25 June 2010
* Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards 2010
2010 Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader Award Recipient
Renee Liang is a consultant paediatrician whose research looks at human development trajectories from early life to adolescence. She is also a widely published poet, short story writer and playwright – her plays Lantern and The Bone Feeder have played to sold-out audiences. By drawing on her diverse talents in both medicine and the arts, Renee is helping to define the cultural landscape of New Zealand and supporting positive community development.
Renee currently leads the Asian Advisory Group for Growing Up in New Zealand – a longitudinal study designed to gather information to improve the lives of all New Zealand children. She has previously undertaken a clinical project looking at the health of aboriginal children in Far Western New South Wales.
In 2006, Renee participated in the development of An Absolute Rush – a grassroots performing arts initiative for at-risk youth in South Auckland, run on almost no budget, but a groundswell of community energy. Believing that writing and performance empower youth through use of their own voice, Renee organised speakers and ran poetry workshops for the students. This resulted in a collection of moving stories of hopes and dreams. She also looked at the benefits from a youth health perspective and recorded footage for a documentary.
Renee believes strongly that linking across communities strengthens society as a whole. She is a driving force of initiatives such as Metonymy – which aims to spark creative collaborations by ‘blind dating’ artists from different disciplines; Funky Oriental Beats – propelling Kiwi Asians into the burgeoning arts scene in Auckland; and the Guerilla Poets, who demystify literature by literally bringing poetry onto the streets. She’s known as both a performer and an organiser of Poetry Live, a weekly event. As an Asian New Zealander she often uses her writing to provide cultural commentary and spark discussion. Through her blog on The Big Idea, Renee profiles emerging artists and community initiatives.
Renee’s ability to bring people together was reflected in her selection this year for the Emerging Pacific Leaders’ Dialogue – an initiative to strengthen the capacity of the Pacific region’s future leaders to manage challenges collaboratively, positively and creatively. Renee visited Samoa, Fiji and Tonga to share information and forge networks. She now works with fellow alumni to find ways to benefit the region.
As well as her medical degrees and specialist qualification as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Renee also holds a Master of Creative Writing from the University of Auckland, and has recently graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Drama Studies.
“My shared skills and passion for medicine and arts has often converged in my projects, and that’s because I believe they are the same thing. I’m interested in the stories people have to tell and the history that stands behind them. The work we do shouldn’t be determined by degrees or job titles, but by what excites us. By choosing something that makes your skin buzz – by following your bliss - you are more likely to succeed.”
Dr Renee Liang