The Australia Stories

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Through personal recollections and imagery we come to understand the challenges, rewards and sacrifices made by our men and women. Comments made by interviewees represent their personal experiences and opinions; they are not speaking on behalf of the Australian Army or Department of Defence.

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Read about Australia's contribution in Setting the Scene, then listen and view the moving stories of our people. The sources used to create Our Stories are rich, engaging and rare. After I bought my first house, I bought 12 machines, then 18 machines and after that I had machines [all around my] living room and my business grew and grew. I started my business in under my name, Lan Vo. I bought this business [Mimosa Fashions, a wholesaler and retailer of watches and custom jewellery] in When I started selling wedding dresses, I did well.

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Sometimes, I worked 23 hours and slept only one hour. But that is why I have money right now. I also had to send money back to my country, to my parents. Then, when my sister and brother came from Vietnam and Singapore, I [supported them]. I go back to Vietnam every year, but I love Australia, it accepts me.

I [had to] come here for my children. But it made me more determined. When I left China, I had studied material science engineering and worked for two years. Graduates at the time were appointed [to jobs] by a university and [the state] would send us to workplaces. At the time, Australia was seen as a peaceful country.

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On the plane, I saw Sydney harbour. The sky was so blue, the clouds were so white, and the sun was so warm. A week later, I was walking down George Street and a white man in his late 30s tried to bump into me. I was so scared. Culture-wise, Australia was difficult.

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My degree in China was not recognised so I waitressed while I was studying English and that was depressing because I felt I was an engineer. But after the massacre, it was devastating. We could work full-time without fear of being sent back to China. It was an opportunity to start again.

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In , I applied to Sydney University to complete postgraduate studies in economics, which changed my life. But the lecturer spoke so fast and [the field] required a lot of English. I grew up in China, a planned economy. I had no knowledge of market economies. Now, I enjoy it but at the time, I was overwhelmed.

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I think immigration has made it easier for Australia to adapt to the international market. But racism happens when people feel threatened.

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Chinese-Australian friends say that colleagues can be friendly but when a position comes along, they feel like they should have it rather than you. But I was telling my son recently that [part of my] primary school homework was to write a self-criticism report.


The system required you to be devalued so you feel powerless. Since we were young, my dad has always done all the hard work for us. Bootoolgah the crane and Goonur the kangaroo rat, the fire makers. Weedah the mocking bird. The Gwineeboos the redbreasts. Meamei the seven sisters. The Cookooburrahs and the Goolahgool.

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The Mayamah. The Bunbundoolooeys. Oongnairwah and Guinarey. Narahdarn the bat. Mullyangah the morning star. Goomblegubbon, Beeargah, and Ouyan. Mooregoo the Mopoke, and Bahloo the moon. Ouyan the Curlew.

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Dinewan the emu, and Wahn the crows.