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Anna’s winning story close to home


When Hang Thi Pham was escaping Communist Vietnam by boat in 1988, she was too scared to think about anything - even whether she would live or die.

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“I just knew I was on the boat,” she said. “I prayed all the time.”

Hang’s Catholic faith and that of her family had placed them in great danger after the invasion of Saigon but it helped her to survive the boat trip, 13 months in a Thai refugee camp and settling in a strange new country with no prospect of returning to see her parents and siblings.

“I didn’t think I would ever get back to Vietnam, it would be too dangerous,” said Hang who eventually was able to visit her family.

While Vietnam is very different today, she said it had been the right decision for her to leave.

“I have to say thanks be to God. Now I am happy with what God blessed me with. I have a husband and two children, I am very happy.”

Hang’s daughter Anna, a Year 12 student at St Dominic’s Priory College at North Adelaide, recently wrote a short story, based on the experience of her mother fleeing Saigon, for a magazine that publishes student poetry and prose. The national magazine, Oz Kids in Print, publishes the best submissions and awards prizes at the end of the year for each category.

“When I was thinking of topics to write, I immediately thought of my mum because it’s such a harrowing story that will resonate throughout the Vietnamese community,” she said.

“It’s something I’m very grateful for and I think it’s important that these stories don’t get forgotten.”

When Anna received a phone call saying she had won a competition in Melbourne, she thought it was a scam. It took six calls before the man on the other end of the phone could explain who he was and that she had won the 2018 Bic Young Australian Writer of the Year. Hang was there by her side and all she could say was “oh my God, oh my God”.

The competition is run by the Children’s Charity Network which produces Oz Kids in Print.

Called ‘Home’, Anna’s story was published in the magazine and she and her mum will travel to Melbourne for the presentation of the award at a ceremony in Melbourne on November 24. Her English teacher Shelda Rathmann will also attend the event. Ms Rathmann said it was a great achievement for Anna’s short story to be selected from thousands of entries from around Australia.


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