Kevin has been a contracted interpreter with TIS National since March 2009. He speaks Burmese and English.
Kevin and his young family migrated from Burma to Australia in the 1970s with the hope of freedom and a brighter future. In Australia, the family faced vast cultural differences and were one of only a handful of Asian families living in the Melbourne suburb of Springvale. While Kevin had learnt some English during his schooling in Burma, his wife and children did not speak any English.
‘During the day when most people were at work, we felt quite lonely and lost and afraid to venture out of the house. The wife and kids used to hide whenever the doorbell rang.’
Kevin had undertaken some university studies in Burma but found his qualifications were not recognised in Australia. He undertook a factory job while he assessed his options.
Recognition as an interpreter
A year after his arrival in Australia, Kevin began to establish his career. He returned to university to study computer science and later joined a large company where he advanced to a management position. While Kevin was busy with his career, he also found time to provide voluntary interpreting assistance to the Burmese refugee community in Australia.
‘Sometimes I would take time off work to go and meet and help people. They didn't know a word of English and there weren't interpreting services available to them like there is now.’
‘I used to assist them access the various services available to them such as hospitals, schools, Centrelink, doctors appointments, job applications and various other sundry requirements.’
For twenty years, Kevin juggled his work commitments (including during another career change) and helped new Burmese humanitarian arrivals participate in life in Australia.
Trained and professional
In 2008, an opportunity arose for Kevin to obtain professional training and accreditation as an interpreter. Kevin was offered a scholarship by the Victorian Multicultural Commission to undertake a Diploma of Interpreting at RMIT University.
‘It was an opportunity to assist my community and also be financially rewarded. I gladly took up the challenge and have not regretted it.’
The one year, part time course focused on cultural concepts and ethical issues which interpreters may face and gave Kevin insight into the many different systems, such as education, the judiciary and welfare, in which interpreters undertake assignments.
Kevin graduated his diploma with National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) accreditation at the paraprofessional level and was awarded the title of valedictorian. He attributes his success to the support of his tutors, perseverance, practice and ‘most importantly, my passion and desire to simply help my fellow countrymen.’
Continuing to learn
Kevin became a TIS National contractor in 2009. He has worked on a variety of assignments, including many for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
‘My most interesting experiences would be in the refugee processing and health environments as they give me a better understanding of the challenges and difficulties facing new arrivals and reinforces the realisation of how fortunate we are here in Australia’.
Kevin is committed to a career in interpreting. He continues to improve his skills and knowledge in interpreting and is currently investigating obtaining NAATI accreditation in translation.
‘My tips for others considering a career in interpreting is not to be afraid of the challenge, be daring to speak your second language confidently, maintain maximum class attendance and put in a lot of extra time with practice and reviews. And once qualified, be faithful to the professional ethics and code of conduct for interpreters as this will ensure your career lifespan.’