02 May, 2024

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (15:21): I rise today to speak about the 49th anniversary commemoration of the Fall of Saigon.

The Vietnam War, from 1962 to 1975, was one of the longest conflicts in the 20th century. Some 60,000 Australian defence personnel served in Vietnam over 10 years of the war. Known as Black April, the Fall of Saigon marks the capture of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, by North Vietnamese forces on 30 April 1975. This dark moment in history signified the end of the Vietnam War and the collapse of the South Vietnamese state.

After the Fall of Saigon in April 1975, the world saw one of the largest mass migrations of asylum seekers in modern history. It was reported by the National Bureau of Asian Research that almost two million Vietnamese fled the country by boat and risked their lives in order to seek freedom from the Vietnamese Communist regime. Sadly, more than 500,000 people died or disappeared during this tragic time. About 1.6 million boat people were resettled to third-party countries between 1975 and 1997.

The Vietnam War changed the world and changed Australia for ever. Since the fall of Saigon in 1975, Australia has been a proud home and safe heartland for many generations of the Vietnamese community.

We are incredibly fortunate that the Vietnamese community of South Australia has continuously shown its gratitude towards Australia, and we are blessed to have such a hardworking and resilient Vietnamese community making incredible contributions to multicultural South Australia.

As the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, it was a great honour to attend the wreath-laying ceremony and the commemoration service marking the 49th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon held on Saturday 27 April with the Hon. John Gardner.

Special thanks to Dang-Thao Nguyen, President, and the committee/volunteers of the Vietnamese Veterans Association SA; and Quin Tran, President, and the committee of the Vietnamese Community in Australia South Australian chapter for their dedication and hard work to work with Australian and Vietnamese veterans in organising the meaningful event.

It was a solemn and moving commemoration, where we gathered to honour the brave Vietnamese and Australian soldiers, service men and women and civilians who made the ultimate sacrifice defending the freedom and democracy of the Republic of Vietnam.

Every year, I am touched by the emotional speeches made by all speakers highlighting the trauma and pain still felt within the South Australian Vietnamese community. The brutality and injustice of the Vietnamese War is still present for the community, who continue to grieve for loved ones lost in battle and lost at sea and for the loss of their beloved homeland they were forced to leave forever.

Both presidents of the Vietnamese community organisations reflected on the terrible sacrifice of the fallen soldiers and also expressed the community's gratitude towards Australia and the Australian people for supporting the South Vietnamese people in their greatest time of need.

I would like to take a moment to share a beautiful and moving poem that President Quin Tran wrote to convey her refugee story and her deep thanks to Australia for welcoming her family. Inspired by Dorothea Mackellar's My Country, Quin wrote and spoke that day:

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains.

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of drought and flooding rains.


I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel sea.

Her beauty and her terror,

The wide brown land for me.


My heritage is Vietnamese,

Our boat was 10 by 3m wide.

84 people crowded on board,

We prayed and cried, and cried.


I was one of ten toddlers,

My brother two weeks old.

Two days and three nights adrift,

In severe wind, wet and cold.


We refuged in Malay Bidong,

Until SA opened her doors.

Thank you to Australia,

For welcoming us, to your shores.


3,000 troops wounded,

Across our yellow land.

59 of them South Aussies,

Freedom forever stands.


I'm grateful to this sunburnt land,

Whose heroes fought for me.

Three red stripes in their honour,

Fallen soldiers—five hundred and twenty-three.

Lest we forget.