Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of book launch address

Download PDFDownload PDF

Leader of the Opposition


7 April 1992



Professor Cole, Professor Foster, Dr Dan, Dr Thu, other distinguishes guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I am personally delighted to join with you today to launch Dr Dan's book, which I think is a very moving book. It is called "A Vietnamese Family Chronicle". I couldn't agree more with Dr Thu's desire to see Australia lead the way.

I firmly believe the future of Australia is in the Asia Pacific region and we can't do too much in the course of the next few years to make sure that those links are developed.

I think Dr Dan's book is very important because it is the first book that has been written, as I understand it, by Vietnamese in Australia, that documents the Vietnamese cultural heritage. It is an important book because it will

give Australian readers an unique insight into the visions and values that Australia's Vietnamese migrants have brought to this country. It is also a very moving book because it is so

personal in its tone, it is so evocative in its mood and it is so elegantly and powerfully written. So I am really pleased to be here today for all those reasons to launch this book. And I am pleased to see my Parliamentary colleagues here who have been acknowledged, Michael Wooldridge, Jim Short and

Rod Kemp as part of this event.

I also want to compliment at the outset, the work of the Australian Association of Vietnamese Studies and the Philip Institute of Technology which are jointly sponsoring this

launch. The Association through its President, you have just heard, Dr Thu has played a very active and important role in building a greater awareness and understanding of Vietnamese culture in Australia and the Philip Institute has also played

a significant supportive role in launching this and I commend its Director, Professor Leo Foster on that involvement.

The first thing that struck me about the book is just how difficult it is to categorise this book. It is a family history but it is much more than just a family history. It is, in microcosm, the history of a nation seen through one man's eyes and one family's experiences.

P arliam en t H o u se , C a n b erra , A.C.T. 2 6 0 0 P h o n e 77 4 0 2 2




It ie a history of a nation's cultural, moral and religious values.

It is a history of one nation's experience of war and one nation's experience of peace, of poverty and of plenty, of freedoms won and of freedoms lost.

It is a very ambitious agenda for any writer to contemplate, calculating that in one volume but there is no doubt that Dr Dan has succeeded and succeeded very well in his task.

In his chronicle of his family's 12 generations on the banks of the Hat River, Dr Dan has woven a rich historical tapestry. A tapestry that is full of detail and colour, but one that does not neglect the sadder episodes of Vietnamese history. I

think his book is remarkable, perhaps mostly because of the remarkable balance that it strikes.

It blends effectively a very deep personal tone with an historian sense of detachment on looking in to these events. The level of historical detail spanning many centuries is nothing short of extraordinary. But the book is much more than

just a factual record. It is a book that evokes deep emotion. It is a book that can only have been written by a person who feels very deeply and very personally about the issues on which he writes.

The personal tone of the book, I believe, is critical to the book's success. So much of what we read in the newspapers about Vietnam over recent decades has been about war, it has been about the plight of refugees, about human tragedy

generally. Well, Dr Dan's book does not avoid such harsh realities in his account of Vietnam's past, there is so much in this book that corrects the image of Vietnam's recent past, It recalls happy childhoods in Vietnam. It recalls the

festive celebrations of Vietnamese life, The strength of family loyalties. The simple joys there used to be in Vietnamese daily life and so much more.

The essential optimism that underlies Dr Dan's book has a number of aspects. One of them, an important one, is Dr Dan's uncompromising love of freedom and I think that is a dominant theme of the whole book, whatever difficulties Vietnam is currently enduring, he draws strength from Vietnam's capacity over the centuries to revive both its prosperity and its

freedoms, Another focus of Dr Dan's book is the central importance of village life and Dr Dan includes many moving descriptions of his own village, Kim Bai, and his childhood spent there and he writes very directly and I quote!

"The village to us Vietnamese is home. We never say that we are 'going' to our village. Always, we are 'returning' there, to the place of our roots".

Dr Dan's book also emphasises the importance of respect for ancestors and family elders in Vietnamese culture. Where Dr


Dan quite pointedly titles that section of his book, "The Source in the Mountains" and it is the analogy of a river of life, as he describes it, that permeates this book with its focus on the continuity of the generations. The fundamental importance of family life and the power of Vietnamese folk


Dr Dan himself has had a distinguished career in his country's diplomatic service culminating in his appointment in the mid 1970s as Vietnamese Ambassador to Japan. This should come as little surprise to a reader of this book, as one reads in the book of the diplomatic exploits of members of his family over

5 centuries ago.

There is also not just diplomacy in which his family has excelled. Other family members have had .notable roles of scholars, as businessmen, as government officials and much more. There are surely some lessons we could learn, I

believe, from Dr Dan's family in a country like Australia which he was to build as a firm country.

Dr Dan has written this book as an exile from the homeland that he loves. This book will do much more than ensure that his rich cultural heritage is passed on to his family and others. It will enhance the understanding and acceptance of the Vietnamese community in Australia and us the communities commitment to Australia.

Most of Australia's Vietnamese migrants arrived as refugees from war and terror. They came to Australia under a Liberal National Government. I think that is an important point that I firstly would like to emphasise. It is an added reason why

I so pleased to be here today.

Vietnamese migrants came to build a new life in a new land and they have done so with remarkable success through hard work and through a particularly strong sense of community spirit. In doing so, they have preserved and celebrated their cultural

heritage in the context of their strong commitment to Australia. .

As we read Dr Dan's chronicle with the Vietnam past, we can't help but think of that country's present nor can be help but think of its future. We see a country living with the real consequences of a communist rule that was imposed on it over

recent decades, But Vietnam is slowly re-awakening. Just as Europe has abandoned Communism as a bankrupt system of Government, so the same process is beginning in Asia's communist states. Some moves are being made in Vietnam towards economic reform. The Liberalisation of foreign trade and investment and some decentralisation of economic decision­ making .

But political reforms remain desperately needed. Vietnam remains a country where serious violations of human rights Continue and where important basic rights and basic freedoms



are denied or unnecessarily restricted by law. A key point is that genuine economic liberalisation will need genuine political liberalisation, and the refugee problem which has been such a tragic part of Vietnam's recent history will not be finally resolved until the political and the economic

factors which created it are corrected.

That is why the implementation of the Australian government's recent decision to resume direct aid to Vietnam will be so critical.

We in the Opposition Parties have consistently taken the view that a nation's human rights record is relevant to whether or not is receives Australian development assistance. We also believe that development assistance can play an important role

in helping to build the social and economic pre-conditions to democracy. Now that the Australian Government has taken its decision on the restoration of direct aid to Vietnam, we believe it will be fundamentally important that such assistance be directed to those in Vietnam who have suffered most and that there be concerted Australian pressure on the

Vietnamese Government to the internationally accepted standards of human rights.

I can assure you that we in the Opposition will do all we can to ensure that the Government pursues those goals in relations to the resumption of that aid to Vietnam.

On these issues, the strength we draw from Dr Dan's book is one of optimism and one of hope. As his book shows, Vietnam's survived and adapted for centuries. Through all of its good times and its bad times these people have relied on the

strength of their family structure, their culture, their values and their love of freedom. These are enduring strengths today as much as they have been in Vietnam's past. Dr Dan's book is a celebration of those strengths that give Vietnam such a great hope for the future.

His book embodies the sentiment expressed long ago in a Vietnamese folk verse which is quoted in the prologue to the book and I quotet

"Stone wears out with time but my heart will not forget".

Dr Dan has also produced a book that is a celebration of the freedom and democratic rights which all Australians enjoy and to which so many other nations can only aspire.

For all these reasons, I am delighted to be here today to congratulate Dr Dan on hie achievement, to formally launch his book and to wish him every success with its publication.

Our future as a nation is in Asia and I think events like this, as small as they are, in some respects, can have a very large impact on the direction in which we will go. And I look forward to the future, to the tremendous potential that exists

for us as a nation in Asia, and the tremendous contribution that Australians of Asian origin have yet to make to this country.

Thank you very much.