Able Seaman Khin Thaung is well known among his shipmates in HMAS Adelaide for his broad smile, positive outlook and willingness to lend a hand. 

As a former refugee who spent eight years in tough conditions in camps on both sides of the Thailand-Myanmar border, Able Seaman Thaung puts his sunny disposition down to knowing that his life changed for the better the moment he moved to Australia.

He said that being able to forge a career in the Royal Australian Navy for the past 10 years gave him immense pleasure and was in strong contrast to his years as a refugee. 

“Life in a refugee camp is tough and we had to work long hours just to survive, so that puts everything in perspective,” Able Seaman Thaung said.

“Whenever anyone asks me to volunteer for extra duties or needs a hand with something, I like to help out because I am appreciative of the chances I’ve been given by Australia and in particular by the Royal Australian Navy.” 

His lucky break came in the form of an AusAid program that provided sponsorship for registered refugees to study in Australia. That resulted in an Advanced Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from Swinburne University in Melbourne and eventually Australian citizenship in 2006. 

His next big break was in June 2010, when he was accepted to join the Navy. He originally trained as an electronics technician but transferred to aviation support when the category was first established. 

He said he hadn’t looked back. 

“I like getting outside, whether it’s wet or fine, calm or a high sea state. I love the variety and working on different types of aircraft and it’s just a great career where I can give something back to the country for taking me in as a refugee,” Able Seaman Thaung said.

“It’s an honour to do this for my new country.”