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Boat to the Barossa

I am a refugee … a boat person. I was born in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) the year the Vietnam War ended.

Now I live in South Australia’s Barossa Valley on a farm with my family. I’m not a typical local. Strangers on the street are surprised I speak English so well. But while the Barossa is not very multicultural, I’ve felt embraced into the community.

We worship at Neukirch Lutheran Church and I am learning traditions which have further strengthened my faith journey.

I’ve been working on aid projects for more than 15 years and am committed to improving education for children worldwide. Closer to home, I enjoy sharing my experiences with children to promote a culture of understanding.

So why am I living and working in the Barossa?

When communist tanks stormed the Saigon Presidential Palace in 1975, it ended the war – and freedom and democracy in the South. This was particularly so for people like my dad, a South Vietnamese Navy officer. He was imprisoned and subjected to unspeakably inhumane treatment.

My parents decided to escape Vietnam when my father was released. He navigated a small fishing boat crammed with 40 people. We sailed five days and four nights and were attacked by pirates. I was brought up a Catholic by my parents who instilled a strong faith and prayer tradition. We know we were saved on our journey numerous times by God.

After being processed at a refugee camp in Malaysia, we arrived in Hobart in winter 1983. It was cold but as we stepped off the plane, people wrapped us in woollen blankets. Ever since, I’ve felt wrapped in a blanket of kindness by the Australian community. Today we are proud and grateful to be Australians.

Living in Melbourne, my parents worked hard to give us opportunities, including an education.

After university, I returned to Vietnam and spent 2001 as a volunteer with UNESCO. There I met my husband Brett, who was volunteering in agricultural research.

We were married in 2004 and moved to Canberra where I worked with AusAID, while Brett worked with the Department of Agriculture then AusAID.

Seven years ago we came to the Barossa to manage Brett’s family’s farm. It is a world away from Vietnam but I am thankful for being welcomed into this community. Without the generosity of Australian people, I wouldn’t be here to share my story.


This story appears in full in the March 2017 edition of The Lutheran.