Stories that matter
- 'Food, compassion and a second chance', a family's journey to Australia after the Vietnam War
'Food, compassion and a second chance', a family's journey to Australia after the Vietnam War
02 May 2019
Most of my extended family were refugees after the Vietnam War. They recall this ration pack is very similar to what they were provided. (They also had sugar, instant noodles, and pumpkin. But I should note that the public sentiment towards refugees at the time - Vietnamese refugees in particular - was very different from what it is today.) My aunt said that her supply was only enough just to get by. After receiving financial aid from our family in Australia, she was able to buy extra food from the market.
As for the pioneers who arrived in Australia earlier, they didn't have a comfortable life either. Not only did they have to start their life over, but many of them also had to work two jobs in order to send their earnings to family still overseas. One of my aunts said her days started at 4 a.m., and finished late into the night. She spent an hour or so walking to work - and the same journey home - every day because she couldn't use the money she earned to buy a car - or a bike. Her husband did the same.
Even though they lived in the same apartment, they didn't see each other for a few years because they worked at different hours seven days a week. They managed all that with a newborn.
I have heard these stories over and over again at our family gatherings; yet I can't still fathom how tough it must have been for them - to leave the only life they knew, to spend years in constant fear and in exile, to be hungry and exhausted, to finally arrive to freedom, and yet be so willingly burdened by their responsibilities to help others in need.
To be honest, I don't think I will ever truly know what it was like. But one thing I know for sure is that, when my family speak of their journeys, they say they are, and always will be, grateful for what they were given - the food, the compassion and the second chance.
This is why I am doing the Ration Challenge this year with more than 10,000 other Australians.
I don't need to know refugees personally. And they don't need to know me. But they need to know that there are many of us who care.