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FROM DESPAIR TO HOPE: How TAFE NSW helped Jinpa forge a new life

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga

FROM DESPAIR TO HOPE: How TAFE NSW helped Jinpa forge a new life

HOPE FLOATS: Wagga resident Jinpa Gyatso says TAFE NSW has offered him a path to integration since fleeing Tibet for Australia.

15 December 2020

A man who fled religious persecution in his native Tibet and found safe haven in Wagga Wagga has thanked TAFE NSW for helping him create hope and prosperity in his adopted homeland.

Desperate to escape the Chinese regime, Jinpa Gyatso left his family in 2010 and made the perilous trip across the Himalayan mountains into India, where he languished in a refugee camp for four years.

In 2014, he was granted refugee status in Australia and after a short stint in Sydney, moved to Wagga Wagga.

Desperate to improve his English and better understand Australian culture, Mr Gyatso completed a Certificate II in Spoken and Written English at TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga and later completed a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery.

He now works as a chef at Wagga’s International Hotel and operates Tasty Tibetan Treats as a side business, serving up native Tibetan fare at a host of markets across Wagga.

Mr Gyatso, 28, who with wife Sonam recently welcomed their first child, said his extraordinary integration into Australian life would not have been possible without TAFE NSW.

“TAFE NSW has been very helpful to my life and many others in my same position,” Mr Gyatso said.

“It’s very difficult to start a new language in a new country. If you can’t speak the language, you can’t get a job.

“My business is good and my life is good thanks to what TAFE NSW has taught me.”

Mr Gyatso was raised in a family of nomads in his home country, which subsisted by roaming the countryside and hunting yaks and sheep to use for dairy products.

“Life is very hard and study is very difficult when you’re a nomad,” he said.

He was schooled only from the ages of 11 to 15 before becoming a monk at 16 and spending four years in a monastery.

Mr Gyatso recounted the six harrowing days he spent crossing the Himalayan mountains to escape to India.

“We don’t have freedom in Tibet and a lot of people have been killed or taken prisoner,” he said. “We can’t get a passport to travel and if we pray for the Dalai Lama, we go to jail.

“When I fled to India I walked all night and slept during the day to avoid the guards. Lots of people died in the snow or were captured but I was lucky.”

Mr Gyatso said he had been warmly embraced by the Wagga community and was considering opening a Tibetan restaurant in future.

TAFE NSW Head Teacher of Career Pathways, Aboriginal Languages and Employability Skills, Elizabeth Stott, said Mr Gyatso’s story was a another shining example of how TAFE NSW transforms lives.

“I have heard countless stories like Jinpa’s and it’s wonderful to know TAFE NSW is giving new arrivals the skills and knowledge to integrate into Australian life,” Ms Stott said.

To find out more about studying at TAFE NSW, phone 13 16 01 or visit


Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Media and Communications – Business Partner, 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428.