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Refugees thrive in Blacktown

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Refugees thrive in Blacktown
At home: The Acharya family, sisters Hemanta (from left) and Januka, their grandmother Menuka, father Harahar, aunt Devi and grandfather Tikaram, were among the first Bhutanese people to settle in Blacktown in 2008.Picture: Carlos Furtado

Three generations of the Acharya family have thrived since they relocated to Blacktown in 2008 as part of a humanitarian settlement program for refugees from Bhutan.

Since then the Bhutanese community in Blacktown has grown from just four families — including the nine Acharyas who share a house — to more than 250 people.

At home: The Acharya family, sisters Hemanta (from left) and Januka, their grandmother Menuka, father Harihar, aunt Devi and grandfather Tikaram, were among the first Bhutanese people to settle in Blacktown in 2008.Picture: Carlos Furtado

The 20 difficult years Devi Acharya spent in a refugee camp in Nepal is becoming a distant memory.

Ms Acharya said she did not know any English when she arrived in the country. She is now a student at Blacktown TAFE and attends other language classes.

“This has helped me a lot and now I can understand and speak a little English,” she said.

“I can do my own shopping and go to the doctor. If we try hard everything is possible.”

Devi’s niece Januka was the first graduate in the newly-settled community and she now works as a registered nurse. Her other niece Hemanta is about to sit the Higher School Certificate. The gifted soccer player was selected to go to South Africa during the 2010 World Cup and is the youngest in her community to get a tax file number.

“We came from a non-English speaking background and it was difficult to understand the Australian culture,” she said.

“I’m nervous about the HSC because I have to study really hard.”

The community recently held their fourth annual day celebrations with colourful traditional costume, songs and dancing.

The elders in the community were gifted with white scarves as a mark of respect.

Hemanta’s grandfather Tikaram was among them.

An advisor for the Association of Bhutanese in Australia, Om Dhungel, said the organisation began to help the community make a smooth transition to Australia.

The organisation greets settlers at the airport, finds them temporary accommodation and then works with training organisations to provide English classes and employment skills to help them make a successful transition.

“Despite the small size of the community early on we recognised the need to maintain our unique identity and also to share and give back to the broader Australian community which welcomed us so very warmly and supported us when we each arrived,” Mr Dhungel said.

“Our active involvement in other communities helped us to deal with loneliness and living away from broader family and friends.”

Courtesy: Blacktown Sun

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