Years of Separation: Vietnamese Refugees and the Experience of Forced Migration after 1975

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“I was here in 1982 but my wife and my two sons, they did not arrive until
1990. It was a hard time for me to live here alone … my younger son, the
first time I saw him was when he arrived in Australia. He was nine years
old.”1 These spare words by Vu Van Bao allude to the anguish of years of
separation from his loved ones after he escaped from Vietnam by boat in
1981. His narrative conveys not only his experiences during the Vietnam
War and in the war’s aftermath but also his trajectory as a refugee. Although
he reached Indonesia safely and resettled in Australia the following year, it
took him another eight years to sponsor his family. These nine years of
separation followed five years of internment in post-war communist re-education
camps, also known as Vietnam’s “bamboo gulag.” In all, Bao
was separated from his family for 14 years after the end of the Vietnam
War. The story of Bao and his family reflects that of many Vietnamese
refugees to Australia following the Vietnam War, for whom the experience
of forced migration encompassed lengthy periods of separation from loved
ones, even after successful resettlement in a second country of asylum.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRemembering Migration
Subtitle of host publication Oral Histories and Heritage in Australia
EditorsKate Darian-Smith, Paula Hamilton
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783030177515
ISBN (Print)9783030177508
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePalgrave Macmillan Memory Stories
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan


  • Vietnamese diaspora
  • Vietnamese refugees
  • Orderly Departure Program (ODP)
  • Vietnamese community in Australia
  • Family separation
  • Forced migration
  • Oral History
  • Intergenerational relations

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