By Ram Khatry, Sydney
If the Department of Immigration should ever have second thoughts about the effectiveness of its parent visa programme then it would do well to browse through the happy pictures of 500 plus parents from Nepal who yesterday had a truly once-in-a-lifetime moment at Cattai National Park where they were feted by officials of the New South Wales chapter of Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA).
Organisers of the programme believe it was a record turn-out of visiting parents with those who have lived in Australia for decades suggesting the programme could have been a first not only within the Nepalese diaspora but also among other expatriate communities.
The programme concept was developed and executed by the young team of NRNA State Coordination Council (SCC) of New South Wales. According to SCC member Nijan Chaulagain, the event could not have been possible without the coordination of Krishna Niraula who reached out to the community members to send their parents on the road trip.
Now that a post-event chatter is on within the diaspora, the parents programme has become a kind of brand the legacy of which will continue in the days to come, says Krishna Niraula who was the coordinator of the event. He says he is extremely happy with the success of the grandest programme of his lifetime and believes that it will inspire younger members of the community to work for harmony in the community. Mr Niraula is also excited that the details of the the gathering have been recorded in the NRN SCC system which will come handy in the execution of similar programmes in the future. Australian Nepalese Medical and Dental Association (ANMDA) led by Dr Prabin Pathak was closely involved in the event.
Speaking at the gathering at the national park, NRNA ICC Patron Indra Ban opined that the event was the first of its kind which she said could be replicated by NRNA national chapters across the globe.
“I see this gathering as the utmost utilisation of the Australian government’s parenting visa scheme which was introduced in 2012, ” said Mahendra Kumar Lamsal, OCEANIA coordinator of the NRNA. The main objective behind easing of the parent visa processing was ‘for grandparents to look after their grandchildren and to keep the mums and dads in the workforce’ which Saturday’s gathering has proven well, the travel entrepreneur pointed out.
NRNA Australia’s spokesperson Gyanendra Regmi concurred with Mr Lamsal when he said it was only due to the relaxed parent visa programme that the event became possible in the first place. He also believed that the programme may have been the biggest parents programme in multicultural Australia. However, it certainly was the biggest among all member states of the global body, Mr Regmi confirmed, “Of course it is the biggest gathering, and totally distinct gathering, of parents among all 71 NRN chapters across the world.”
Some social media posts even went on to claim that there were in fact 600 parents gathered at the national park. When southasia.com.au contacted volunteers who participated in yesterday’s programme, it became apparent that there were certainly over 500 parents at the venue.
“I helped with the serving of food to our parents and I can assure you that I myself served easily over 500 plates and then there were the volunteers who cared for the elderly as well,” said Pratigya Adhikari who was one of the 100 odd volunteers that made the programme a massive success. One of the men and women behind the day-long programme, NRNA SCC state coordinator (NSW) Dinesh Pokharel, took to his Facebook account to promise that the success of Saturday’s event means the organisers would hold similar events in the future.
Most were in their sixties who arrived in Australia on parent visa to take care of their newborn grandchildren or participate in the convocation ceremony of their children. Some simply come to see the country their children have chosen call home.
Just as their children went through their fare share of culture shock when they were fresh in the country as international students, these visiting parents also go through their own challenges as they take up temporary residence in this foreign land. Their biggest challenge is overcoming language and cultural barrier. People back in Nepal are extremely social and are wont to strike a conversation even with total strangers, their most favourite form of ice-breaker being, “What is your family name?” As a result of this socio-linguistic barrier, they become enclosed within the four walls of their children’s properties due to which many end up developing mild forms of anxiety and depression.
Therefore, members of the Nepalese communities in Sydney were much appreciative when NRNA announced the parents programme, organisers say. What is more, everything during the road trip was free – free pick up, free food, free entertainment and free medical service.
Over a hundred volunteers contributed to the success of the programme, complete with their walkie talkies. According to Mr Lamsal, there was even a team of medical doctors. Dr Bhuwan Kandel led the medical team while Australian Nepalese Medical and Dental association ( ANMDA) held a free health check-up session.
He also said that whereas most Nepalese programmes tend to be male-dominated events, this was an exception because at least 40 percent of the participating parents were females.
In any case, as the NRNA Australia’s spokesperson said, the programme gave the parents an opportunity to meet and greet their friends and relatives living in different suburbs of Sydney. They also struck up new friendships which might come handy when it came to killing their boredom as they wait for their sons and daughters to arrive from work.
Mr Regmi, however, said that the community must not forget that the visiting parents are not babysitters. “They are here to support us; they are always happy to support their sons and daughters unconditionally. Likewise, I urge all concerned to keep their parents happy and give them sufficient time during their stay in Australia so that they do not feel they are merely babysitters in Australia,” he reminded his fellow Nepalese brothers and sisters.