Before 1975, the Vietnamese population consisted of tertiary students and women who had married ex-servicemen. Also, 300 orphans had been adopted by Australian families.

Political struggle, wars and turmoil had been occurring for decades in Vietnam. Migration from Vietnam to Australia was a direct result of the Vietnamese civil war between the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (the North) and the Republic of Vietnam (the South).

The war began when the southern communist movement turned to guerrilla war in 1960 to reunify Vietnam. In 1965, the USA began a sustained air war against the North, hitting military targets, lines of communication, urban areas and the economic infrastructure.

In the South, the war had devastating effects, creating orphans, prostitutes, drug addicts, internal refugees and psychologically affected people. Physically the land was destroyed by millions of pieces of unexploded military weapons, chemical defoliation and bomb craters. The war came to an end in May 1975, after communist military forces swept to victory, but American aid was then withdrawn, causing a swift decline in living conditions.

After the war, ill-prepared and hastily implemented relocation programs, price controls, currency restrictions, the indefinite detention of former members of the Republic of Vietnam, natural disasters (such as floods, drought and insect plagues) influenced the outflow of Vietnamese to Australia via boats.

Ethnic Chinese, or Hoar peoples, were also forced to flee after the third Indo-China War, caused by Kampuchean-Vietnamese and Sino-Vietnamese hostilities and attacks on villages by Kampuchean army forces operating under the direction of Pol Pot. Australia accepted Vietnamese immigrants, first on humanitarian grounds and since 1982 as migrants under the family stream. Australia accepted the greatest number of Vietnamese refugees per head of the host population of any country in the world.

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