EXPLORING Kangaroo Point on a brisk autumn day, I came across a beautiful statue beside the river on the eastern side of Story Bridge.
It’s of a woman holding a child’s hand and is dedicated to the refugees who fled war-torn Vietnam in boats bound for Australia in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. Many lost their lives on the way.
The statue captures a sense of the plight of the Vietnamese; the human factor of each individual’s personal struggle, as a bird comes to rest on the woman’s hand while the little boy tugs in the other direction, perhaps looking to a brighter future in a new country.
Well, that’s my interpretation and the statue is so powerful it stops you in your tracks and draws you in to consider an important part of Australian-Vietnamese history.
Having prowled the heartbreaking War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh city, I found it rewarding to see another aspect of the struggle of the Vietnamese being acknowledged here in their new land.
Around the base are plaques detailing the journey of some of the individual families. Some made it safely, thousands didn’t.
More than half of the Vietnamese population was displaced at the end of the Vietnam war when South Vietnam succumbed to Communist rule in 1975, and while most of the more than two million people fled to neighbouring Asian countries, some embarked on the voyage by boat to Australia.
It was a tough trip, as they endured hunger, storms, pirates, getting lost and capsize and the term “boat people” entered the Australian vernacular.
Although it’s unclear exactly how many people died trying to travel to other countries, it is estimated to be as high as 500,000.
This beautiful memorial at Kangaroo Point acknowledges that struggle and the arrival of the Vietnamese to a new home in Australia.
It’s good to know they found a welcome here.
The memorial states: “In memory of the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese boat people perished at sea on their journeys seeking freedom from 1975-1995.
“In gratitude. In the hour of our greatest need – you were there. We thank you Australia.
“There is no greater sorrow than the loss of one’s native land. Euripedes – Medea”
The statue was dedicated on Sunday, December 2, 2012.
Take the City Hopper across to Holman St wharf and walk through Captain Burke Park to the eastern side of Story Bridge.
Mmmm……sadly, not so welcoming to “boat people” these days.
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