Since leaving Tibet as a teenager and fleeing to India as a refugee, Dolkar Lhamo has not only overcome many hardships but also managed to attain significant achievements.
Former refugee Dolkar Lhamo and her son.
Ms Lhamo was born in Tibet and lived there with her parents and four siblings until the age of 15.
After continuing her education and practising medicine in India, Ms Lhamo arrived in Australia with her husband and son in August 2019 and was welcomed at the airport by Settlement Services International (SSI).
She said that the support that was provided to her family by The Humanitarian Settlement Program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs* and delivered by Settlement Services International (SSI), was extensive. “They gave us furniture, took us to many events and familiarised us with the Australian ways,” she said.
As a child, she was enrolled into a Tibetan children’s boarding school where she completed her studies. Fulfilling her parents’ dreams for her to have a brighter future, she went on to study medicine at a Tibetan medical college.
“I left my parents when I was 15. I was alone, and I knew that’s what they wanted me to do – to become a doctor, especially a traditional one,” she said.
After completing her studies and a one-year internship, she ambitiously sought and secured a job where she worked as a GP in a Tibetan medical institution for 10 years. Having to leave her family while she was an adolescent, Ms Lhamo said she developed a strong connection with her sponsor parent, who visited her four times in India.
“When I was in India, in my school, this one lady was sponsoring me from Luxemburg. She was like a mum to me. When my son was born, she came to see him. We still speak often,” she said.
While her sponsor parent continues to act as a support network, Ms Lhamo still yearns to be reconnected with her biological family, who she has not seen for 20 years.
“I have had no contact with them, not on the phone or anywhere. I tried many times to go back to Tibet to see my parents, but the Chinese embassy did not give me permission to go.”
Her inability to travel from India to Tibet became a defining factor in Ms Lhamo’s decision to seek refuge in Australia. As there is more political freedom to travel between Australia and Tibet, Ms Lhamo hopes she will now be able to rekindle connections with her estranged family.
“One of my cousins here got permission to visit Tibet. The Australian government is more willing to give me the chance (to go to Tibet.)”
While waiting for the opportunity to travel to Tibet, Ms Lhamo has started studying a Diploma of Library and Information Services at TAFE. Her English teacher at Brookvale introduced her to Avalon Community Library, where she started working as a volunteer. She aspires to secure a job as a librarian in the future.
“I love working in a library because, when I was in India, I spent a lot of time there. I was working in the library when studying to be Tibetan doctor,” she said.
For Mrs Lhamo, working at the library is an opportunity to connect with diverse communities and people from all walks of life, similar to her life as a doctor.
“While working for 10 years in India, I went to many different places and learnt different cultures. I feel the same thing in the library. Every day there are different people asking different questions. I can help them.”
Ms Lhamo’s local community is home to people who speak an array of different languages. Her multilingualism in English, Indian, Chinese and Tibetan are skills that she hopes can make her a valuable librarian in the future.
“We have lots of different people … I think I can be helpful to my community.”
While Ms Lhamo has made a significant change in her home and careers, with her future showing bright prospects, her hope to reunite with her family remains strong.
“For me, I really I hope I can go back to Tibet and see my parents before it’s too late. This is my dream to see them and talk to them.”
*Go to https://homeaffairs.gov.au/ for more information.