Tasmania is known for its mountains, even if they can’t quite compete with the giant peaks of Nepal.
But the island state is attracting a growing number of Nepalese people who are choosing to call it home.
Tasmania’s third most spoken language is Nepali, after English and Mandarin.
Hobart also boasts Australia’s only Nepalese pub, the Chowk.
Nepali Society of Tasmania president Khagendra Satyal said there were about 10,000 Nepalese people living in Hobart, about 3,500 Nepali in the north of the state, and a few hundred in the north-west.
“The geographical structure is also similar to the hilly and valley parts of Nepal.”
Mr Satyal said the climate wasn’t for everyone, though.
“Apart from that, a lot of people are calling Tasmania home.”
Mr Satyal said the adjustment to Tasmania’s slower way of life could be hard, but he found it peaceful.
“It is not very crowded which makes people move easily from one place to another.”
Advantages of a Tasmanian migration
Australian National University demographer Liz Allen said migrants tended to move to areas that maximised their employment and education opportunities, while also linking in with social and cultural networks.
“Tasmania offers a quieter, slower-paced environment than other Australian states,” Dr Allen said.
“There are advantages for people from overseas to establishing in Tasmania, the lifestyle and permanency pathways among them.”
Dr Allen said over the past 15 years, the number of people coming to Australia from Nepal had risen dramatically.
“Net overseas migration to Tasmania is relatively smaller when compared to the population of the state.
“Any growth in people moving from overseas to the state would be quite noticeable, particularly given the historical aspects of predominantly white overseas migration to Tasmania.”
Australian government data shows that at the end of June 2020 there were almost 132,000 Nepalese-born people living in Australia, five times higher than 2010 numbers.
Choosing to stay
Mr Satyal, who came to Australia in 2015 and moved to Tasmania from Sydney in 2019, is in the process of becoming a permanent resident.
He said Tasmania was a transit point for migrants as they settled in Australia and fulfilled visa requirements.
“But many of the Nepalese people, once they get their residency, they start buying homes and living here and the community is growing rapidly,” he said.
Mr Satyal said Nepalese people were even calling Tasmania’s more remote pockets like Stanley and Strahan home.
The Nepalese community have established various sporting clubs across the state, with cricket being a favourite.
“Most of the people who came here from a Nepalese background are skilled migrants who are working in the hospitality sector, aged care sector, retail sector, business sector and even on farms,” he said.
Like many in the community, Mr Satyal said Nepalese migrants also faced challenges finding affordable housing as well as navigating the health system.
Australia’s only Nepalese pub
Entrepreneur Kirin Thapa bought the former Soho pub in South Hobart last year.
It was formerly a university haunt, but now it is Australia’s only Nepalese pub, and serves only Nepalese food.
“We celebrate Nepalese culture and we play Nepalese music,” he told Ryk Goddard on ABC Radio Hobart.
It joins several other Nepalese restaurants, such as Kathmandu Cuisine, which opened in 2013.
The Chowk opened in October, but like many businesses it faced the challenges of coronavirus and border closures.
“As we are heading into winter we are picking up a bit now,” Dr Thapa said.
“We have good support from local people in and around South Hobart and lots of Nepalese people from around Tasmania; we have people coming all the way from Devonport and Launceston.
Mr Satyal said being able to visit the Nepalese pub helped many overcome home sickness.
“It’s very typical Nepalese food and culture,” he said.
Dr Thapa also owns a flower farm in Orielton in the south-east called Purple Love, which grows the culturally significant gomphrena flower.
The flower is well known in Nepal and parts of Asia where it is used in tea, and the Chowk has been experimenting with using it in cocktails and mocktails.
Dr Thapa said the flower farm would be a tourist venture that would hopefully tap into the popularity of Tasmania’s lavender and tulip farms.
“It blooms for five months, so if we actually manage to open it for tourists we will have five months of a trading season,” he said.