Nepal-born former refugee named Wollongong’s Young Citizen of the Year 2019


24 January 2019: A young student born in one of erstwhile seven UN-supported refugee camps in Nepal has been named Wollongong’s Young Citizen of the Year 2019.

Narayan Khanal, who was born at the Beldangi-2 Bhutanese refugee camp in eastern Nepal, has been honoured in recognition of his advocacy work to help young men and women assimilate and thrive in Australia.

A student of Bachelor of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Wollongong, Mr Khanal arrived in Australia late 2009 when he was just 12 years of age. The now 20-year-old was recognised last Tuesday at an awards ceremony hosted by the Wollongong City Council.

Bhutanese refugee - southasia.com.au
Narayan Khanal with former foreign minister Julie Bishop I Photo: Supplied

In his speech at the ceremony, Mr Khanal reminisced his early life in Jhapa, “I was born in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal and lived under harsh conditions for 12 years of my life.” The challenges he faced during his hard camp life has inspired him to engage in advocacy activities aimed at making positive impact on young people’s life, he stated.

“As a member of the Youth Sub-Group for Refugee Resettlement in New South Wales, I’ve had the opportunity to provide feedback on creating policies which will ultimately affect the way young refugees are resettled in Australia,” he said during his speech.

Mr Khanal and his friends founded the Multicultural Society at the University of Wollongong in order to “promote inclusion and diversity through sharing of our diverse stories and food”.

The undergraduate student’s quest for a fair world is not limited to the City of Wollongong alone. He travelled to Geneva last June to “contribute towards creating good policies for refugees at the first ever Global Summit of Refugees”. He also attended the 38th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council which he says enriched his “knowledge of the art of advocacy and diplomacy”.

Narayan Kafle-southasia.com.au
Photo: Wollongong City Council

Mr Khanal was awarded the New Colombo Plan last November under which he will be traveling to Japan later this year. He would like to contribute to Australia’s relationship with the Asia-pacific through his work under the New Colombo Plan, the Citizen of the Year mentioned. Once back home, he would aim to contribute back to Australian communities after with “renewed understandings of the diverse cultures we live with and around”.

In a conversation with southasia.com.au, Mr Khanal said his achievements proved that “if given an opportunity, anyone can make the most of it and be rewarded for it”.

The challenging childhood at the UN-sponsored camps in Nepal made him choose “health field”.  “As a 12 year old, I didn’t know the significance of poor health conditions. However, now that I’ve had years of learning at High School and University and upon understanding about the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, there’s so much more that I can contribute to Australia in terms of health as well. I can relate to the discrepancies in health for Indigenous Australians and it’s become an important goal to study medicine for me,” he said. 



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