RBE Canberra, Celebrating His Majesty’s 42nd Birth Anniversary

Bhutanese Embassy in Australia plays a bridging role

With around 12,000 to 15,000 Bhutanese in Australia and growing, and the largest source of remittance, the importance of the Bhutanese community in Australia and the country of Australia itself cannot be understated.

This is where the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in the capital city of Canberra comes into play as an important bridge not only between Bhutan and Australia, but also between Bhutan and the Bhutanese community there.

Ambassador Sonam Tobgay said that he and his team arrived in September 2021 and had to complete a two-week quarantine in Sydney. He said he reached Canberra in October but the city was in lockdown till the end of October and it was only form November 2021 that the Embassy could start its work with the official opening being from 17 December 2021.

The Ambassador said the Embassy will be playing a variety of roles. He said in terms of issues faced by Bhutanese one was on renewing their passport which the Embassy has started doing since March 2021, and another is renewing their CID cards which is outside the ambit of the Ministry.

The Embassy also authenticates and issues relevant documents that Bhutanese students or Bhutanese community members need.

It is also tasked with assisting Bhutanese who are sick and also works on processing and coordinating transfer of the human remains of Bhutanese who have passed away in Australia.

It extends consular access and assistance for Bhutanese when they come in conflict with the law. 

The Embassy assisted returning Bhutanese with their transit travel through Thailand and Singapore during the COVID period when travel regulations were stringent through these countries.

It pursues relevant matters with local authorities on behalf of the Bhutanese community.

With many students already there and more coming the Embassy coordinates with authorities of universities and educational institutes when assistance is required for Bhutanese students.

Through the Bhutanese Associations in the different cities, the Embassy coordinates activities for the welfare of the Bhutanese community.

“Basically, the Embassy is trying to assist the Bhutanese community as best as it can with whatever assistance they may require,” said the Ambassador.

He said that one worry among the Bhutanese community there is maintaining a cultural connect for the younger generation including the children born there. Here the Ambassador said the Embassy is looking to give Dzongkhag language classes and cultural classes so that the Bhutanese youth are aware of their tradition and culture and continue to have those bonds with Bhutan.

The Ambassador said the responsibility of the Embassy is to reach out as much as possible and because the largest population of Bhutanese are in Perth which is 4.5 to 5-hour flight away he tries to keep in regular touch with them.

He said the Embassy coordinates with the community members and associations to celebrate national occasions with them.

The Embassy has also been encouraging Bhutanese in Australia to register with the Embassy or  the local associations.

“We are also trying to organize activities like football, basketball and archery tournaments to bring and keep the community together,” he said.

The Embassy also encourages Bhutanese businesses to form associations to be able to better lobby the local chambers of commerce and they try to organize the community better.

Another thing the Embassy is looking at is to gather a database of highly educated and qualified Bhutanese in Australia, so that Bhutan can have Bhutanese exerts in various fields to tap into.

The Ambassador said that the Bhutanese who come to Australia generally do well as they are determined to work hard.

The other important role of the Embassy is to expand and further Bhutan’s bilateral ties with the government of Australia which has been very positive positive with regard to bilateral ties with Bhutan.

“The Australian government values the relationship with Bhutan and so we trying to look at many avenues of cooperation,” said the Ambassador.

The Ambassador said that Australia has played a very instrumental role in the Human Resource Development (HRD) of Bhutan since the 1960’s when Bhutan joined the Colombo Plan and he said even today Australia continues to provide good scholarships.

The Embassy currently located in the diplomatic enclave of Geils Court, Deakin, Canberra has a staff of five officers which are the Ambassador, Minister, Minister Counselor, First Secretary and Head of Chancery. He said that local staff will be hired once they work out the wage structure for the local staff.

The Ambassador said that if any Bhutanese in Australia needs help then they can call him or even drop into the Embassy. The Embassy has a Facebook page too.

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