Dunedin Multi-Ethnic Council – Celebrating Diversity

We are Ōtepoti Dunedin

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Dunedin Tai Chi Club Incorporated

Beginning with the first arrival of four Tibetans and their whānau in 1985, DTA, a member of New Zealand Tibetan Associations (NZTAs), had existed informally for 27 years prior to its formal establishment in 2012 as the Dunedin Tibetan Association.

Who are we: 

The Dunedin Tibetan Community group is made up of ethnic Tibetan people and their families who live in Dunedin.  We are part of the groups that comprise the national New Zealand Tibetan Association. As stated above, the Dunedin Tibetan Association informally came into existence in 1985 with the first arrival of four Tibetans and their whānau.

The group has done many different things over the years, but always exists to provide a place for Tibetans to get together for important festivals, to share food, language, and keep the culture alive.  As a people, we are originally from Tibet, a country with over five thousand years of history, culture and language.

The size of the community has fluctuated with the steady arrival and departure of the community members and is extremely small with the numbers remaining about the same with only about five to ten households at any one time.  Currently, in 2021 there are eight Tibetans and their families living and working in Dunedin. More established migrants in the Tibetan community assist newer migrants to integrate and establish themselves in Dunedin on arrival.

The ways of keeping culture strong within the households has often meant that over the years there have been different activities undertaken that also benefit the wider Dunedin community.  What we do here is closely connected with the services provided by the local Dhargyey Buddhist Centre (DBC). DBC has been the platform where the members meet and participate in the many activities organised by DBC. It is with DBC that we often share our unique cultural, linguistic and spiritual values with the wider Ōtepoti Community. The Dunedin Tibetan Community has also shared the expertise in many areas our members have to offer with many organisations throughout the country.

Some examples are:

  • In the 1980s and 1990s there was a Tibetan Dance troupe
  • Tibetans have, along with the local Tibetan Buddhist community, facilitated many visits by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Dunedin and New Zealand
  • Ordained Tibetan Buddhist scholars have presented a Buddhist devotional and artistic practice of creation and dissolution of a sand mandala on many different occasions
  • Ordained Tibetan Buddhist scholars lead teachings and provide guidance to Dunedin’s Tibetan Buddhist community, and any Buddhist who requests assistance with life events or challenges. They also maintain interfaith connections and connections with other Buddhist groups in Dunedin.  For instance, our current resident teacher and spiritual director took part in leading prayers as part of the March 15th memorial service at the Dunedin Stadium in 2019.
  • Tibetans often assist the wider Tibetan Buddhist community with activities for the Tibetan Buddhist Community, such as, fundraising dinners featuring their cuisine and volunteering their time for other events organized by the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre.

What Dunedin means to us:

For nearly all Tibetans here, Dunedin is now their only home.  Dunedin is a safe haven for Tibetans to co-exist peacefully with all other diverse ethnic backgrounds, led by the first partnership between Mana Whenua, and Pākehā. It is place where we can be free to maintain and exercise our racial, cultural, and spiritual identity within the broader unique identity of Dunedin and in New Zealand. This very small community continues to give back to Dunedin at every opportunity, because it is now our home.