Date of Event: 1970s

Vessel type: Fishing boat

Location: Vietnam - Australia

Suggested title: My boat, my survival


My wife Lan and I were amongst 40 boat people who arrived in Australia on a flimsy, fishing boat from Vietnam in mid 1970s. That overcrowded boat meant escape, ensured our survival and was also a near death-trap. The vessel took us south, constantly being turned away by coast guards from countries that would not accept us.

The engine failed, the boat leaked and we swam for our lives. We endured dreadful conditions at a refugee camp on a small island. A more robust boat was cobbled together from vessels that had been abandoned on shore. Another long, perilous voyage was ahead, riding out the challenges of a monsoon and an active volcano.

Finally chugging into Darwin Harbour, a tinny was a powerful symbol of welcome. Two fishermen with floppy caps and zinc cream smears lifted beer cans, calling out: G’Day Mate, welcome to Australia. Through boats we found sanctuary.

Name of person submitting the story

Hieu Van Le AC


AMMC Member Institution

Alexandrina Council

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