Gawaine Glasby meets the Dalai Lama

21 Jul 2016

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.”