Australia Welcomes New Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Incoming representative Sonam Dagpo (4th R in front row) and outgoing representative Tenzin  Phuntsok Atisha (3rd R) with members of the Australian Parliament in Canberra
Incoming representative Sonam Dagpo (4th R in front row) and outgoing representative Tenzin Phuntsok Atisha (3rd R) with members of the Australian Parliament in Canberra

Dharamshala: Mr. Sonam Norbu Dagpo, the incoming Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Australia, received a warm bipartisan welcome from the Australian Parliament during a week-long handover from outgoing representative Mr. Tenzin Phuntsok Atisha.

MPs and Senators from all major political parties in Australia formally welcomed Mr. Dagpo at a reception inside Parliament House on Tuesday, 27 October. The group, which included several members of July’s Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Dharamsala, also bid a fond farewell to Mr. Atisha, a familiar face in Canberra who has held the post since 2003.

The representatives shared their thoughts on the current Tibetan situation with the parliamentarians and discussed the important role for Australia in promoting a peaceful resolution. Mr. Atisha reflected on his six years as representative in Australia and thanked the MPs and Senators for their active support. The group reaffirmed their support for a peaceful and lasting resolution of the Tibetan situation and committed to working closely with Mr. Dagpo over the coming years. The group also committed to continuing the work of Australian All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet.

In the evening members of July’s delegation to Dharamsala hosted a dinner for the representatives in the Parliament dining room.

During two days in Canberra, Mr Sonam Dagpo also joined Australia Tibet Council staff in briefing members of an upcoming Australian parliamentary delegation to China and Tibet. The delegation will visit Lhasa for two days and will be the first official Australian parliamentary delegation to visit Tibet since 1991.

From Canberra the two representatives moved to Sydney for meetings with the Tibetan and Chinese communities and the local Tibet support groups.

On Thursday evening, around thirty Chinese democracy activists, including Chin Jin of the Federation for a Democratic China, held a meeting with Mr. Dagpo and Mr. Atisha over dinner to discuss opportunities for furthering cooperation between Tibetan and Han Communities in Australia.

   Representative Sonam Dagpo (3rd R sitting in front row) and Tenzin Atisha meet with Chinese democracy activists in Sydney
Representative Sonam Dagpo (3rd R sitting in front row) and Tenzin Atisha meet with Chinese democracy activists in Sydney

On Friday, the representatives met with members of the major Tibet support groups in Australia, including the Australia Tibet Council, Tibetan Friendship Group, Australian Tibetan Society and Freedom4Tibet, along with a handful of other prominent Tibet supporters and non-government organizations including the International Commission of Jurists and the Dalai Lama in Australia Ltd. All present conveyed their gratitude to Mr. Tenzin Atisha for many years of persistent and effective advocacy for Tibet and expressed their enthusiasm to begin working with Mr. Sonam Dagpo.

On Saturday, the representatives met with members of Sydney’s 450-strong Tibetan community in their enclave in Dee Why on Sydney’s north shore. Mr. Dagpo and Mr. Atisha had met with members of the Tibetan community in Melbourne, the second largest Tibetan community in Australia, the previous week.

 Representative Sonam Dagpo and Tenzin Atisha meet with Tibet support groups and other non-government organisations in Australia
Representative Sonam Dagpo and Tenzin Atisha meet with Tibet support groups and other non-government organisations in Australia

Mr. Sonam Dagpo has held a number of posts within the Central Tibetan Administration, most recently as the Secretary for International Relations in the Department of Information and International Relations. He is a member of the Task Force for talks with the Chinese government since the commencement of the Tibet-China dialogue in 2002.

Mr. Tenzin Atisha, who has spent six years as Australian Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, will be replacing Mr. Dagpo as Secretary for International Relations in Dharamsala.

–Report filed by Dr. Simon Bradshaw, Campaign Coordinator, Australia Tibet Council