The current ambassador of Nepal to Australia, Lucky Sherpa, is the first indigenous woman to be appointed as ambassador by the Government of Nepal. Sherpa was also anex-elected member of the Constituent Assembly and Parliament of Nepal.
B360 interviewed her to talk about the diplomatic relations between Nepal and Australia, the current state of Nepali diaspora in Australia and Nepali students, and how she is promoting Nepal in Australia. Excerpts:
What are the major issues faced by Nepalis especially students in Australia? How have you been tackling these issues?
The population of Nepalis in Australia is growing everyday whether it is in New South Wales, Victoria or any other state in Australia. Currently, Nepal has also become the third largest student-sending country to Australia and more than 30,000 Nepali students are studying here. So, along with the population, concerns and issues are also on the rise. The main issue that Nepalis and Nepali students have in Australia is regarding their visa or termination of their visa. Other issues that we have observed are regarding communication between parents and students, and the latter going through depression.
To solve these issues, Embassy of Nepal in Australia is working very closely with our Nepali community in Australia. We are making efforts to minimise the challenges by linking Nepali students with the Australian Embassy in Nepal as well as the Australian Education System. This is an important effort the Nepali Embassy is focusing on because a majority of Nepali students who come to Australia aren’t provided sufficient information by the educational consultancies resulting in Nepali students being stranded and subsequently depressed in Australia.
What is the image of Nepal being promoted in Australia?
Being a citizen and a representative of Nepal, there is a great responsibility to promote Nepal. The Embassy in Australia is promoting Nepal in Australia via the Nepali diaspora. The Nepali diaspora is a priority concern and I am trying my best to mobilise the community for the benefit of the country.
Apart from promoting different Nepali cultures in Australia, I have also been promoting the tourism industry.The number of Australian tourists visiting Nepal is also increasing every year. As Visit Nepal 2020 is approaching, I have been working on bringing quality tourists from Australia to Nepal. For this, we have been organising tourism promotional events in different states of Australia as well as through other festivals organised by NRNs here.
We also plan to organise business forums every year. We recently held Nepal Australia Business Forum in Melbourne in which the potential and hurdles while doing business in Nepal were discussed.
How can cooperation between Australia and Nepal be strengthened to be further beneficial?
It is not that the diplomatic relations between Australia and Nepal have not been better. The matter of concern is the bargaining power; the areas we can bargain on. After being appointed ambassador, we signed a bilateral consultancy mechanism which is also the first mechanism between Nepal and Australia. The first meeting of the mechanism was recently held in Kathmandu.
Nepalis are contributing to Australia education sector but aren’t getting consideration for it. It can be a topic that we can bargain on. But we must not forget that there are so many things we can take back from Australia: the work skills and education system are examples.
We have also formed Nepal-Australia Parliamentary Group in both countries. This kind of policy making network will definitely help bridge diplomatic relationship which suffered a gap for so many years.
What sort of diplomatic solution are your seeking from the Australian government to resume visa services from Kathmandu given that over 12,000 Nepali students on average travel to Australia every year?
We have raised this issue during our Bilateral Consultation Mechanism meeting here in Kathmandu and it has been taken very seriously by the Australian Home Ministry officials who came from India to Kathmandu to attend the meeting. We have been raising this issue with Members of Parliament and Ministers who have been working closely with Nepali diaspora in Australia. Visa and immigration matters come under the Home Ministry and we are seeking cooperation on this matter.
What do you wish to accomplish during your four year term as ambassador?
Firstly, I wish to heighten the diplomatic relations between Nepal and Australia in various economic sectors. I am also planning to establish a way by which NRNs can transfer their knowledge and skills back to Nepal. This project will bring skilful minds back to our country and provide trainings here in Nepal. For instance, I recently visited Bharatpur Medical Hospital and talked about creating a link between doctors of the hospital with the Nepali doctors living in Australia so that they can exchange knowledge and learn from each other. I want to replicate that in other sectors also.