Ken Bernard – Notable West Indian by Jamaican Products

Ken Bernard
Ken Bernard

Ken Bernard is featured as the notable West Indian for February 2016. The stories of those featured will be told in the form of an interview.

Ken is an avid traveler, sportsman, trainer and motivator. He also won the 1982 World Champion in the Toastmasters International Public speaking contest.

When did you arrive in Australia?
I first arrived in Australia in May 1969. I had travelled overland from London by coach which terminated in Delhi. We then flew over Burma to Bangkok, then down to Penang and on to Kuala Lumpur. I then took a train heading for Singapore, got bored on route and hitch hiked to Singapore. Then I boarded a ship pausing at New Guinea before disembarking at Woolloomoloo wharf in Sydney.

Where were you born?
I was born in Falmouth, Jamaica and lived in Montreal, Canada and London, before coming to Australia.

What influenced your decision to live in Australia?
I was at the time married to an Australian lady and we had 2 children. It was the poor London weather and with arthritis setting in I decided to try what was promoted as a land of sunshine, sea, mateship, opportunity and a classless egalitarian way of life. As I recall the population of Australia then was about 13 million.

Ken as Trainer at AMP
Ken as Trainer at AMP

How did you get involved in the West Indian community?
I was an avid sportsman. I played soccer, table tennis and some cricket, which led to an easy assimilation into community life. I landed a job with a friend from London. His company built electricity sub stations and circuit breakers all over Victoria and NSW. This resulted in me living in many small towns in those States, gaining insights into the Australian way of life. When I finally arrived in Sydney, my family joined me and we fell in with the limited number of West Indians living here and shared may social events. I joined the West Indian Cricket Club and served for a year as president. We lived in Paddington, so we enjoyed easy access to West Indian meeting places.

What feature of West Indian life do you think Australia could adopt?
I can’t really recall what I thought about this question. I remember thinking that West Indians seem to find it easy to fit in wherever they are.

What features of Australian life do you think the West Indies could adopt?
I am pretty strong on this question. I think we need an Institute of Sport, organised similar to Australia’s Institute of sport. I think an Institute as such would make a strong difference to our Cricketing results. We have enormous raw talent, but its’ in the mental game where we fall short.

Tell us about a funny cross cultural experience you had in Australia.
Remembering that there were not many West Indians around then, I was always asked by Australians “Where are you from?” When I answered “Jamaica” their next question unfailingly was “When are you going home?” Very predictable and I took no offence. In fact I thought it was funny.

Ken wiht Finalist and Winner Cups
Ken wiht Finalist and Winner Cups

Briefly describe some of your life’s highlights.
My second most valuable success is my overland trip from London to Sydney as previously mentioned. I recall standing (safely) in the market place in Kabul having crossed through the Khyber Pass. We navigated several border crossings between India and Pakistan who were warring. I stood in awe at the Taj Mahal and hitch hiked down to Singapore.

My most outstanding achievement was joining Toastmasters and subsequently becoming World Champion in the 1982 Toastmasters International Public speaking contest. I was the first person ever, outside North America, to win this prestigious Award. Even now, many years later, only a handful of people have achieved this.


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