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Thomas Le, Vietnamese Migrant & Artist, 1980

Greeting Card - Koala, Thomas Le for Austcare, 1996

Image: Greeting Card - Koala, Thomas Le for Austcare, 1996

Source: Museum Victoria

Thomas Le grew up during the Vietnam War. At the age of six 'he watched his home burnt down' (Keer, 1991) and his family forced to resettle. At 15 he became a political prisoner, after rebelling against the strict Communist government, escaping Vietnam only to spend two years in a refugee camp in Thailand. Thomas arrived in Australia in 1980 at the age of 18.

Thomas had undertaken some art training in Vietnam, and put himself through an Art and Design course at the Phillip Institute of Technology after arriving in Australia. He paid for his tuition by playing in a Vietnamese wedding band. He established his own Graphic Design business, and in 1987 won an Australian Writers and Art Directors' Association award for a book cover design. In 1988 he was the Art Director of the Melbourne Lygon Arts Festival.

He also creates his own artwork in the form of a visual diary of his life, including the many traumatic experiences he believes he has to deal with by painting them out of his system. He illustrated the life of fellow Vietnamese refugee Mai Ho for exhibition at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne. Thomas has also donated illustrations and designs to Austcare for fundraising activities. He views this as a way of giving something back for his new life in Australia for others who are suffering.

Driven by his talent and the painful memories of his childhood, Thomas uses his art to express his experiences and cultural identity in his new country.

References
Kerr, Renae, 1991. 'Reflections of a refugee' The Western Times. May 15. p. 17

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