Saturday afternoon provided a chance for Launceston’s Bhutanese community to celebrate how far it has come in the past 10 years.
The city’s community, comprised of about 1500 people, celebrated the 10th anniversary of the first Nepalese Bhutanese families to resettle in Launceston.
The first four families came to Launceston in 2008 from refugee camps in Nepal, after Bhutan’s ethnic Nepalese community – Lhotshampas – were forcibly removed from Bhutan in an ethnic cleansing campaign in the 1990s.
Secretary of the community Carmen Monger said the occasion, celebrated at Brooks High School, was “a great day for the community”.
It was marked by cultural and musical performances, speeches and traditional cuisine.
“It’s a really good opportunity for us to expose our culture within wider Australia and it’s been really great,” he said.
“We really hope for the best in the future.”
Mr Monger said he had spent about two decades living in a refugee camp before moving to Australia.
“Life in the refugee camp was really horrible, it was really miserable,” he said.
“You don’t have access to the basic necessities, so it’s been a really great opportunity for all Bhutanese people to move to other places and start their new lives in a different country.”
Launceston’s Lhotshampa community is one of the biggest in Australia, along with Albury-Wodonga and Hobart.
The federal government made the decision to welcome Lhotshampas from Nepalese refugee camps in 2007, with about 5500 making Australia their home as of 2015.
Bass Labor MHA Michelle O’Byrne was the Community Development Minister in 2008 and helped oversee the first Bhutanese families’ migration to Launceston.
When we look at refugee settlement and how it can be done well, then Launceston and the Bhutanese community is the best example in the country.- Bass Labor MHA Michelle O’Byrne
She said the community had thrived in Northern Tasmania.
“We were really nervous at the time,” she said.
“It was such an isolated thing 10 years ago to put four Bhutanese families in a town where nobody spoke Nepali and it was a high risk decision.
“What we completely misunderstood was the tenacity and generosity of the Nepalese Bhutanese community.
“When we look at refugee settlement and how it can be done well, then Launceston and the Bhutanese community is the best example in the country.”