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Saying goodbye after three decades in the LRH kitchen

A stalwart of the Latrobe Regional Health kitchen crew is departing after 33 years with the hospital, originally relocating to Gippsland from Nepal where he spent 15 years in the military as a Gurkha.

LRH kitchen hand Bharansher Rai first joined the team in 1990 after settling in Australia and moving to Moe where he became a leading figure in the Victorian Nepalese community.

Bharansher followed a family-tradition of joining the Gurkhas, the Nepalese unit of the British army known as a fearless fighting arm, and even upped his age from 15 to 18 so he could sign up.

He ended up serving in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, England, Fiji and Cyprus, but he got a taste of Australia when fighting alongside Aussie diggers in Borneo between 1964 and 1965.

After the army, he worked for another 10 years as a security guard in Brunei before deciding to make the move to Australia in 1989, joining a fellow ex-Gurkha in Sydney.

“Nepal is a good place, very peaceful, but the political situation was not very good,” Bharansher said.

He found his way to Gippsland, where there was a small Nepalese community and even appeared in a 60 Minutes feature about a resettling program for former Gurkhas in the Latrobe Valley.

Bharansher said he loved Moe, and the northern hills reminded him of the vast mountain landscapes from home, a few years later he was able to bring his wife and three kids over from Nepal.

He found a job in the kitchen at the old Moe hospital and was on hand to help transition to the Traralgon site in the late 90s.

“It was easy work compared to being in the army fighting in the bush, where we had to carry heavy backpacks and ammunition. I was very happy in this job,” he said.

“I’ve seen many changes at the hospital, when I first started, I had to peel bags of potatoes by hand and we didn’t have a dishwasher. Now everything is automated and the potatoes come pre-peeled.”

Bharansher was one of three members of Victoria’s Nepalese community to receive a Victorian Multicultural Award certificate of merit for their work in the community in 2016.

He marches in every Anzac parade and was instrumental in establishing a permanent exhibition at the Moe RSL featuring the history of the Gurkhas to honour those with a connection to the Valley.

He also proposed a tall shrine symbolising the world’s major religions at the Morwell Immigration Park, and has taken members of the senior Nepalese community through LRH on personal tours.

Bharansher is retiring in December to live with his family in Melbourne, saving him from driving back to the big smoke every weekend to be with them.

“I have many old and new friends at LRH, I love everyone here. I came here looking for a better life and if it wasn’t for work I would never have had my children get an education,” he said.

“I thank everyone for the opportunity to have this job and work here.”