Australia is home to the whole world and I am very proud to be one of those to call Australia home, says Fr Liem Duong, Assistant Parish Priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Cabramatta.
- Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
Like so many Vietnamese families forced to flee their homeland both before and after the Vietnam War, Fr Liem found a new life, safety, opportunity and a new future in Australia.
Yesterday, 1 August marked the 48th anniversary of what were then known as Indochinese refugees being granted permission by the Federal Government to settle in Australia. The decision was an important step away from the White Australia policy then in force and opened the door to refugees such as Fr Liem and his family to contribute to the rich fabric of today's Australia.
There are now more than 160,000 Vietnamese-born Australians and 174,000 with Vietnamese parents or grandparents. "Australia is a truly multi-national society with people living here from every corner of the globe," says Fr Liem. He adds as with the Irish and other large groups who have immigrated to Australia, the Vietnamese Australian communities integrate the values and culture of their new country with the ethos, history and culture of the old.
"Our identity and roots are important to us but we also share many of what Australians regard as Aussie values - generosity, love of family and living life to the fullest,"" he says. For Fr Liem's family leaving the homeland was a difficult decision but as Hanoi's Communist Government asserted its authority after the end of the Vietnam War, basic human rights disappeared such as freedom of speech, religion and freedom from persecution and torture.
As a Catholics the Duong family were especially vulnerable. Finally in April 1987 taking his youngest son with him, Fr Liem's father joined the hundreds of thousands of other Vietnamese fleeing their homeland.
For several months the pair lived in a crowded refugee camp in Indonesia before finally receiving permission to settle in Australia. He then set about arranging visas for his wife and the rest of the family. But Fr Liem's elder sister and brother, who were now adults, were ineligible for visas so despite fleeing the country, they spent the next four years in squalid conditions in a refugee camp in Malaysia before being sent back to Vietnam. It would be another four years before they were finally accepted by Australia, by which time Fr Liem, his mother and two remaining siblings were living in Sydney after receiving their visas the previous year.