AMES Australia recently facilitated a launch event for ‘Bhutan to Blacktown’, a book co-written by former Bhutanese refugee Om Dhungel and journalist James Button.
The book tells of Om’s journey from a remote village to a senior position in the Bhutanese Civil Service, to life as a human rights activist in Nepal and, eventually, to his work as a community leader in Blacktown, Western Sydney.
It also tells of his role in helping to settle more than 5000 Bhutanese refugees in Sydney.
Om told the launch that he was forced to flee his home and leave behind a senior public service job when the Bhutanese government launched an ethnic cleansing campaign targeting citizens of Nepali ancestry in the 1980s.
The launch also canvassed a discussion about Australia’s settlement services with Om saying he believed refugee communities should be more formally involved in the delivery of services.
He said there was a need to recognise the importance of the “context expertise” that those with lived experience could bring to bear on settlement issues; and that refugee communities could contribute more through collaboration with service providers.
AMES CEO Cath Scarth and staff members Liza Maksmychuk and Jalal Ahmadzai took part in a panel discussion, sharing their insights on Australia’s settlement system.
Ms Scarth said told the gathering that it was important community capacity building and community development activities were part of a holistic settlement services framework.