Kerime Cokelek was born in the city of Alaca in Turkey and
migrated to Australia with her parents and three siblings in 1970,
when she was 9 years old.
Initially her family had planned to live and work in Australia for two years to save money, before returning to Turkey to buy a family home. However Kerime and her family quickly embraced Australia, making the country their permanent home.
She grew up around the inner suburbs of Melbourne, often sharing a house with other Turkish families who were also starting afresh in Australia. They all supported each other in establishing themselves in the country and embracing a new way of life.
Kerime’s career as an interpreter first started at a small law firm. She had just completed a secretarial course when she landed the job at the firm, who wanted a secretary who could also speak Turkish to assist with interpreting for the firm’s Turkish speaking clients.
Soon after starting, Kerime’s boss enrolled her at RMIT to do the Interpreters course, which she completed and received her NAATI Level 2 Certificate. Many years later, after working in a variety of secretarial/PA roles and doing some interpreting on the side, Kerime decided to make interpreting her sole focus, and has been enjoyed a dedicated career as an interpreter for over 13 years and counting.
Pursuing interpreting was a natural decision for Kerime as she loves interacting with people, and working as an interpreter has allowed her to do this in abundance. Although she loves attending all jobs, she has a particular soft spot for assignments at the Community Gardens, located in public housing properties which are managed by the Department of Human Services (DHS).
Many of the residents are non-English speakers of different backgrounds, and as an Interpreter Kerime’s role is to assist communication between the DHS and residents to consult on how to use the garden space, provide advice on what can be grown, offer horticultural information and planting advice, and guide them on what structures can be erected. Kerime says “I love being there and I love interpreting and interacting with the beautiful humble residents. I also get the opportunity to walk around the gardens and have a look at the different types of vegetables and herbs that are growing.”
Over the years, Kerime has done regular interpreting jobs at Australian Red Cross blood banks. Blood donors need to complete an extensive health questionnaire and Kerime interprets while the donor is filling the form out.
As a result of these assignments, Kerime became a regular blood donor herself. “I became more aware of how important it is to donate blood. There is always someone out there who needs blood and I wanted to make a difference by donating my blood to someone who needs it” she said.
Besides her passion for interpreting, Kerime also has a love for building her family tree and documenting her family’s history. She went back to Turkey with her mother 11 years ago, spending five months there and gathering as much family history as she could. “Even though it was financially difficult to get back to Turkey, I felt I needed to get a start on our family tree sooner rather than later” she says. She now has nearly 2,300 family members listed and continues to update the information regularly.
Although Kerime would love to visit Turkey every year if she could, she truly loves Australia and the Australian way of life, and never wants to live anywhere else.