What has been the experience of Vietnamese refugees who settled in Australia?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In 1971, fewer than 1,000 Australians reported in the census that Vietnam was their birth country; fifteen years later, after the end of the Vietnam War, more than 80,000 Australians reported being of Vietnamese origin. In the 2011 census, more than 180,000 Australians were of Vietnamese origin. As Vietnamese people started fleeing Vietnam, mainly for political reasons (and later for economic reasons), Australia was ending its "White Australia Policy." This policy, which started in 1901, restricted immigration to Australia to Europeans. In 1975, the Racial Discrimination Act, preventing discrimination based on race, was passed. As a result, Australia became more multi-cultural, but the country also experienced some backlash against Vietnamese immigration.

Today, there are thriving Vietnamese communities and community organizations, and Vietnamese people are active in government, the arts, and other fields. However, in the 1980s, Vietnamese people were often blamed for violence and drug-related crimes in Australian cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, though the lack of jobs in Vietnamese communities played a role in the poverty and crime in these areas.  Many right-wing thinkers blamed the Vietnamese for a sense of lack of social cohesion, and the process of Australian multiculturalism was not always a smooth one. Today, however, many members of the second generation of Vietnamese in Australia are remarkably successful. Though many of their parents struggled economically, they have been able to gain access to higher education and become financially successful and integrated into Australian society while maintaining pride in their Vietnamese heritage and traditions.