Saigon Place – Bankstown
“Out of nightmares come good things”
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I want to tell you two stories tonight.
The first story is of a 22 year old man, who fled Vietnam in 1978 on a river boat with his older brother.
He was chased and shot at by the Vietnamese Army, he spent days at sea without food or water, and then finally he landed in Malaysia
Two weeks later he was on a plane to a new home – a place called Australia.
The second story is of an 18 year old woman.
In 1978 she took her younger sister on another boat, with no food, across a dangerous sea to Malaysia.
When she got there, she was taken to the island of Pulau Bidong – with thousands and thousands of refugees. She had two pairs of clothes and a tent and very little else for the next five months. She tells me it was like living in a jungle.
Then one day she was told by a man called Mr Rice, that she had been accepted by Australia. She said it was like all her dreams had come true.
A few years later this man and this woman met for the first time, on their first date, at Bondi Beach. And a few years after that, they were married.
They are my mother and father in law.
It is a common story.
A story of desperation, or hunger and danger, of pirates and waves, of camps and disease, and death.
It is also a story of hope, a story of a new home, and a new struggle, of family, of hard work and of success.
They are the stories I heard when I was a little boy at school in Cabramatta.
They are the stories my grandfather told me after he fought in Vietnam.
And they are the stories my mother and father in law tell me today.
Tonight is a time for us to remember the terrible truth of what happened in Saigon now over 38 years ago.
It is a time to remember those we have lost. The hundreds of Australian soldiers, the thousands of South Vietnamese soldiers, and the tens of thousands lost at sea.
Tonight is a night to remember our family and friends in Vietnam who are still seeking the freedom and democracy we take for granted.
It is also a night to say thank you to a new country that has opened its arms to a good people.
And to rejoice in the incredible achievements our Vietnamese community has made in such a short time.
The kids I went to school with in Cabramatta who told me the stories of pirates and waves, and death and disaster, are now doctors and lawyers, police officers, pharmacists and engineers.
This incredible success has happened because of three things:
- A strong community – lead by the VCA
- A strong faith – found in our churches and temples, and
- Strong families
Tonight is a night to thank our elders, our grand-parents and our parents.
Our mothers and our fathers, the quiet heroes who made so many sacrifices and have worked so hard for a better future for their children.
People like my mother and father in law.
People like you.
You are proof that dreams can come true.
And that out of nightmares come good things.
I am biased, but I think the Vietnamese Community has achieved more in such a short period of time than any other migrant group.
Our Vietnamese Community, Australia’s Vietnamese Community, has made Australia a better place to live.
There is an old saying, that when people were fleeing Saigon almost 40 years ago – if the lamp posts could walk, they would have left.
Tonight we remember.
We remember the darkness of the past, and the light – the great achievements of the Vietnamese Community in Australia.
And we hold tight our candles tonight and pray for a new dawn, one day that will come in Vietnam.