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8thjune2011DMelbourne: The Australia Tibet Council (ATC) today called on Australia's Prime-Minister Julia Gillard to commit to a meeting with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, as he heads to the island nation to begin an 11-day tour of Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and the capital of Canberra.

Executive Officer of the Australia Tibet Council, Paul Bourke, justified the demand with the following statement: "The Dalai Lama is a Nobel Peace Laureate, revered religious leader, champion of universal human values and a tireless advocate for a resolution of the Tibet issue through dialogue. Tens of thousands of Australians will see and hear him during this visit. A meeting with the Prime Minister would be a reflection of Australian community expectations."

The Chinese government has refused to have any meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama, using his political leadership role as an excuse to avoid direct engagement. Since his devolvement of that political role earlier this year, however, the ATC has been urging the Australian government to use the opportunity to encourage talks and stronger relations between His Holiness and the Chinese government.

During his visit to Australia Tibet's spiritual leader will give public teachings and extensive interviews to the Australian media, open a new Vietnamese Buddhist centre and meet with Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhist communities and members of the Chinese community through the Chinese/Tibetan Friendship Group.

He will also meet with the Australian Parliamentary Group for Tibet in Canberra, who will host a reception for him in the presence of senators and members of parliament, and has confirmed meetings with government opposition leader Tony Abbott and Greens party leader Bob Brown in the nation's capital.

His Holiness is now wrapping up his visit to New Zealand, where he participated in the memorial service for victims of Christchurch's recent devastating earthquake, telling the 4,000-strong crowd "I want to share in your sadness", and assuring that "now we must look forward. Instead of sad, sad, look forward and overcome... you can do." H.H. even requested a private audience with victims' families and spent time visiting injured victims and emergency staff in Christchurch hospital.

One survivor of the February PGC building collapse described the Dalai Lama as "very kind and comforting", and said the experience was amazing, while another said it was an absolute honour to meet him and added the touching words "he's a very wise man, he's got a lot to teach us all".

His Holiness has not been received by the Australian Prime Minister since his meeting with John Howard in 2007, despite having visited the country twice since then. His last visits to New Zealand were in 1992 and 1996. Prime Minister Gillard declared two weeks ago that she would make a decision regarding a private audience closer to the visit, but has still not done so.

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