Kiem Duong: The Journey


Leaving Vietnam
I was eleven years old when the war started. I witnessed the devastation caused by the war and felt torn to pieces. Children were left fatherless and mothers were widowed. Every day was a struggle. From there, I lived in struggle. I realized that I was powerless. When I was older I was conscripted into the army.

But I refused to go and the government put me under house arrest. They didn't let me come back So I hijacked someone's boat and left Vietnam.

At sea
I witnessed many deaths on the voyage. I was at sea for seven days and seven nights. I ran out of food and supplies. I thought we were going to die. I was detained by Border Security. They asked me why I was so far from shore. I lied and said we had run out of supplies and we were on the way back and in need of supplies to get back. I asked them for supplies and assistance I said we did not have enough fuel and asked them for assistance.

Life in Indonesia
When I arrived in Indonesia, I was delighted. I was offered another chance at life. But once I entered the [refugee] camp, I was devastated. There was nothing that brought me happiness. I ate enough to survive the passing days. But I was worried about where I was headed in the future.

A future in Australia
When my visa was approved I was relocated to Singapore where I boarded a plane for Australia. When I first set foot in Australia, I knew that I would have a future here. I lived in Sydney [for] two years, there was no happiness here When I was younger, I lived with friends here and there. I wanted to find a quiet place to settle down, so I went to Alice Springs. In 1989 I volunteered as a builder in the outback, building homes for the Aboriginal community. I found joy in this.

Returning to Vietnam
I heard that my Dad... over in Vietnam, was very ill, I went back to Vietnam. When I returned to Australia in 1991 before my departure to Vietnam. I did not realize that I was ill A sudden stroke paralyzed the right side of my body. At that point, I thought my life was over. But my condition over time improved. Disabled. Onwards. In May 1992 I went back to Vietnam I have a wife and kids. I keep living on to take care of my family

Sound track: Streets With no lights
Featured special guest : Kiem Duong
Director and Editor : Matthew Duong
Producer and Researcher: Toan Au

About this Video

Born during the tumult of the Vietnam War, Kiem Duong has witnessed a world thankfully unknown to most. Kiem’s story is one of survival and growth in the face of great adversity.
Length: 5:30