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Speech by Ambassador Sonam Tobgay during the 115th National Day Celebrations in Perth, Western Australia on 17 December 2022

H.E. The Hon. Yaz Mubarakai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education; Aboriginal Affairs; Citizenship and Multicultural Interests;

Venerable Pedtseling & Venerable Keni Rimpoche from Bhutan;

The Hon. Senator Dean Smith, Federal Liberal Senator for WA;

H.E. Mr. Amarjeet Singh Takhi, Consul General of India in Perth;

Distinguished Representatives of Universities and Educational Institutions in WA; 

Other Distinguished Guests; Friends of Bhutan; and

My fellow Bhutanese.

Before I begin, I have the honor to convey the warmest greetings of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen to all Bhutanese in Perth, and to all Bhutanese in Australia. Their Majesties are always concerned for the welfare of the Bhutanese in Australia and the Embassy has received commands to provide assistance whenever required.

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish every Bhutanese in Australia Tashi Delek for the National Day.

I would like to commend Dr. Sonam Tenzin, President of ABPI, and his Executive Members, for the hard work and meticulous arrangements made for the celebration of the National Day today.

I thank H.E. The Hon. Yaz Mubarakai for honoring us today as the Chief Guest for the most important annual national event for Bhutan. We were also delighted when you could meet with our Foreign Minister when he visited Perth in September. My deep gratitude to all the other Australian dignitaries and friends of Bhutan in Western Australia for honoring us with your presence here today. I thank you all for your continued support provided to the Bhutanese community in Western Australia. 

Today is also a good occasion to express our deepest gratitude to the people and Government of Australia for your genuine friendship extended to Bhutan, and for the opportunities provided to the Bhutanese to study and work in Australia for the past six decades. This has strengthened people-to-people links and the bilateral relations between Bhutan and Australia.

It was 115 years ago today, in 1907, that Bhutan was unified under the leadership of Sir Ugyen Wangchuck, who was unanimously elected by the people as the first hereditary King of Bhutan. Since then, each successive monarch of the Wangchuck Dynasty provided great leadership required for the Bhutan of their times. In the present era, Bhutan is blessed yet again with a monarch for our times. His Majesty The King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is an exceptional monarch, under whose strong leadership and compassionate kingship, Bhutan is poised for an even brighter future.

The National Day is, therefore, an occasion for us to reflect and pay tribute to the enduring legacies of our monarchs, who for more than a century, provided peace, stability and prosperity to the nation. It is also a day to draw inspiration from our past achievements, celebrate our present and look to the future with optimism to build an even stronger nation. For the Bhutanese living overseas, it is a day to renew your bonds with Bhutan, and to celebrate being a Bhutanese. 

Since the Embassy opened a year ago, I’ve met with many of the Bhutanese living in the different cities in Australia and listened to your inspiring stories. I’ve been impressed by your grit, admired your commitment to hard work, and in some instances, empathized with you on the challenges you’ve faced. Overall, I’ve rejoiced in the successes and achievements of the Bhutanese in Australia.

Many Australians have shared with me that they find Bhutanese to be sincere, hardworking, trustworthy and reliable. They are also impressed by the unity of the Bhutanese community. These are admirable qualities that Bhutanese are being associated with, and it has filled me with immense joy and happiness when I’ve heard such positive feedback. Therefore, your successes are praiseworthy and are also a source of pride for Bhutan. Every Bhutanese must maintain this good reputation in Australia and continue to remain united as a community.

To the Bhutanese youth in Australia, while you must imbibe the best of multicultural Australia, you must also continue to learn from your parents and community elders on important aspects of Bhutanese culture, and maintain your connection to Bhutan. Your country and your culture is your foundation, and it is what gives you your identity.

As you are aware, Bhutan is undergoing a major transformation of the entire system of governance. On this, His Majesty The King delivered a most powerful, yet deeply emotional, Royal address last month to Parliament. He expressed serious concern and provided a clear analysis, in a most candid manner, of the problems and realities facing Bhutan.

For instance, our economy is not flourishing, and through the example of Karma Dechen, a young lady who works in a cafe in the capital, Thimphu, His Majesty highlighted the financial challenges faced by many common Bhutanese. Therefore, His Majesty said Bhutan is at an inflection point – a critical juncture – when there is an urgency for transformation to build a brighter future “for all the people of Bhutan, and for future generations”, and to avert a bleak one.

As a result, the Civil Service is being reformed to improve systems and processes for greater efficiency. There is reform in education so that our students have skills and competencies comparable to the best in the world. And our financial sector is being improved to facilitate economic growth. These reforms are touching all sectors and will have an impact on the lives of every Bhutanese.

While the civil servants and experts in Bhutan are working hard to bring about the reforms, His Majesty’s message was that the Bhutanese people must join hands, shoulder responsibility, and each one of us must play a role in this important national endeavor.

Here, I firmly believe that the Bhutanese in Australia are in a good position to heed the call of the nation and make a positive contribution to Bhutan’s transformation, as you comprise an impressive and the most highly qualified pool of Bhutanese residing overseas. Among you are many PhD holders, university lecturers, engineers, IT specialists, architects, medical doctors, nurses, teachers, childcare and aged care specialists, entrepreneurs and much more.

With the excellent world class education and training you’ve received in Australia, as well as the exposure and experiences you’ve gained, and the skills you’ve developed, the contribution of your good ideas and expertise will help to make a positive difference for Bhutan. You do not necessarily need to be physically present in Bhutan to make a contribution. In this day and age, you can do it from anywhere. Therefore, I invite you to share your ideas and suggestions with the Embassy, so that we can organize ourselves well and be in a position to contribute meaningfully to the transformative endeavor underway in Bhutan.

I truly believe that if we put our minds and ideas together, we can contribute to building Bhutan into the successful and prosperous nation that we would all like it to be. We can indeed all help to improve the lives of many fellow citizens like Karma Dechen!   

Let me conclude by reiterating what I said earlier this year in Perth. While I’m the official Ambassador of Bhutan to Australia, each and every Bhutanese in Australia is also an Ambassador for Bhutan. You must represent Bhutan well in your educational institutions, your workplaces, in the communities you live in, and wherever you travel in Australia. And I’m confident that each one of you will do it with great pride and dignity! 

Thank You & Tashi Delek!

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