1. What was your first impression of Nepal when you landed here as the Australian ambassador?
I landed at Tribhuvan Airport a year ago, late one winter night. I was returning to Nepal for the first time in over 20 years. Kathmandu’s streets were empty, but for dogs curled in balls against the cold. A faint trace of the evening’s fires hung in the air, the smoky aroma taking me back to earlier visits, a point of reference for how much the city had changed—growing up and out.
Come daylight the next morning, and in subsequent weeks, I had a clearer sense of the way Nepal has both evolved and stayed the same over the years. There have been changes in both the built and natural environments, shifts in the architecture of politics and government and a maturing of the economy and national identity. But underpinning all of this are Nepal’s enduring characteristics: an ancient, rich and complex culture and the unparalleled warmth, hospitality and generosity of its people.
2. What are the similarities between Nepal and Australia?
The thriving Nepali community in Australia, which numbers around 150,000, speaks to the many similarities between Nepal and Australia and the way these make Australia a natural home for migrants and students from Nepal, and Nepal an attractive destination for Australians.
Both our countries are characterized by ethnic and cultural diversity, friendliness, a love of good food and the great outdoors, a federal system of government, an appreciation of community and concern for the environment.
3. What are the three milestones you feel you have achieved as your country’s Ambassador to Nepal?
When the second wave of Covid-19 hit soon after my arrival, I was pleased to facilitate a A$7million emergency assistance package to support Nepal’s Covid-response, in addition to our vaccine contributions through COVAX AMC and the delivery of much needed PPE by a Royal Australian Air Force flight.
I have placed gender equality and social inclusion issues prominently in my public outreach, reflecting the priority we attach to these in Australia’s development activity.
And third, I’ve worked closely with the education sector to prepare for the return of Nepali students to Australia when our borders opened in mid-December 2021. It’s been great to welcome students from Nepal back to Australia.
4. How are the people-to-people relations between Nepal and Australia and how can the relationship be further enhanced?
Flourishing people-to-people links underpin our warm diplomatic relations, which now span more than 60 years. I look forward to a time where travel between our countries is easier and we see a resumption of two-way educational exchanges, tourism and visits by business-people.
5. What do you like the most about Nepal?
The kindness of its people, the compassion of its spirituality and the majesty of its landscapes.
6. Where do you think Nepal as a country should improve?
I consider Nepal’s greatest untapped resource is its youth. I would love to see more young Nepalis accessing leadership opportunities in politics and government, as well as the community sector, business and the arts.
7. Is there anything you have planned but are yet to achieve in Nepal?
A program that I’m looking forward to joining this year is a mentoring initiative for young Nepali women, led by the British Ambassador H.E. Nicola Pollitt. I’m keen to work with women here to support their leadership aspirations and, of course, to learn from Nepali youth.
1. Favorite Nepali food
Oh, too hard to choose. But let’s say Kwati on a winter’s night—comfort food! And Juju Dhau from Bhaktapur.
2. Favorite place in Nepal
Whenever I need to restore serenity and to be immersed in everything I love about Nepal, I visit Boudha. Outside the valley, Pokhara is my easy-to-get-to haven.
3. Favorite Nepali song
‘Resham’ by Nepathya. I first heard this performed by a local cover band at Boudha on Laxmi Puja evening, last Tihar. Amrit Gurung and Nepathya have toured Australia five times, most recently in 2019 and always to very enthusiastic audiences. One day I hope to hear Amrit Gurung perform Resham live myself!
4. Favorite trek in Nepal
A confession: I’m more a hiker than a trekker. To date, my favorite hike was to Murma Top during a trip to Rara Lake with the US and UK ambassadors to promote climate resilience and biodiversity conservation programs.
5. Favorite season in Nepal
Spring, with its moderate temperatures, trees flowering, days lengthening, evenings of golden light and the sense of the world coming to life again.
6. Favorite Nepali festival
Tihar, especially the night of Laxmi Puja.
The ambassador’s personal message:
Australia marks its National Day on 26 January, a time to celebrate who we are as a nation. The vibrant and growing Nepali community in Australia makes a highly valued contribution to contemporary Australia and is integral to our rich, multi-faceted culture. I’ve been delighted to connect with this community both in Australia and when non-resident Nepalis and alumni return to Nepal.
In both our countries, we’re facing new challenges with the current wave of Covid-19. Confronting testing times such as these, together, in a mutually respectful partnership, the ties between Australia and Nepal are stronger than ever. I regard it as a great privilege to contribute to our expanding relations and the warm friendship between our peoples.