Gawaine Glasby meets the Dalai Lama
The opportunity came during his recent three month locum at Mutitjulu Health Centre in Central Australia with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC). “To be able to meet the Dalai Lama under the great shadow of Uluru with my wife by side and my daughter in my arms was beyond humbling and I would be lying if I said it didn’t leave tears in my eyes,” he says.
The Dalai Lama was fulfilling his own dream to meet Uluru’s traditional owners: a dream he had held after sighting Uluru from the air some years previously. After meeting some of the Traditional Owners at Mutitjulu water hole at the base of
Uluru, His Holiness then went into Mutitjulu to meet community members, offering some of his valuable time and words of wisdom.
The first thing that struck me as he made his way from his heavily chaperoned vehicle to the tin shed we were to sit in, was his absolute genuineness. “He emerged from his car and immediately began to disband from his entourage in order to immerse himself in the crowd. “As I observed his advisors, it was evident that they were on a time limit that was already running well behind schedule, but His Holiness was not deterred and seemed determined to take his time and make this most of the opportunity we were all there to share.
Sitting in the tin shed that is Mutitjulu’s community hall, with traditional owners on either side of him, Gawaine said that the Dalia Lama looked out into a packed audience who were in awe and excited, some a little bewildered, with the usual contingent of camp dogs roaming freely amongst their legs.
Though he addressed the crowd in English, everything he said was translated to Pitjantjatjara so that all present could be apart of his words. “One of his strongest messages for the community members was the importance of learning and embracing the English language as much as their own dialect, as a means for their culture to be strong and to thrive,” Gawaine said.
“He explained that English is the universal language of the world and is a vital part of the preservation of the incredible culture and identity of Indigenous Australians.
“He went on to explain this is the same for indigenous cultures worldwide, and he believed it will provide the means for future leaders to have a strong voice not only within Australia but over the world. “This message resonated with me for days after and made me reflect on how true this was and how he conveyed this message in a simple, yet humble manner.”
“To be able to meet the Dalai Lama under the great shadow of Uluru with my wife by side and my daughter in my arms was beyond humbling and I would be lying if I said it didn’t leave tears in my eyes.”
Gawaine said that, as a non-indigenous Australian, he was keen to learn more about the different cultures, languages and heritage of indigenous Australians. “I see this as a positive avenue,” he said. “I hope Australia’s cultural heritage can be preserved and enjoyed by my children and their children in the future.”
Despite running late for other commitments, the Dalai Lama was happy to answer questions, pose for photos and accept gifts from the community, Gawaine said. “He wasn’t keen at trying the witchetty grub he was offered and had us all in gales of laughter when he explained that it looked like a Caterpillar, Which happens to be the one animal in the world that he was afraid of as child and was still not entirely comfortable with!”
Gawain said that, as the Dalai Lama left the shed and began to make his way back to his vehicle, he had the incredible opportunity to share a few moments of laughter and a handshake with him.
“He approached me in the crowd after he spotted me wearing a ‘Free Tibet’ t‑shirt which I had after visiting McLeod Ganj in Northern India where the Dalai Lama has a residence. He was In Residence during our visit, but we were unable
to hear him speak in person at the time. “There were two things that struck me in meeting His Holiness. Firstly, his kind gentle touch and infectious giggle that he is so renowned for. Secondly, he had eyes that were warm and friendly yet they 100% engaged you as he spoke.
“The remarkable opportunities that nursing, and in particular remote area nursing, has afforded me throughout my career are immeasurable” Gawaine said.
“This day will be held as one of my most memorable.”