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Tibetan refugee Yeshe Choesang has spent a lifetime fighting oppression, and the TAFE NSW Excellence Award winner continues to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Yeshe was recently named the Health, Wellbeing and Community Services Student of the Year at TAFE NSW’s Western Sydney Excellence Awards after graduating with a Diploma of Community Services (Case Management).
He now works with Settlement Services International, helping other refugees and migrants access essential medical and government services as well as assisting them to connect with all-important community networks.
“I wanted to give something back to the community,” he says of his decision to study Community Services.
“I am very proud of this award. My TAFE NSW teachers always encouraged me to take advantage of opportunities, which I have never had before. I feel so grateful for the education system, the teachers, the community, the freedom and the way of study here – it is a very different atmosphere to where I come from.”
Yeshe grew up in a small village in eastern Tibet and was forced to flee across the border into India when he was just 11, escaping human rights abuses and leaving behind his parents, whom he never saw again.
He lived in the Tibetan enclave of Dharamsala in northern India, home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile, where he became a journalist and wrote about the oppression of the Tibetan people.
He later met and married his wife Methok, a fellow journalist, but when her father was arrested, tortured and killed after helping Tibetan political prisoners, the pair applied for asylum and fled to Australia in 2018.
“When we arrived in Australia, there was great culture shock, but we were very happy,” Yeshe said.
“Now we belong to a country and to a community. It’s the first time I have ever felt I have a country to belong to.”
Yeshe is now studying a Bachelor of International Studies at the University of Western Sydney and writing a book about his childhood experiences including interviews he did with Tibetan exiles and political prisoners.
“Even though I was a journalist for 10 years, TAFE NSW has given me better writing skills, and more courage to do what I want to do in my life,” Yeshe said.
“I want to write about my journey and my insights and raise awareness about the stories of the Tibetan people.”
Head Teacher of Community Services at TAFE NSW Bankstown, Anne Maley, said Yeshe’s caring and empathetic nature and his great communication skills set him up for success in a community services career.
“His Diploma has really boosted his confidence – he is a passionate advocate for social justice and has shown an incredible aptitude for this field of work and supporting others,” Anne said.
“Our TAFE NSW courses help people follow their passion and equip them with the skills and qualifications they need to build a successful career that is also deeply rewarding.”
Even while juggling the demands of study, writing a book and two days jobs (he’s also a Centrelink interpreter), Yeshe has still found time to establish a not-for-profit organisation supporting his local Tibetan community – the Tibet Initiative Network Australia.
“We want to help new Tibetan families arriving in Australia and undertake community service, not just for the Tibetan community but the wider Australian community,” Yeshe said.
“We want to give back to the community that has welcomed us.”
Fulfil your potential and explore hundreds of life-changing training opportunities at TAFE NSW. For more information visit www.tafensw.edu.au or phone 131 601.
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