Local, Independant and Effective

Bhutanese community - benefit to the Border

Posted June 24, 2015


CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (10:13):  I second the comments from the member for Dobell. What a great idea!

KAREN McNAMARA (Member for Dobell) interjecting—

Ms McGOWAN:  Yes, I would like to take it up. Last week was Refugee Week and on Thursday, I had the pleasure of welcoming 30 people from Albury-Wodonga to this parliament. They are part of the over 1,000-strong Bhutanese community who have come to Albury-Wodonga via refugee camps in Nepal. The last census showed an interesting statistic: Nepalese is the fourth largest language spoken at home in Indi. These Bhutanese people arrived in Albury-Wodonga in October 2008, initially 22 people, and today we have over 1,000 people living in Albury-Wodonga. They have come via the refugee camps, expelled from Bhutan 22 years ago, spent 22 years in refugee camps in Nepal and 5½ thousand of these people have now been resettled in Australia.

Since their arrival the Bhutanese community members have made an active contribution to the community of Albury-Wodonga and Victoria. One of these examples is that the Bhutanese community collected and fundraised and donated over $3,500 at the time of the Victorian bushfires, Black Sunday, to the whole community. It was in their early days in Victoria, and this effort was absolutely recognised and we are very grateful for it.

The Bhutanese community continues to make fantastic inroads into our community. I would particularly like to acknowledge three of the leaders who are playing their part to make this possible. Teju came up last week and made a fantastic speech in this parliament. He is chairperson of the Albury-Wodonga Ethnic Communities Council and he is president of the Bhutanese Association in Albury. Thank you, Teju! Thank you also, Tulshi, for your work! Tulshi is vice-president of the Bhutanese Association in Albury. Thank you too, Radha! Radha is the former president of Bhutanese Association.

When I told this community that I was making this speech today, I asked them for some words. Now, with great pleasure, I would like to talk a little about some of the things they have done. They tell me they are settling in well. The students are studying and winning prizes at school and university. But there are some challenges, particularly for middle-aged people who are learning English for the first time and trying to find work. Regardless of that, the community is volunteering and working in Parklands Albury-Wodonga and at TAFE. They are working in seniors wellness projects. They are doing cultural transition projects—and they are particularly participating in interstate soccer.

I would like to say to my Bhutanese community of Albury-Wodonga: thank you very much for what you are doing. Welcome to our community. Thank you for coming to Canberra. I am very proud to be your representative in this place.

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