Resettlement did not open my eyes but it did open ample opportunities
Although with no physical vision but with clear mental vision to correct my vision loss and to make a better living, I headed to Australia on January 30, 2009 through resettlement program.
With uncertainty and limited information about new country, we left Timai Camp with the blessings of friends and relatives. Having spent three days in Kathmandu, we flew towards Singapore. After five hours transit, we boarded another plane for Perth, Western Australia. In Perth, we were received by two caseworkers—one for my family and the other for my parents. It was early mid-summer morning and when we landed upon Perth Airport the sun was already at its highest point. So, we were advised to put on summer clothes. Although the environment seemed entirely different, we found people very much friendly and generous.
For the first few weeks, we were busy meeting appointments, opening bank accounts, Medicare and Centrelink offices and Migrant Health Unit centre. On the third day of arrival in Australia, we received $200 each as Crisis Payment from Centrelink. We also received free accommodation for one month. As time passed, we got linked with different institutions and skill development centers such as, my brothers got admitted in an English school and my sister Tulasa (also visually impaired) and I got opportunity to start a new life at the Association for the Blind of Western Australia.
But, we encountered severe difficulties in trying to adjust parents in a completely new environment. I saw them getting depressed day-by-day. Instead of talking, they began to cry and started to express interest to be relocated to Cairns where a very small Bhutanese community was already in existence. I took my entire family to Cairns on March 8, 2009. There we rented two different houses and started living separately.
Brothers and sister went to an English school, parents and my wife started English class at TAFE but I had to stay home idly. I tried to meet visually challenged (blind) friends for help but encountered even more challenges in accomplishing this goal. Migrant Settlement Services, the refugee agency provided me with a lady volunteer, Sue Taylor who helped me get linked up with Vision Australia, Guide dogs Queensland and the eye doctor. I received blindness services from those agencies and medical treatment from Dr. Andrew Field. He referred me to Princes Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane where my left corneal transplant was performed by Dr. Peter Beckingsale.
I received all medical treatment free of costs. After recovery, I was informed that there was no way of restoring vision in my eye. I returned to Cairns desperately and in agony. I could do nothing for the next three months because of eye watering and medication. By September 2009, I was taught to move around Cairns independently using a long white cane.
On the 19th of the same month, we received our first baby girl. With the arrival of Joy, Government offered us a range of benefits such as: baby bonus, family tax benefits and higher rate of rental assistance. For, Yashoda (my wife) was already in receipt of Carer Pension to look after me and I was receiving Disability Support Pension-Blind from Centrelink.
After getting resettled, I had the interest to further my educational excellence in a very modern discipline. But, I decided to develop basic computer skills first and then study later. To do so, Cairns did not have the facility. In January this year, I went to Adelaide to see how things were working for visually challenged people. There I met many Bhutanese community members and friends who helped me meet eminent figures working in the field of blindness. It seemed to my mind that facilities were still inadequate for better future.
On the second of March this year, I came back to Perth with my family. Since then, we are living in a rental property very close to public facility. We pay $280 a week for a two bedroom apartment. Here in Perth, I am receiving very good services from the blind association ranging from mobility training to 5000 dollars grant to buy software for computer and a mobile phone with KNFB reader. I am starting computer course at the blind association. I am able to travel around Perth city independently. At present, I am working for University of Western Australia Business School as an administration assistant. I go to and come back from work on my own changing two trains and a bus. I don’t have any specific problem to share but am very much thankful to The Commonwealth Government of Australia for resettling a vulnerable person like me and providing a range of benefits. When my wife is sick, I do shopping from Woolworths, Coles and IGA Supermarkets. I have a barcode scanner with which I can scan products and identify which to buy and which not.
Also, I have a Daisy player to read books recorded in CDs. Life has certainly become easy and simple. We receive 1600 dollars every fortnight from the government to earn livelihood and I earn 500 dollars every fortnight from work. The government is stable and the support is not subject to decrease. Every year, as consumer price index increases, the government increases little bit in the benefits. Medical facility is free for all under the provision of Medicare Australia and medication can be purchased at the concession rate.
The only difficulty I have here is that I don’t find friends who were of great value to me. Also, I find no efforts taken for voluntary repatriation. If fortune favors, I love to see all the resettled Bhutanese around the world in the near future and go back to Bhutan, probably holding an Australian passport. Although my dream of correcting my eyesight by getting resettled in a third country is shattered but I am glad that it provided me ample opportunities to live a far better life. It might take a little while but I have a “vision” to pursue higher education here and work for the welfare of the society when possible.
(The author of the piece can be directly communicated at: [email protected])