Meet Interpreter Jenny Heasman | John Ferris Mentor Program

Published on: 8th February 2023

Meet Jenny, one of our interpreters at Deaf Connect, who recently completed our Interpreter Mentor Program.

We asked her about her journey to become an interpreter and how the mentor program has benefited her career. Read through our blog below:


From an Audiologist to an Interpreter

Jenny was first exposed to Auslan when she was in high school when the Theatre of the Deaf visited her school. While attending the Theatre of the Deaf School excursion, she was given the Auslan alphabet on a bookmark and began teaching herself. Ever since this encounter she has always been drawn to sign language. After finishing school in the early 1990’s Jenny had to make a decision on what she would study, she narrowed it down to two options, to be a teacher of the Deaf or to be an Audiologist. 

After some investigation into the two careers, Jenny decided to pursue a career in Audiology. While working as an audiologist Jenny was shocked by how few of her colleagues knew any sign language or saw benefit in learning to communicate more efficiently with patients. This drove Jenny’s devotion to become an interpreter even further.  

While working as an Audiologist, Jenny took every opportunity available to further her study in Auslan.  Through an array of community classes, certified TAFE courses and volunteering at deaf schools, with an ambition to one day become an interpreter, Jenny became an interpreter in 2020. 


What is the John Ferris Program? 

John Ferris became a trainee welfare worker with the Deaf Society in 1953 and began his involvement with the organisation in its Elizabeth House era. In 1976 John Ferris received the Churchill Fellowship – a leadership training program for Deaf people, allowing him to travel overseas and bring back his learnings of international programs, a pioneer in his field he began planning and implementing better ways to support Deaf people through education and leadership training programs. 

Deaf Education Network was established in 1983 as the Adult Education Centre for Deaf and Hearing-Impaired Persons by John Ferris, who paved the way for DEN to become the education division of The Deaf Society of New South Wales (now Deaf Connect) in 2007. In 2008, the John Ferris Mentor Program, was named in acknowledgement of John Ferris and his contribution to the training, encouragement and support of Auslan interpreters. 

One of the major benefits of working as an interpreter at Deaf Connect, is the opportunity to apply for the John Ferris Mentor Program for professional development. The program is paid and has been running since 2008 to support our interpreters through personalised mentoring. It connects a graduate with an experienced interpreter one day a week, for eight weeks.  

Jenny shares her experience of becoming a newly qualified interpreter “When you become a qualified interpreter, you leave the classroom situation with 12-14 people and you mostly then work on your own, it is an adjustment when you are used to having teachers and peers providing constructive feedback. My aim was to learn about my current skills, what was going well and how I could improve.” 

“So, for me, the John Ferris Mentor Program was an opportunity to have someone else evaluate my skills in the workforce. There’s only so much you can know about your own skills, particularly early in your career, about your own signing, potential mistakes and areas where you need improvement without someone else observing it. You can improve and take your interpreting skills to the next level with this program.” 


Career Progression 

Through the John Ferris program and as an interpreter at Deaf Connect, Jenny has been able to work on a range of different Interpreting jobs. These opportunities have been boosted with the support of the Mentor Program and Deaf Connect.  

“The benefit of the John Ferris mentor program is that it gave me the opportunity to take on more challenging jobs and jobs in a wider variety of contexts than I had done previously. You can challenge yourself more due to the support you have with a mentor.” Says Jenny 

“For example, if there’s an ethical situation you want to discuss or it’s been a job that has been complicated, there is someone I can talk to that really understands the context fully. It’s really important to use these opportunities to debrief and receive feedback with experienced interpreters.” 


Benefits of working as an Interpreter for Deaf Connect 

There are a few reasons why Jenny loves working as an Interpreter at Deaf Connect – the professional development opportunities, the supportive team, the flexibility and strong sense of community. 

No two days are the same. It is great connecting with people and building good working relations. There is so much flexibility which allows for a great work life balance.” Says Jenny 

Some of the notable benefits include: 

  • Competitive pay rates and access to salary packaging benefits  
  • Professional development opportunities (such as the John Ferris Mentor Program and ASLIA training and workshops) 
  • Opportunities for greater flexible working arrangements through VRI 
  • Work confidently knowing that all profits are invested back into programs & services that directly support the Deaf community. 


Advice for new or aspiring interpreters 

Jenny has given some advice for those wanting to become an interpreter, including the importance of continued learning.

“You’re never too old. Give it a go and you’ll love it. You need to listen to those that are more experienced and glean everything you can from them and to continue learning. Just because you’re qualified with NAATI, that’s not the end of your learning journey. That’s really just the beginning. You will learn so much from mentors and from the Deaf community.”


Want to learn more about the John Ferris Mentor Program? Contact us at [email protected]

New applications for the John Ferris Mentor Program open every 6 months. Be sure to apply for the next round in mid 2023. 

Deaf Connect are currently hiring interpreters in every state and territory in Australia. Join our team and apply online today.

Related Articles