[The Age, 29 April 2015] The Age newspaper has published an article titled Forty years after the Vietnam War. The article is written by Cat Thao Nguyen who is a Director of EY Vietnam (a 2015 Bronze Sponsor of AusCham) and Australian Business Alumni. Thao has recently written a book, We Are Here.

The full and complete article in The Age can be viewed by clicking here. An edited extract appears below.

Refugees who find a haven in Australia contribute cultural diversity and entrepreneurship to our society – the basis for prosperity in the 21st century.

…Miraculously, and not without the kindness of strangers, our group managed to survive, with the loss of only one family member. Via various camps in Cambodia and Thailand, we arrived in Australia at Villawood Immigration Hostel.

Forty years after the end of the Vietnam War, it is important to reflect on that time and where we are now. When Saigon fell and Australia began to experience a flood of refugees, predominantly boat people, the debate between the political parties at that time was similar to the debate about asylum seekers today. Gough Whitlam vehemently opposed accepting Vietnamese refugees, fearing these anti-communists would bring their politics into our country. They were accused of being economic migrants and incapable of integration.

And yet, when Malcolm Fraser took government, we saw a different approach and my family was welcomed into Australia…

Settlement in Australia was incredibly difficult for my family…

Although Fraser’s legacy allowed us to settle, it was Whitlam’s legacy that allowed us the opportunity, through fair education and social policies, to break the pernicious cycle of poverty…

Now, as an Australian corporate lawyer, I work in Vietnam, in the very country my parents fled so many years ago. Vietnam has moved on despite them…

Forty years on, we are able to see how the Vietnamese community has integrated to become part of Australian society, despite the original fears expressed by politicians…

Yet, from the Vietnamese and other migrant and refugee communities comes a contribution to Australian society of different perspectives, cultural and trade bridges, and entrepreneurship…

To prepare a generation of Australians that is able to navigate a globally complex and integrated world requires more than learning a new language. To start with, it is about being comfortable with difference; being able to relate to someone who is fundamentally different to you – linguistically, culturally, religiously and economically… This ability can simply be referred to as empathy.

Another aspect of empathy is our nation’s sense of humanity; our ability to be kind to strangers…

I argue that our kindness is our capital…

On the 40th anniversary of the Vietnamese community in Australia, I hope we can reflect on where we used to be. I hope we have the courage to be kind once again. Indeed, our future depends on it.

* The full and complete article in The Age can be viewed by clicking here.