and meet seven-time paralympic medallist and world record holder Matt Levy at the launch on 2 March!

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
Investing my creativity and energy into the launch of my business, The Swim Project, which aims to empower, educate and support young adults from diverse backgrounds to learn to swim and increase awareness around water safety. We’ve got a launch coming up with …

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have? (Or if you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?)
The ability to speak all the languages in the world so that no one would ever feel left out for not understanding English.

What talent would you most like to possess?
The ability to play the guitar well and sing because music has a lovely way of bringing people together, regardless of age, culture, occupation or gender.

What is the best part of your day? (Or best part of your job?)
Morning coffee from Little Temperance and being part of a high-performance team who works hard to find the best solutions for our customers and there are also a lot of laughs throughout the day!

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
Surround yourself with people who inspire you, challenge you, and support you to achieve your dreams. And then pursue those dreams with a relentless passion.

What’s your favourite word and why?
My favourite German word is Fingerspitzengefühl – literally “fingertip-feeling”. It means to have an intuitive empathy with things and people.

Can you describe a time where you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant and refugee background? (Or, are there any disadvantages of being a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?)
I am New Zealand-born Chinese and speak fluent German. I recall applying for a visa extension in Germany, and the woman at the Berlin embassy directed all her questions in German to my friend even though I could understand and respond to everything she said. She approved my request and then told me ‘You need to find a job related to your qualifications (which was International Business and German). You can’t just get a job as a hairdresser or a Manager at a Chinese restaurant!’ I was definitely taken aback by her immediate judgement but was able to laugh it off later.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant refugee/ background? (Or, can you think of a time when this was an advantage?)
I have been shaped by a combination of my upbringing in New Zealand, my rich Chinese heritage, and some of the best years of my life living in Berlin. I have always been empowered to aim high.  I love that my experiences are very unique and there are countless lessons learned so this has definitely helped me to develop resilience and to have courage to speak out when needed. I want to encourage other women to bring their complete selves to work and for employers to cultivate an environment which celebrates diversity instead of suppressing it. Women have so much to contribute, we need to foster a community which allows them to shine in confidence and authenticity.

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
That every single individual is wonderfully unique and valued and we need to celebrate our gifts, learn from our mistakes, and collectively draw inspiration from each other to make this a better world for the next generation

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
That every person has a home and knows they belong and their home is free from conflict, violence or depression.