By Ram Khatry, Sydney
26 January 2016
The Greens have become the first Australian political party to nominate a person of Nepali origin for any state level elections. Bhuwan Khadka, the Greens (WA) candidate for the seat of Belmont, says he would use his community-oriented Nepali background and years of political interest to fight for equality and social justice in Australia.
Mr Khadka came to Australia in 2008 as a student of Diploma of Community Services and currently works as a Support Worker in the Aged Care and Disability industry. He is also pursuing a Bachelor of Social Services at the Edith Cowan University to enhance his “knowledge and expertise in serving our community.”
Mr Khadka told southasia.com.au that he joined the Greens in 2013 and has been actively involved in it’s events ever since, including during the federal elections last year. “My local Greens group, The Swans Team, encouraged me to step up. They know I was interested and by coincidence it happens to be the same place I live. So, I put my name forward backed and endorsed by the team,” he explained when asked how ended up being the Greens candidate for Belmont. His electorate is some ten kilometres from the Perth CBD.
A number of people at the forefront of Nepali Australian communities, contacted through social media and telephone, said it was most likely the first time that a Nepali-origin Australian was fighting for a seat in any state parliament.
The 29 year old Western Australian knows hardships all too well, both during his upbringing in Nepal and here in Australia. In fact, he had a sort of “culture shock” when he learnt about the widespread poverty and homelessness here in this land of opportunities and that’s where he wants to engage as a young politician, “When I moved to Australia, I was shocked to discover that many families lived below the poverty line; I had never imagined that poverty would exist here.” He joined the Greens in order to be able to tackle these vicious circles of “unemployment, homelessness, mental health and suicide” that he says is something “we just cannot ignore”.
Having arrived in Australia from overseas, Mr Khadka is constantly aware of the challenges immigrants face as they settle down in the country. He joined the Greens because he felt at home with their agendas and vision, “The Greens are the only Party who have continuously fought for social justice, and environmental sustainability. They are the only Party to speak for me, and provide our most vulnerable people with a true voice.”
Although he is a well-settled citizen of Australia now, the well-being of his community is not far from his mind. The Belmont man originally from Nepal’s Bhaktapur district wants to take this opportunity to unite his own people. Through his candidacy for the March 11 polls, he wants to tell them and make them aware of the immense possibility Australia offers. “We all call Australia home and therefore we have a responsibility for its development and welfare so that we can leave behind a better world for our future generation,” he urged his community members.
Having said that, he is painfully aware of the divisive nature of the Nepali diaspora. In a document sent to southasia.com.au that details his vision for his community, he speaks about the numerous social organisations that “mushroom” every year creating competition than team work, he said. “Many everyday Nepalese people and businesses are tired of supporting and sponsoring these different organisations and events that grow every year like wild mushrooms,” he said in the document.
He also wants to bring about change in the way some better-off Nepalis treat their fellow Nepalis. He himself has experienced “disrespect” and discrimination from his own people as he worked in a Nepali restaurant, he claimed. According to the Greens candidate, there are three categories of “Australians” prevailing in his community:
“In our Nepalese community, if you are Australian citizen – you belong to First class
if you are permanent resident- Second class
and if you are a student- Third class.”
He wants to bring change to this narrow outlook by promoting a culture of mutual respect. “I feel like Nepalese people are living in Australia but still carry the conservative ideas of different levels of society as in Nepal on the basis of their status or work they do. I want a permanent end to this culture in the Nepalese community,” he states.
“We should change our focus from surviving in Australia individually and shift it towards living together, keeping our culture and tradition alive and pass it on to our future generation. Let other people talk about us as an example for their community.
Mr Khada is also a keen footballer and the vice-president of Nepalese United Football Club WA, the only registered Nepali soccer club in WA. “We compete in Metropolitan league organised by Football West,” he said.
Will contribute $20,000 a year from his salary as an MP
The Belmont candidate says, should he win the election, he would contribute $20,000 a year from his personal income as a Member of the Western Australia Parliament for helping out various activities within the Nepali communities of Australia. “This fund will help students, sports clubs, cultural events and other important parts of the Nepalese community,” he said.