Your corner: I have contributed to translating the Treaty of Waitangi into Malay language - Dr Buvanis Karuppiah

As a child, my parents encouraged me to be active both in and out of school.  Apart from being a high achiever at school, I was a hockey player, a Malay folk dancer and a martial arts (Taekwondo) practitioner. I was always loved and cared for by my family, teachers and friends.  Everything seemed fine until my father passed away when I was 16. I was deeply shaken and saddened. My mother has raised my sister and I on her own as a single mother. She has set an example and demonstrated a real meaning of how sacrifices, hard work and dedication can be. I sometimes wonder how she could have done it all, whilst facing the patriarchal oppression from family and society, which is a norm within the cultural background we belong to. If there is one thing she always fed my sister and I with a thought, to be successful in life “you should never be dependent on another person and you should always be able to stand on your own feet”. For this reason, I salute her. Her advice has made me who I am today an independent woman, who is able to think and act for herself.

As with my mother being my backbone, I made a commitment to myself that I would excel in everything I did, especially in academia, which I think is one of the best, built-in platforms for a person from the Indian community of Malaysia to be successful in. I attained very high marks for the exams needed as part of the pre-requisites to enter a law school, which was the National University of Malaysia. I was also offered a scholarship from a prominent private entity to pursue my dream, which was to study for a Bachelor of Law, and become a lawyer. Whilst studying for my bachelor’s degree, I was also actively involved in the university’s cultural society; i.e Malay folk dancer. I had the opportunity to perform and represent Malaysian universities on cultural events. I was funded to travel to many countries to perform and share our Malaysian culture and knowledge to people from other nations.

Upon completion of my law degree, I was offered a Malaysian government scholarship to continue studying for a Masters of Law course at the same varsity.

This was when I met my soulmate, my husband Naash Kamell. We were married in 2010 after the completion of my Masters qualification. H is my best friend. He has and continues to support me in many ways, be it in my personal life, family life, academic journey and career.

In 2011, I was offered the chance to complete a PhD in Law with scholarships at universities in Canada, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia. I turned them all down and chose the University of Otago in Dunedin. My dream and passion to work in research with Professor Mark Henaghan from New Zealand has become a reality. He is a world-renowned expert in family and property law.

Besides that, the excitement I have for the All Blacks and imagining New Zealand as a beautiful country encouraged me to decide that this is my place in the world.

The venture of moving to New Zealand and doing PhD studies were very challenging. Just like any other migrant, the language, food, and weather have all pushed me to test the limits, but it turned out to be frighteningly comfortable. The PhD challenges were something I could never underestimate, as writing in my third language was definitely not an easy task. Plus, academic writing is different to daily use of the language. Nevertheless, I made it through and graduated in 2015. Although I have written my PhD in New Zealand, a big part of my thesis is contributed to the laws and context of Malaysia. I always remind myself that I have to contribute something in return to my birth country and I believe my thesis has contributed to this. I also write and publish in a legal journal in Malaysia.

Naash and I are well-supported by fellow migrants who share similar stories, challenges and interests like us, as well as our Kiwi friends who have always been warm and welcoming. We couldn’t have done it without the moral support given by each and every person in our life in New Zealand.

I am now employed at Saunders & Co Lawyers, a well-established mid-size law firm in Christchurch. I continue to study, research, as well as publish in legal journals. I am also actively involved with the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters. Recently, I have contributed to translating the Treaty of Waitangi into Malay language. To contribute to New Zealand in this way has been a great pleasure to me. I stand proud to be a migrant and will continue to contribute in any way I can, whilst applying my knowledge and experience.

I am passionate to assist fellow migrants and their affairs. In 2015, I conducted free law clinics at the Christchurch Migrants Centre, offering advice to migrants on matters relating to Immigration, their employment rights, as well property and business affairs. I am always available to lend a helping hand to anyone in need, especially migrants who need a lot of support to settle in New Zealand, be it legally and socially.

Walking down the path as a migrant may not always be as easy as we think. There will be many challenges put forth, but the end destination will be all worth it. There is constant opportunity down the path and we should be open and flexible to approach and grasp those prospects. Last but not least, don’t give up, keep working hard, be positive and never stop believing.

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