When Sirwan Ali arrived at UWA from Iraq, the bridging courses he completed through the Centre for English Language Teaching were the conduit to entering a world of opportunity and freedom for both him and his family, a son and two daughters.
The son of an illiterate yet world-wise Policeman fluent in three languages; Kurdish Arabic and Turkish, Sirwan grew up with an innate love of language and learning inspired by his father.
“In a war-torn country with sporadic periods of relative calm, I grasped early on that education and mastering the English language was a means of gaining not only knowledge but opportunity and life choices,” he said.
From lobbying for English language classes in high school to volunteering as a translator to an American armed forces commander, his stance for facilitating fairness and intellectual freedom often placed him in precarious and even life-threatening situations.
“I began my career as a primary school teacher – specialising in teaching English as a second language. As war arrived bringing the inevitable social and organisational chaos, my translation work enabled me to work with the American forces and I was quickly taught how to ‘hit the ground’ when artillery fire got too close,” he said.
“I also relayed information from the front lines to foreign news correspondents.”
As stability returned briefly to Iraq, Sirwan completed a Masters in English literature and taught English at university while continuing his work in translations. Impressing his fellow academics he was awarded the opportunity to pursue a PhD abroad and chose Australia as his study destination.
On arrival in Canberra in August 2013, Sirwan was advised to study at a Group of Eight university and began canvassing his options. The Asian Studies department at UWA proved both welcoming and insightful, and his choice was made. After completing two bridging courses alongside students from many other cultures Sirwan was able to take his studies further and is now undertaking his PhD in Social Sciences.
His research, Representations of Australianness and Migrant Cultural Identities in Contemporary Middle Eastern-Australian Women’s Fiction, focuses on representations of migrant cultural identities through selected fictional works of second-generation Australian women writers of Middle-Eastern backgrounds.”