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In honour of Refugee Week, AnglicareSA volunteer Phuong shares her courageous refugee story.


“My name is Phuong and my background is Vietnamese. I am a volunteer at AnglicareSA in Kilkenny. I work with community development officers to support and create a connection with Vietnamese clients when they need and use AnglicareSA services.  

“My family and I have been in South Australia for over 39 years. Both my children have grown up here and identify themselves as Vietnamese Australians.  

“When I first arrived in Adelaide, I could not speak or read a word of English. It took a lot of hard work and help from volunteers, at the time, to help me get to where I am today. I can therefore empathise with those in the Vietnamese community who have difficulty with understanding and communicating in English. 

First month in South Australia: Phuong and her son in the early 1980s.

“As Refugee Week approaches, I would like to take this opportunity to share my brief story about how we became Australians.

“On April 1975, the Communist Government of North Vietnam seized control of South Vietnam after a long and costly war. Five years later, in 1980, my husband and I decided to leave Vietnam on a boat full of other people who desperately needed to escape. It wasn’t an easy decision. We were looking for freedom, opportunity and a better future for us and our future family.  

“Many refugees who fled Vietnam by boat failed to survive the passage and some also faced danger from pirates, over-crowding and starvation. Fortunately for us, after two days and three nights, we reached one of the beaches of Malaysia.

Despite the pain and hardship, Phuong and her husband still managed to smile during their time at a refugee camp.

“We were then taken to a refugee camp called Pula Bi-dong. We lived there for nearly a year, before we were accepted by Australia as refugees. We were lucky to have a family from a local Catholic Church in South Australia sponsor us and they became our adopted family here in Adelaide.  

Phuong and her family during their time at Pula Bi-dong refugee camp in Malaysia.

“Today, I have two adult sons and two young grandchildren. For the last 39 years, I have been a childcare worker, primary and secondary school teacher too! I really enjoyed my time being a teacher (Vietnamese language teacher).”

In more recent times: AnglicareSA volunteer Phuong.

Sharing Meals, Sharing Stories: Canh Chua

Canh Chua | Photo: A Taste of Love and Joy

This Refugee Week, we’re sharing traditional and wholesome recipes from our own people at AnglicareSA from refugee and migrant backgrounds.

One of Phuong’s favourite dishes and her recommendation for everyone to try cooking this Refugee Week is Canh Chua – a traditional Vietnamese fish soup.

“In celebration of Refugee Week, I would cook a dish called Canh Chua. It is a fish broth sour soup made up of fish and lots of Asian vegetables. It is a dish best eaten with fluffy white rice. This dish is special to me because it reminds me of Vietnam. Vietnam has many rivers which are full of of fish. Fish is used in many traditional Vietnamese dishes but Canh Chua is one of my favourites. “

Quick and easy Canh Chua recipe