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Vietnamese refugees give back


The generosity of former refugees from South Australia’s Vietnamese community will help refugees and asylum seekers become job ready and obtain employment through a program developed by the Vinnies Refugee and Asylum Seeker Service.

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Tung Ngo MLC, co-chair and founder of the Vietnamese Boat People Monument Association, presented a donation of $50,000 to the St Vincent de Paul Society (Vinnies) last month.

“Members of the South Australian Vietnamese community remember firsthand the plight of refugees,”
Mr Ngo said.

“Australians such as Vinnies (members) opened their arms to welcome me and thousands of other Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon in 1975, and now we want to open our arms to today’s refugees and help in any way we can.”

Mr Ngo fled Communist Vietnam at the age of nine with his older sister and her young family. They travelled on a small fishing boat across the sea with 32 other refugees. After a year and a half in a Philippines refugee camp they were accepted by Australia in 1981.

The first Vietnamese-born Member of the South Australian Parliament, Mr Ngo said he remembers the kindness and practical assistance given to him and other refugees by church groups such as Vinnies.

“Many Vietnamese were virtually destitute on arrival and faced an uphill battle finding work, while  also trying to acclimatise and come to grips with the largely western values in a strange new world,” he said at the cheque presentation ceremony at Kilburn.

“Four decades later asylum seekers and refugees face exactly the same challenges as we did.”

The Association had funds remaining after the completion of the monument honouring Vietnamese boat people, located at the corner of Victoria Drive and Kintore Ave, city.

Tung Ngo, Barney Frankland and Brad Hocking with the cheque.

With contributions from other donors, the total amount raised for the project is $100,000. It will be used to expand a program providing English language tutoring, assistance with job applications, and financial support for training.

St Vincent de Paul Society president Brad Hocking said Vinnies members were there to greet the Vietnamese refugees at the Pennington Migrant Hostel at Rosewater and played an important part in their resettlement as new Australians.

In 1981 Keith Belton (State president at the time) worked with a group of local members in setting up a shop, three rooms and five storerooms for collecting and recycling clothing, and attending to the emergency needs of the arriving refugees.

When the families left the hostel, Vinnies continued to assist them through its conference network until they were adequately established.

“Since then, the Vietnamese community have been generous and assisted Vinnies to continue the work that we do,” Mr Hocking said.

Referring to the plight of current refugees and asylum seekers, he said the Federal Government had “lost the Australian way” of generosity and welcoming spirit.

“The future for each refugee and asylum seeker is often unpredictable as they wait for acceptance and belonging in our country,” he said.


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