When Di Hong arrived in Australia in 1979 as a refugee, he had just turned 18 and didn’t speak any English.
“I studied English for the first few months, got a job and then a couple of years later started working for the department.”
Di Hong is a Multicultural Service Officer with the Department of Human Services and he loves the diversity in his role.
He particularly enjoys using his language skills and personal experiences to help newly arrived migrants and refugees.
“English is not an easy language. It sometimes takes a long time for people to learn and it’s also easy to have misunderstanding. For newly arrived people if they’re able to get information in their own language it helps a lot.”
Over the years, Di Hong has helped many people settle into Australian society, and gain recognition for their overseas qualifications.
Di Hong remembers a couple that approached him in a shopping centre.
“They came and said hello, and were very excited because I helped them get their overseas doctors qualification recognised, and now they’re both working in a hospital.
“So with that simple information I provided to them, they’re now able to practice their careers.”
Di Hong was given the opportunity to present in language on SBS radio 8 years ago, and has been a regular voice on-air ever since.
“Being able to speak Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin, has given me the opportunity to use my language skills to appear on SBS radio or some community radio.
“The radio program is on daily and all around Australia and has around 30-40,000 listeners”.
The department engages with many customers who don’t speak English as their first language, so the multilingual skills that Di Hong and other Multicultural Service Officers have are very valuable.
“Our role is not to give advice but provide people with information about what’s available and what options are there for them to make their own decision.”
Reflecting on his journey building a life in Australia, Di Hong attributes what he has achieved to a positive outlook and strong work ethic.
“You only live once, there’s no point looking back, so you always hope for a better future,’ he says.
“I love my job because I’m able to give back to the community. Every day I’m making some difference in people’s lives, no matter how small it is, and that is very rewarding.”