The Australian Dream and the Bhutanese Opportunity

We can and should make the grasses in Bhutan greener and break the myth that it is greener on the other side
A major development in the last few years has been the increasing number of Bhutanese leaving the country to study and work in Australia. Living mainly in the Australian Capital, Canberra and Perth, it is estimated that there could be about 15,000 Bhutanese in Australia. According to the education census of Perth, there are 7,000 Bhutanese in Perth alone.
Everyone knows why there is this Australian rush. From the many reasons cited, the dollar is the main magnet. Within a year, one can earn in Australia what we may not be able to earn in our entire life as civil servants in Bhutan. Added on to these are other factors, such as lack of opportunities in the country.
Bhutan’s connection with Australia is not new. It goes back to 1962, when Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, invited Bhutan to be an observer to the Colombo Plan meeting in Melbourne. In 1970, the Australian government provided 54 trucks, hybrid sheep and wool. Gradually support came in other forms, one of which was human resource development (HRD), with Bhutanese leaving for higher studies to Australian through scholarships provided by the Australian government. And the scholarship exists even today, in the form of AUSAID.
I do not know when Bhutanese began to “seriously” work in Australia or see Australia as the land of opportunities. I stepped on Australian soil in 2006, to pursue my masters at the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra. There were just around 20 Bhutanese, including spouses. Indeed, almost all of us were working and studying, while those not studying were working full time. 
But the works I did were entirely different from what I was used to. It was not sitting on a chair, but cleaning it; not engaging in a meeting or conference in a hotel, but cleaning the mess created by the conference. Called “odd jobs,” the pay was good. From all the varieties, I loved cleaning as it paid more; there were no supervisors and it enabled me to move from one job to another; clean one school and move to the next. Further, I was never called a sweeper, I was a janitor. And I was good; Macquarie School even gave me a certificate, saying, “We have never had a better cleaner than you.” 
A lesson I learned was that payments are made based on the work. If you are paid AUD 20 per hour, companies ensure that every dollar is extracted from the work. Nothing is easy. Sacrifices were involved and life back home was like a dream. I had to think twice before ordering a cup of coffee, going to a pub, watching a movie, smoking etc. If you pamper yourself with such activities, you can never save. And the greatest fear was falling sick, as the medical expenses are exorbitant.  
I had a monotonous routine; home - university - work; early morning shifts – university - work. And though weekends are meant to be a period to rest, I never wanted to miss working on weekends due to the penalty rates; you are paid more for working on holidays. Time management became very important; I even needed to plan when to sleep. Some friends used to sleep in cars as there was no time to go home between the night and early morning shifts. And as a student, I had to balance study and work. It was very stressful. But I can proudly say that I succeeded, for I received the letter of appreciation in academic excellence from the Chancellor of ANU. It wasn’t just Macquarie School who honored me.  
Once I saw a group of Bhutanese, our seniors, who had completed their studies and were about to return, dressed to kill. They were going around taking photographs at different landmarks. Later, I learned that due to the work-university-home routine, they had not been around Canberra at all in 18 months. They were on the photography trip to show folks home Canberra in pictures. This is an anecdote showcasing the sacrifices one has to make. And having realized how difficult life is, I never ask any friend or relative coming from Australia for gifts. 
I went to Australia (Canberra) again in 2013. Apart from the massive increase in the number of Bhutanese and rivalry between individuals (especially for work on weekends) nothing had changed.
I am definite that those going to Australia are aware of the challenges and sacrifices they need to make. Despite this, hundreds are moving and governments have been aware that the main factors are lack of opportunities, mismatch between supply and demand of labour, leading to unemployment. But what did governments do? From my prism, it is the failure of our system and governments to come out with effective mechanisms and interventions, which had translated to the “Australian Rush.”  
It appears that Bhutanese are now doing well and has climbed the social hierarchy. Many have bought houses in Australia, started business in different areas and become employers. Another question arises; what will happen to remunerations, which governments proudly display. 
Informal sources say there are more youth pursuing the Australian dream. This is a concern. We are in the Industry 4 era, with technology breaking the barriers for humans to pursue the most favored want – make money – from any part of the world, including Bhutan. With His Majesty’s command and interventions, Bhutan has started to invest massively in technology. It would be just a matter of time before Bhutan and Bhutanese begin to harvest the share of investments made. Every Bhutanese, especially the youth will benefit immensely. They will have opportunities to tie up with global giants in technology and other ventures. They will become their own masters. The Australian Dream can be buried by the Bhutanese Opportunity. For this group especially, there will be more opportunities in Bhutan than other countries. And it is again the responsibility of the government and policy makers to create favorable conditions, support mechanisms, links with global giants in business and others, so that the investments bear fruits.   
I am neither trying to dissuade people from leaving Bhutan, nor undermining Bhutanese in Australia and other places. In fact, I respect them. I also understand the power of the dollar. I have penned my narrative of Australia, shared my experiences with the hope that it could help some who are deciding to go Down Under understand the price one has to pay. Further, I have just attempted to inform our future leaders, the youth, and others of investments made and those in the pipeline to provide them opportunities, not just to get a job, but to build their dreams without having to take the 7,478 kilometer journey to Australia. To those who make policies; we can and we should make the grasses in Bhutan greener and break the myth that it is greener on the other side.