By Ram Khatry, Sydney
19 June 2017
A High School teacher nominated by one of her former Bhutanese refugee students has won this year’s Humanitarian Award given by NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS).
Ram Khanal, who attended Murray High School in Lavington after he arrived in September 2009, had nominated his former school teacher Kerrie O’Connell for Humanitarian Award 2017 in the Rural and Regional category.
Well-regarded and longstanding performance of Mrs O’Connell as a much-loved school teacher helped her win the prize, given away during this year’s refugee week (18 June to 24 June). She even travelled to Nepal to learn more about her refugee students’ learning culture and environment, it is understood.
Mr Khanal arrived in Australia at the age of 16 and joined Murray High School towards the end of 2009. The current medicine student at University of Wollongong was so good in his studies that he was Dux just the year after, in 2011.
“Kerrie is an everyday hero who has provided holistic education and support to her students to settle,integrate and succeed in their new school and community,” Mr Khanal told southasia.com.au when asked why he nominated his former teacher for the state-level award.
He came as part of Australian government resettlement programme for Bhutanese refugees languishing in seven UN-assisted refugee camps in eastern Nepal. It is only due to compassionate and dedicated teachers like Mrs O’Connell that he and his fellow-students from refugee backgrounds soon felt at home in a country they never imagined they would be living in one day.
For Mr Khanal, his teacher is “humanitarian, champion of welcome and harmony” who “goes above and beyond her role as a classroom teacher to help her students”.
According to Mr Khanal, Mrs O’Connell assisted students outside of school in learning to swim, drive, or within the community helping them settle and enjoy their new home. Her “passion, love, commitment and dedication has ensured that her students succeed regardless of their background or barrier to learning”.