A story that went under the radar

“A boat person” – 36 years on and his contribution to Australia is rewarded with our highest honour.

Mr Le was welcomed to Australia one early morning in Darwin Harbour by two blokes in a boat saying:

`Gday mate, welcome to Australia

Would not happen now – why?

Pam Curr

TOP HONOURS: Lieutenant Governor Hieu Van Le awarded AO

26 Jan 10 @ 12:23pm by Adam Todd

Lieutenant Governor Hieu Van Le has been named anOfficer of the Order of Australia (AO) for enhancing multiculturalism.

LIEUTENANT Governor Hieu Van Le will never forget his first taste of Australia.

It was 1977, and the then 23 year old and his new wife Lan fled war-torn Vietnam crammed onto a fishing boat with about 50 others.

“The journey was quite hazardous and quite horrible, he recalls.

“We tried to land in other neighbouring countries but we were violently, aggressively pushed out to sea we were not welcome.

After about a month, the boat headed for Darwin.

“In the end, we decided to go to Australia because there was no other place that would accept us.

“From Timor to Darwin, we were haunted by the aggressiveness and the violence that greeted us in the neighbouring countries.

The boat docked at Melville Island before approaching Darwin early one morning.

“We started to see Darwin, our first site of Australia, the fog was still rising off the water.

“We heard a very noisy sound, a boat coming to us.

“Everybody started to feel quite nervous, we had the image of someone pointing a gun at us and screaming at us.

“Out of that mist, we saw a little tinny, with a couple of blokes standing in it, wearing shorts and singlets, white zinc on their nose and fishing rods rising up into the sky, a can of beer in their hand.

“They waved at us from afar. As we came closer, one guy raised his stubby up and as if proposing a toast, shouted out, `Gday mate, welcome to Australia.

From Darwin, Mr Le and his wife were given temporary permits and moved into the Pennington Migrant Hostel in Adelaides west.

They did fruit picking work at Loxton before Mr Le completed his economics degree at the University of Adelaide and became a leader in the Vietnamese community.

He became chairman of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission in 2005 and was appointed Lieutenant Governor in 2007.

Mr Le has been named anOfficer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the Australia Day honours for enhancing multiculturalism in the community.

“I never, ever expected such a reward or recognition because I consider what Ive been doing is not motivated by the recognition or acknowledgement, its motivated by the inspiration that Ive had with the many, many groups of people who came from all over the world to live in Australia.

The Les have been living at Burnside for 20 years, with their two children named Don and Kim after the cricketers Bradman and Hughes.

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