Who are you and how did you come to be at WAGEC?
I am Kai, I chose my own name about ten years ago and I chose Kai because it means ‘ocean’ in Hawaiian and ‘food’ in Maori and they are my two favourite things in the world.
I consider myself to be a queer, feminist who is driven by a strong sense of social justice. I wear a reminder ring on my pinkie finger that says: “the internal engine”. It’s taken from an Eve Ensler quote:
"An activist is someone who cannot help but fight for something. That person is not usually motivated by a need for power or money or fame, but in fact is driven slightly mad by some injustice, some cruelty, some unfairness, so much so that he or she is compelled by some internal moral engine to act to make it better.”
I was drawn to WAGEC by its new branding. WAGEC’s brand is a symbol of its purpose, its culture and its ethics. When I look at WAGEC’s branding I see a mini revolution, with strong women from all backgrounds and cultures standing together – fighting, loving and celebrating. Sometimes I get sad that I missed the women’s liberation and civil rights movements of the 60’s and 70’s, where passionate and powerful groups of people joined together to literally fight for a better, safer, more equitable world. But then I remember that actually passionate and powerful people are still doing this, the legacy of these movements live on through the work we are all still doing today and there are plenty of issues to stand up against and people to stand alongside with.
How did you first hear about WAGEC and what was your first impression of the organisation?
I first heard about WAGEC in 2016 when I was working for ACON (Australia’s largest LGBTQ+ health organisation). WAGEC approached me to run some training and do some capacity building. I got to work with the leadership team and the staff (many who are still here) and I developed a crush on the organisation.
My first impression is that the organisation believes in growth and is forward looking – I find that really appealing. It also feels really grounded, down-to-earth and relaxed, yet simultaneously hard working and ambitious – a hard mix to master.
What key learning from working in the NGO space will you bring to your new role?
Never to lower our standards and accept crumbs. NGO’s are notoriously underfunded and overworked and I have seen services accept this like it can never change. I say f**k that! We have a voice, we have a right to be here and we can be powerful. Yes, we need to keep doing the work, even when funds are low and it’s a struggle, but as Martin Luther King said: “the standards you walk by are the standards you accept”. I want to bring into this role a set of high standards and a belief that they are attainable… we have a right to be here and to take up space.
Who is someone that inspires you?
I really don’t think there is one person who inspires me, I am probably worried that putting someone on a pedestal could lead me to forget they are human, and human means making mistakes and being imperfect. Rather I am inspired by everyday acts of generosity or bravery, especially when it is unexpected.