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  • Writer's pictureAffy Bhatti

Vietnamese Migrants In Australia: A Tale of Resilience and Community

Vietnamese migrants in Australia

The story of Vietnamese migration to Australia is one of resilience, adaptation, and significant contribution to the multicultural fabric of Australia. We would not be the nation we are today without being blessed by their oversized contributions, and in return Australia has been able to support the families of the Vietnamese community, both here and back home.

The Vietnamese word for “bless” is “ban phúc”, and it has a deep cultural meaning. Ban phúc is a core concept within Vietnamese tradition of ancestor worship, and this tradition not only shows the moral tradition of “Remembering the source of drinking water” but also demonstrates the respect of the next generation towards the previous one. Ban phúc connects the Vietnamese to their families, regardless of distance, but also to the land they live in, and Vietnam’s migrants have formed that deep connection to their new homeland, too.

Sadly, this journey began in the most tragic of circumstances, during the mid-1970s.

Why Australia Has A Large Vietnamese Community

The end of the Vietnam War in 1975 marked the beginning of a mass exodus from Vietnam. Many Vietnamese people arrived in Australia as refugees, while others came as wives of Australian servicemen or as war orphans. With the communist government the victor of the war, many Vietnamese feared persecution, but for others, Australia simply presented an opportunity for better education and employment opportunities when compared to the war-torn country.

As Malcolm Fraser, the Australian prime minister at the time, would later write: “After the end of the Vietnam War, with tens, even hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from Indo-China, procedures were put in place (to allow a large number of refugees to come to Australia) that did work.”

“This resulted, so far as Australia is concerned, in a dynamic Vietnamese Australian community, energetic, innovative and contributing enormously to the culture and development of this nation.”

Australia admitted close to 100,000 Vietnamese (with some Laotians and Cambodians) in the ten years from 1976-1986. It was a controversial decision to “open the borders” to them, but it was the right thing to do and, now, Australia is home to a thriving community of second and third generation Australian-Vietnamese.

Embracing Their Dual Heritage

Australia’s Vietnamese are proud of their new country, but have also never forgotten their roots, and a significant amount of the money that Vietnamese people earn is sent to Vietnam. Vietnamese Australians are generous with sending remittances back to Vietnam, sending US$1.44 Billion in 2021. These remittances have played a crucial role in supporting families back home and contributing to Vietnam’s economic development, because the average salary in Vietnam is around 6.1 million Vietnamese Dong, or just short of $400 Australian per month.

$400 Australian barely covers the lowest rental income for a family here per week, so it’s easy to understand why even the minimum wage in Australia seems like a major blessing to the Vietnamese when they transfer money to Vietnam. Whatever remittances they can send back, no matter how small in Australian currency, can make a real difference back home.

Australia And Vietnam: A Tale Of Friendship

Despite the ongoing differences in political philosophy, today Australia and Vietnam share warm relations, and the ongoing active participation of Vietnamese migrants in supporting their home country has translated into a very large trading partnership that continues to grow.

As one of Vietnam’s fastest-growing trading partners, Australia’s total two-way trade with Vietnam was valued at $25.7 billion in 2022, up from $15.8 billion in 2020-2021. This represents an increase of 62%, making Vietnam the 12th largest two-way trading partner for Australia.

What’s more, more and more Australians are now migrating to Vietnam themselves. There is a thriving expat community in Vietnam, with Australians working in professional services, the growing trade business, or deeply involved in the education system. The story of the two nations has become one of friendship, trade, and mutual respect.

How The Vietnamese Contribute In Australia

Back in Australia, Vietnamese migrants have made significant contributions to Australian society. Despite facing initial challenges such as language barriers and cultural differences, they have shown remarkable resilience and have successfully integrated into Australian society.

In terms of economic contribution, many Vietnamese-Australian families have become involved in agriculture, and have built successful farming and fruit and vegetable businesses. Their hard work and entrepreneurial spirit have not only provided for their families but also contributed to Australia’s economy and food stability.

Australians also love Vietnamese culture, and the Vietnamese migrants have been very successful in bringing that to Australians. These days, you can find an excellent Banh Mi sandwich almost anywhere you go - cities or countryside, and Pho has become one of our favourite noodle-and-soup dishes. Meanwhile, areas such as Cabramatta in Sydney are a testament to the vibrant Vietnamese culture that has become an integral part of Australia’s multicultural identity.

For events, the Vietnamese celebrate their traditional New Year with style, in a way that lights up the town around them. Vietnamese New Year is known as “Tet”, and if you’re ever interested in participating in the festivities there are always events in every major city in the country.

The success of the Vietnamese migrants in Australia is one of the nation’s great achievements in leading a positive, multicultural society. And it is a truly reciprocal relationship. The Vietnamese work hard to contribute to their country, and in return are blessed with the ability to embrace their culture and transfer money from Australia to Vietnam to support their families, both here and in their homeland.


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