Waterborne: Vietnamese Australians and river environments in Vietnam and Sydney

Allison Cadzow, Denis Byrne, Heather Goodall

Abstract

Vietnamese Australians who arrived in Australia as refugees since the 1970s and later as migrants, have developed complex relationships of remembering, knowing and belonging to environments in Vietnam and Sydney. Water was a frequent point of reference in our interviews with Vietnamese people in Sydney, and their relationships with water are used in this article to explore interviewees’ associations with places. The article focuses on cultural knowledge of environments, which people bring with them, such as their connections with rivers and oceans, central to both memories of place and the histories of Vietnam. These memories also change with return visits and experiences between these places. Vietnamese refugees’ experiences of escape and trauma coming across oceans from Vietnam also influence subsequent relationships with place. Finally, relationships with Sydney parks and urban waterways are explored by examining popular places for family and community get-togethers along Georges River, located near where many Sydney Vietnamese people live. These have become key places in making Sydney home for Vietnamese people. The article considers how Vietnamese Australian cultural knowledge of place could be shared and acknowledged by park managers and used in park interpretation.

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