Thursday, June 23, 2011

Seeking refuge in Geraldton

24 June, 2011 9:49AM AWST
Jane Kennedy
    Imprisoned and robbed, Nahn Thai Dao and her young family fled Vietnam for a life of safety and freedom. The Geraldton farmers share their story this National Refugee Week.
Nhan Thi Dao and her husband Thuan Dac Nguyen were among the many Vietnamese refugees following the Vietnam War, the first wave of immigrants to be known as 'boat people'.

"[The Vietnamese Government] were communist and we wanted democracy," Nhan explains.

Vietnamese refugee Nahn Thai Dao now lives a safe and happy life in Geraldton after fleeing the Vietnam War. (Jane Kennedy - ABC Midwest)
Thuan was among those imprisoned for political resistance when the Government took over South Vietnam in the 70s, "it was very frightening, a lot of people die in the prison," he recalls.

"There were nearly 1 million people in the prison in 1975 when I was there."

After they were imprisoned, the Government robbed their homes of food, clothes and family treasures.

"They took it all, when we come here we have nothing," Nhan says.

Nhan's family, along with her brother and sister's families then spent months at sea aboard a dangerously overcrowded boat in hope of a better life.

They were among the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers taken to the Galang refugee camp in Indonesia where they spent months awaiting their refugee status to be processed.

Living and health conditions were poor and many people died, "they only give us food, no nothing and we still waiting," Nhan says.

Australian, Canadian, American and other Government representatives interviewed the asylum seekers, and determined the country to which they would be sent.

Nhan and her family longed to live in the beautiful country that was shown to them in a short promotional film.

"They show so many jobs in Australia, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth ... it looked beautiful," Thuan says.

Nhan says it was also the kindness of the Australian soldiers serving in Vietnam that made her family want to come to Australia.

"They were very friendly and they talk about Australia to us ... at that time I had a little bit English so I could talk to them"

"They talk about Australia, not many people, but lots of land, so we thought, good," she laughs.

In 1980 the families travelled by plane to Perth. Thuan went to school to learn English while Nhan looked after their two young children.

"That time we very very sad, we cry everyday and remember our county," Nhan recalls, but says they were blessed because they were safe, "we didn't worry in the night time or day time."

After hearing of Vietnamese people living and working in Geraldton the family relocated and began to learn how to farm vegetables from the other immigrants.

"At first we were very poor and we had about four families under one roof sharing one garden," Thuan remembers.

The couple have fond memories of being welcomed by the Geraldton community, helped particularly by the local Catholic Church and St Vincent de Paul society.

"They showed me everything and help me with anything," Thuan recalls.

"The people in Australia very good, very very friendly, very honest," Nhan adds.

Nhan say that her family can relate to the pain felt by those in detention centres, but says it is simply a matter of being patient and hoping, "they need to be waiting on the government, they can't do anything, they can't fight that's wrong."

The couple believe that with every National Refugee Week, Australian refugees become more recognised and understood within society. The week also provides an opportunity to celebrate the positive outcome of families who have migrated to Australia like Nhan and Thuan's.

"We got good family, our seven children go to uni or good work ... We're very very happy in Geraldton," Nahn smiles.

No comments:

Post a Comment