Bhutanese in Aust mark anniversary

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Oct 04: Bhutanese community in Sydney and Melbourne in Australia observed anniversaries of their arrival in the region on October 3 and 4 amidst special functions.

Resettled Bhutanese marked their Annual Day, the first day of their arrival on October 3. The Association of Bhutanese in Australia (ABA) organized the program with various cultural shows that included Sangini (a Nepali folk song), traditional dances and songs.

Bhutanese artists also staged a six-episode play ‘Jindagi Choto Cha,’ meaning- ‘life is short’.

Laurie Ferguson, a Federal Member for Granville and Parliamentary Secretary in the Department of Immigration was the chief guest while other invitees included state directors, media persons and representatives of various Nepalese communities of Sydney, among others.

Speaking at the function, Ferguson briefly highlighted the progress made by the Bhutanese resettled in Australia, especially in the fields of education and professional developments.

He also mentioned that around 800 Bhutanese have already been resettled in different parts of Australia. He stated that as many as 2,000 would be resettled by the end of 2010. Ferguson also confessed that Australia could not do much to protect the rights of Nepali-speaking people in Bhutan.

Meanwhile, Bhutanese Community in Australia (BCA), Albury-Wodonga and Melbourne organized a special function on October 4.

Participants of the program.
Participants of the program.

According to BCA, the event, which was organised at the Merimbeena Community Centre in Lavington NSW, was aimed at marking the first anniversary of their arrival in this state of Australia. 

The programme began with the celebration of Dashain-Tihar festival in a very unique way by receiving the chief guest and guest of honour, offering Khada (scarf), Mangala Charan Ariti (a good wish prayer) and escorting the procession to the Puja mandab ( holly stall) by the priests with the welcoming rhymes and young girls carrying the Diyo Kalas(holy lamp) and Jhyali(musical instrument). 

The priest also offered teeka to the chief guest and guest of honour. In return, the chief guest offered Raja tika (the tika their King used to put on the civilians and priests in Bhutan) to the priests, senior officials of local government, community organizations, among others. 

The cultural function had 19 different programs which included traditional dance of the Bhutanese of Nepali origin, Nepalese dances, Dzongkha dances, solo songs, Sangini , Bhajans (prayers) and special Deusi dance.  

The second phase of the program marked the first anniversary of the arrival of Bhutanese in Melbourne in October 2008. The participants reflected their life one year ago and spoke of the experiences, support and opportunities that the community received from Australians and its service agencies.

BCA further mentioned that a special ceremony was scheduled to honour and thank the volunteers from Albury and Wodonga . The formation of a special bond between the Bhutanese and the local community in Albury and Wodonga was evident from the enthusiastic participation of non- Bhutanese in the program. Volunteers from these communities have been helping Bhutanese refugees in their settlement process. 

The BCA honoured their hard work with certificates of appreciation along with   the settlement agencies in a special ceremony where the certificates were presented by the chief guest, Greg Aplin ,MP for Albury and the guest of honour, the Ex- Mayor and Councillor, Patricia Gould of Albury City Council.   

Addressing the function, Aplin said that the border community was happy to see the wonderful culture and traditions from the Bhutanese performing in Albury, adding that people need not to go Bhutan to see the rich culture that Bhutan has. 

Honoured people display certificates.
Honoured people display certificates.

The guest of honour, Patricia remarked, ‘After the initial settlement of migrants in Albury and Wodonga, Bhutanese is the largest community that is settling recently in the areas. The local government is very happy to have them settled and look forward to support them in the settlement processes’. Fadel Bahimin, Director, Community Relations Commission (CRC) of NSW and about 20 different local government officials and community organisations attended the function. 

More than half of the 400 people were from the Australian community while other members from Indian, African and Nepalese community also attended the function. 

All the members present there were served with traditional food- dahi cihura (curd and bitten rice), amadashi (special Bhutanese curry), Khir (Nepali stuff)  among other special items. 

Parsuram Sharma Luitel, the president of BCA said that those Bhutanese resettled in Australia are the special victims of torture, people who have lived long in the Bhutanese prison, single mothers, widows and disabled people. 

He further said that because of such traumatic experience in the past, some of the members might need longer time to fully recover and join the work force as compared to others. 

According to BCA, the program was funded by CRC, NSW and Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC) , Victoria and supported by Albury Wodonga Volunteer Resource Bureau (AWVRB) and Albury City Council.

 

By Ichha Poudyel with inputs from Bhim Bhattarai( Albury) and Damber Dhungel(Sydney)