They left and returned for a reason: Thoughts on Vietnamese-Australian Diasporas reconnecting with their roots

AAYLF delegate from Vietnam Nguyễn Minh Tiến (Tony) shares his insights about the key challenges in preserving and celebrating Vietnamese culture and identity within the Australian diaspora community. 

When mentioning the [Vietnam] war, a million people feel happy but another million feel miserable.

This saying of the former Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Võ Văn Kiệt had pounded heavily inside the writer’s head for the last seven days. By the time he submitted this article, investigations into the horrible human trafficking tragedy in Essex, England will not be concluded. The victims have been identified to be thirty-nine Vietnamese people aged between 15 and 44 [1], who had suffocated whilst pursuing “the American dream” in the back of a lorry’s truck. The Fall of Saigon, considered to be one of the most unforgettable days for modern Vietnam, kept flashing back when the writer read about the news of the illegal immigrants. It was the day of happiness and tears. For many Vietnamese living under the former government of the Republic of Vietnam, it was hard to immediately accepted the new regime, to adapt to the new lifestyle and ideologies. And so, they left.

Cultural fault lines, an abstruse concept, one of the many reasons that have caused countless meaningless wars. Until this day, in many countries, humans themselves don’t fully accept diverse cultural perspectives. They bring their traditional cultural values into a new country without knowing how to adapt to the new atmosphere. They face difficulties in getting proper jobs and are discriminated against by local residents. And when cultural fault lines reach their peak, they lose their own national identities.  

But during the last almost five decades of establishing diplomatic relations, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The governments of both Vietnam and Australia have built firm policies and actions to reconnect Vietnamese-Australians to their original roots. More Australia-born Vietnamese are seeking for chances to explore their parents’ homeland and taking adventurous investments in the local markets. Despite the political reasons that brought families new southlands, first and second generation Vietnamese-Australians are tracing back their kin and returning to their parent’s motherland. Many of them can be mentioned such as Luke Nguyen, owner of The Red Lantern in Sydney and the host of his own television series cooking shows, now in the role of Vietnam Airlines’ Food Ambassador creating signature dishes for this 4-star airlines [2]. Or Tan Le, CEO and Founder of Emotiv Inc., who was named Young Australian of the Year in 1998 who had her company expanded and department set in Hanoi, Vietnam. Together with successful first generation Vietnamese-Australians, cultural collaborations have been carried out more and more during the last twenty years. Organizations like the Vietnam Cultural Center or Vietnamese version of The Amazing Race made significant contributions to promote Vietnamese traditional culture to Australia and vice versa.

Image: Luke Nguyen via Vietnam Airlines

Although it is hard to fully conclude this topic since there are still way too many issues and sides to be carried out and discussed. With the new decade coming, lawmakers can consider these suggestions to continue resolving cultural fault lines of the next Vietnamese-Australian generations. First things first, both sides of postwar governments should accept and encourage the Vietnamese diaspora to return to their homeland and help develop their country. Secondly, we can encourage future generations to preserve their traditional culture anywhere at any time. Finally, Vietnamese and Australian governments can improve social security policies for settlers. This will not only enhance good cooperation between the two countries but can also enable the settlers to adapt to the local culture more easily.

With the new decade coming and the bursting development of artificial intelligence, we human-beings need urgent actions to resolve humanity’s crisis for a sustainable development throughout the world.


  1. Amelia Gentleman. (2019). Essex police release names of Vietnamese lorry death victims. [accessed on November 8th, 2019].
  2. Minh Đăng. (2018). Luke Nguyễn:Mỗi thực đơn của Vietnam Airlines phải kể câu chuyện riêng’. [accessed on November 09th, 2019]
  3. Mabel Kwong. (2016). What it means to be Vietnamese in Australia. [accessed on November 10th, 2019].
  4. Natalie Huynh Chau Nguyen. (2015). New Perceptions of the Vietnam War essays on the war, the South Vietnamese experience, the diaspora and the continuing impact. McFarland & Company. USA.
  5. Vuong Nguyen and Mai Ho. (1995). Vietnamese-Australian family (archived publications from Family and cultural diversity in Australia). [ accessed on November 09th, 2019].

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