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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 3025


Mr HAYES (Fowler) (11:19): Today I will talk a little bit about our involvement in the Vietnam War. Australia's commitment in Vietnam extended from 1962 until 1975, and I rise to talk not only about the 47,000 Australian soldiers who were committed to fight the war. Some of these soldiers were conscripted; the participation in war of others was regularised. The war was fought on the basis of protecting the values of freedom and democracy.

I bring to the attention of the House the thoughts of a little girl who grew up in that period and whose brother was in the South Vietnamese military forces. Much of her view is obviously what she saw through her eyes as the brave Australian soldiers fought for her people and their aspirations. This little Vietnamese girl waited patiently for her older brother to return from the war. He told her stories about working alongside the Australian diggers. He worked alongside many nationalities, but he always indicated to her that the Australians were the bravest amongst them all and, indeed, that they had the most heart and care for the Vietnamese people.

More than a decade later, this young girl, Bao Khanh, fled communist ridden Vietnam to find a new life of peace and happiness in Australia. She brought to this country her vibrancy and a passionate commitment to care for her community. Bao Khanh is a very close friend of mine. She is a singer as well as a broadcaster on New South Wales Vietnam Sydney Radio. Since leaving Vietnam, Bao Khanh has never looked back to the earlier days of her life but rather she constantly reminds me of her appreciation of and gratefulness for the Australian people, particularly the Australian soldiers. Her love of this country and for the Australian soldiers who sacrificed their lives—the 521 of them who died in the Vietnam War—caused her to write a song about them, which is titled Always our heroes … always our friends. It is a tribute to and a commemoration of the Australian involvement in Vietnam and her personal appreciation of and her indebtedness to the Australian community and the Australian military in particular.

I have seen the great work that Bao Khanh and her husband, Joachim Nguyen, have done for our local Vietnamese community and also what they have done for the broader Australian community. Both Bao Khanh and her husband, Joachim, are always there to lend a hand when tragedy strikes this country. For instance, through their radio show they raised $57,000 for the Victorian bushfires. They also raised $47,000 for the Queensland Floods Appeal. They take very much on board the title of the song, Always our heroes … always our friends and, in doing so, Bao Khanh has now made a DVD as a fundraiser for Australian Legacy. The money she receives from the sale of her tribute DVD goes directly to Legacy to help support the families of those who are suffering financially and socially for their contribution in the Australian military service, whether in the Vietnam War or in subsequent conflicts.

It is times like these that remind us that, when we talk about our new arrivals, it is not just that they seek Australia as a new home and embrace Australia and its way of life; it is what they have brought to bear here—the colour, the vibrancy and the diversity—and the way that that contributes to the Australian community. I am reminded of an old Vietnamese saying which goes along the lines of 'Those who eat the fruit of the tree should have regard to those who planted the seed.' What Bao Khanh does is almost a dedication to the fact that people who come to Australia are part of the Australian community and want to bring their all to contribute to the community and to make it better. Living in the most multicultural electorate in the country, I get to see the values, the good respect and the understanding that people such as Bao Khanh and her husband, Joachim, contribute to our country—and long may they continue their good work on behalf this country and our community.