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The children of Vietnamese refugees and migrants are 'stepping up' during Victoria election

Six young Vietnamese-Australian candidates are running for the Victorian council elections this October. Source: Supplied

This group of second-generation Australians say they are 'stepping up' during Victoria’s local council election, with this year marking 45 years since their community settled in the country as refugees following the Vietnam War.

Claudia Nguyen, Judy Do Hang, Anthony Tran, Jeremie Nguyen, Jasmine Nguyen and Vu Long Tran are running as independent candidates for Brimbank, Maribyrnong and Yarra Councils during the October election.   

They are all alumni from the Dual Identity Leadership Program (DILP) run by the Vietnamese Community in Australia - Victoria Chapter (VCA VIC).  

Also, they are all the children of refugees who fled their homeland 45 years ago following the Vietnam War, by embarking on a perilous journey across the seas, to eventually settle in Australia. 

More than 80,000 Vietnamese people moved to Australia in the decade following the war, many as refugees. 

Vietnamese refugees arriving in Darwin Harbour.
Vietnamese refugees arriving in Darwin Harbour.
Northern Territory Archives Service

The influx of Vietnamese refugees to Australia came just after the Whitlam government removed the last elements of the "White Australia Policy" in the 1970s. 

VCA VIC Vice President and Chairperson of the DILP program Andrew Do says he is “incredibly proud” to see young Vietnamese Australians step up into positions of leadership.    

“It’s been 45 years since our community called Australia home, we want to see more young diverse voices be represented in local councils and it is truly encouraging to see young people step up,” he says.

The Dual Identity Leadership Program (DILP) began in 2014 for young leaders who identify with two cultures.
The Dual Identity Leadership Program (DILP) began in 2014 for young leaders who identify with two cultures.

The six candidates believe they can bring “a fresh, independent and motivated voice” to their own community. 

With a message of recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic being front and centre of their campaigns, they are pledging policies to waive council rates for those being hit hardest.  

They are also placing extra focus on ensuring that their community will be supported to bounce back through local job creation, support for small businesses, and adequate access to health services, in particular mental health support.   

“COVID has had a huge impact on our community. It’s going to be the younger generation of leaders in Maribyrnong who will be left with the mess to fix, it's going to take decades to recover from this, but I’m willing to put my hand up now to be that voice of change to put people first,” says Judy Do Hang, Maribyrnong Council candidate for the Stony Creek Ward.

The Maribyrnong local government area has an estimated resident population of 87,355 and is home to a bulk of Victoria's 58,000-strong  Vietnamese community. 

Election unlike any other

More than 2100 Victorians have nominated for the local election, but for the first time, voting will be done by post due to the pandemic. 

Fellow Maribyrnong candidate Anthony Tran believes that “having a youthful and driven mind is something that our council needs”.   

"With this campaign, my focus will be on not only repairing the damage done by COVID-19 on the community and its local businesses but also to provide a voice for all members of this community,” Tran says. 

The Saigon Welcome Arch in the heart of Footscray
The Saigon Welcome Arch in the heart of Footscray
Maribyrnong Council

Candidate Jasmine Nguyen from Brimbank says she has a vision to “invest in our infrastructure to reduce traffic congestion, address parking issues, protect our environment, and promote community safety”.   

Likewise, Vu Long Tran – also from Brimbank – believes the job as a councillor is a crucial one. 

“I have an open mind and am always looking to learn and improve. I think these attributes are crucial to being a councillor as our community's needs are always changing and evolving.”  

Voting is compulsory and closes on Friday, October 23.