When Soryas and her brother Rivas arrived in Australia in 2016 from Iraq via Türkiye they couldn’t speak any English.
“Coming to a new country is hard, but not understanding the language is even harder. Because I speak other languages, within six months of studying English at TAFE I was confident enough to communicate and be independent in English,” says Soryas.
Soryas was one of the first recipients of the Multicultural NSW Interpreter Scholarship program, becoming a recognised interpreter for Kurdish Kurmanji. At that time, she also became a member of the Multicultural NSW Language Services team of highly regarded professionals.
This year, she’s become one of Australia’s first Kurdish Kurmanji examiners with the National Accreditation Authority if Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). As an examiner with NAATI, Soryas will help ensure new generations of Kurdish Kurmanji speakers are able to meet the professional standards to work in the language services sector.
Soryas has experienced the importance of being able to communicate and understand what is happening around first-hand. When she arrived in Australia and needed an interpreter herself, it was very difficult to access one.
“At that time, the Ezidi community was growing and there were only two Kurdish Kurmanji interpreters in the country who were extremely busy.”
This is why most of her working journey in Australia was dedicated to being an enabler for people who speak Kurdish Kurmanji. Her first job was at TAFE as a support officer for Ezidi people who were studying and needed support with English. After that, she worked at Centrelink as an interpreter.
“That’s where I found out about the scholarship program. I moved to Sydney to further my studies and lived in Sydney for two years.
“Coming to Australia saved my life, and the scholarship program has changed it forever. Helping others is part of the reason I find working in the industry so rewarding, along with learning new things every day. When I work with paramedics, it’s so good to be able to help someone who is in a moment of distress.
“I also enjoy the connection I feel to my culture and community when I speak my first language. Kurdish Kurmanji is a very new language in Australia, so there’s a lot of opportunities. I work full time as an interpreter and I’m proud to say I’m a professional interpreter. I live in Wagga Wagga and work remotely on assignments across the country. I came as a refugee. I’m glad to say I’m Australian, now. Australia is my home.
“Being in Australia is freedom. As a member of the Ezidi community, we never felt free in the country we came from. Since I came to Australia, no one ever asked me what my religion was.
A moment of freedom for me was when starting my career as an interpreter and I had country assignments. I would wake up at 4am, catch the train to the airport, jump on a plane, do my assignment and come back home. The first time I did that I couldn’t believe it. Doing all that by myself as a woman is something unthinkable in Iraq. If you want to do something, everything is available. It’s up to you.”
Soryas came to Australia as a refugee from Iraq. Today, she is one of the first Kurdish Kurmanji NAATI examiners in Australia.