Canberra: Sikyong Penpa Tsering completed a full day of engagements and high-level briefings to a cross-section of Australian Members of Parliament and Senators on 20 June 2023. The day began with an interview conducted by two Tibetan youths on behalf of the Australian Tibet Council (ATC). Sikyong Penpa Tsering spoke on key concerns to be addressed during his visit and his hopes for Australia to step forward and take a greater role in advocating for Tibet as a middle power.
The day continued at Parliament House with a series of back-to-back engagements and high-level briefings. Meetings were held with prominent politicians including the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Simon Birmingham and members of the Australia Greens party. These discussions aimed to address concerns surrounding human rights abuses in Tibet, focusing on the forced removal of Tibetan children to colonial boarding schools; this drawing parallels with Australia’s stolen generation and China’s blatant hopes to assimilate Tibetan youth and in essence commit cultural genocide. Hon. Simon Birmingham, who received the briefing, voiced his support for Tibet and expressed his concern over the potential consequences of the boarding schools. He emphasised the importance of principled and consistent actions by Australia and hoped to raise the issue during meetings with Chinese representatives.
In the afternoon, Hon. Susan Templemann and Dr Sophie Scamps acknowledged the Sikong and delegation in the galleries of Parliament House. They read statements expressing their support for Tibet, highlighting concerns about the boarding schools and China’s want for control in the selection of the next Dalai Lama. Later, a Matter of Public Interest was presented for debate in the Senate by Senator Janet Rice. The motion addressed colonial boarding schools and China’s unfound claims in controlling the reincarnation and appointment of the next Dalai Lama. The motion garnered support from senators across different political parties, including Linda Reynolds, Deborah O’Neill, Lidia Thorpe, Tony Sheldon, and Jordan Steele-John.
Following the meetings, a private function was organised by Hon. Deputy Speaker Sharyn Claydon, bringing together members and senators representing all the political parties. The event provided an opportunity to foster dialogue and solidarity among political leaders.
During the dinner function, the co-chairs of the Australian All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, Susan Templemann, Sharon Claydon, and Senator Janet Rice emphasised the importance of advocating for Tibet and Tibetans, despite the sensitivities involved. They shared their experiences from their visit to Dharamsala in 2022, expressing admiration for the resilience and determination displayed by the Tibetan community and the CTA in their fight for human rights and justice. Other attendees during the dinner included Hon. Michael McCormack, Peter Khalil, Adam Bandt, Dr Sophie, Jordan Steele-John, Dr Helen Haines, and former co-chair and old friend of Tibetans Hon. Warren Entsch.
Sikyong Penpa Tsering concluded the night by thanking all in attendance for their ongoing support and reinforced his commitment to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to seeking further global support for Tibetans. He expressed his hopes for Australia to stick to its values and has been encouraged by Australia’s developments in engaging in multilateral forums in recent years.
–Filed by the Tibet Information Office, Canberra