xDiscipline interview with Tanja Kovac

David Blumenstein
3 min readSep 30, 2019

On October 6 I’m running a pretty exciting design event in Melbourne called xDiscipline. The idea is: hear from and work with our special guests — Dr. Steven Curry, Tanja Kovac and Geoff Paine — with the goal of learning how their disciplines can inform your own.

In the lead-up I’m doing interviews with our guests to give you a sense of who they are and what we might be doing on the day.

Last week I spoke with science communicator/actor Geoff Paine. Here’s some questions with activist, lawyer and political consultant Tanja Kovac…

A cartoon image of Tanja Kovac

xDiscipline is a design event focusing on the things we can learn from people in other kinds of careers. What’s one thing you’ve learned from someone in another discipline that you remember and/or use?

As a human rights and personal injuries lawyer I was trained how to look after other people but not the importance of self-care. Vicarious trauma is rife in the law. Social workers embed self-care & debriefing into their work and I learnt that only from being exposed to a different industry. I think we should be embedding self care & debriefing in the practice of many workplaces.

If you look back on your career so far, is there a pattern you can spot running through all the jobs and projects you’ve done? A particular skill you always end up employing?

Gender, human rights, social change. Values stay the same, workplaces and industries differ. Law, government, community sector or private business — values are firm.

In terms of skill set, capacity to see strategically very quickly; to transform a blank page into something tangible, real. Start-up or revive stage my forte.

You consult on political communications. What’s something you often find politicians and their staffs don’t understand about talking to people?

Politicians in major parties get trained to unanswer media questions. There is a crisis of authenticity. How do we unlearn the use of double-speak and euphemism when our parliaments and bureaucracies rely so much on it to hide the truth?

The rise of “plain speaking” politicians — who claim to talk to and like “the people” — is a response to this frustration. Trump is a bad example of it; Ardern a good example. In my view.

xDiscipline is all about problem-solving. What’s a problem that keeps you up nights?

Gender inequality. For me this issue lies at the heart of many of the world’s problems. A world based on domination and violence and the diminishing of care, love and partnership. That’s all about addressing the complex problem of how we view masculine and feminine power.

What do you hope to get out of xDiscipline?
To meet excellent creatives & always, always to make the world a better place.

At xDiscipline, Tanja will be giving you skills in reframing conversations to help effect change. After chatting to her about it, I’m speed-reading on the work of George Lakoff

You can learn a bit more about why I created xDiscipline here. Tickets are now available for xDiscipline, including discounted entry for Moreland residents, students, pensioners and the unwaged. It takes place at Siteworks in Brunswick, Melbourne on Sunday October 6.



David Blumenstein

David works in service/strategic design: experienceillustration.com. He draws comics at Squishface Studio: squishfacestudio.com. Other stuff: nakedfella.com.