Camille Murphy is one of our Arts Global Scholars, a scholarship program available for Bachelor of Global Studies students. Camille went on the study tour, In the Footsteps of Refugees, and tells us about how locals are making a difference in their local and/or the global community.
Recently, I was lucky enough to study the migration of Vietnamese refugees to Australia after the fall of Saigon in 1975. The study tour started with a week of intensive courses at Monash Caulfield before we made our way to Ho Chi Minh City, still known by locals as Saigon.
The study tour provided a lot of insight into a community that has influenced Australia so much – 1% of Australia’s population are Vietnamese!
The aspect of the study tour that stood out to me the most was going to see organisations created by former Vietnamese refugees who had returned to share their new skills with a country they loved so much. We met with organisations turning street youth into chefs, and others that helped fund Vietnamese students tertiary study.
The organisation that had the biggest impact on me was Pacific Links, which leads counter human trafficking efforts in Vietnam. They work in preventative measures and also with survivors of human trafficking. They have groups and camps with at-risk population as preventative measures. This is really important to the community because there aren’t many social groups within Vietnam that aren’t connected to the communist government.
This kind of innovation has been seen with most refugee groups, but I think it was even more important to see at the moment considering the refugee epidemic. It’s a reminder that refugees, after been settled, mostly wish to return to their country when it is safe to do so, and bring new skills and ideas that they have picked up whilst overseas.
The study tour itself was very full on – there was always somewhere to be, or some required reading to do. But we still managed to have some down time. One particular highlight was a day off at a hotel in Batam, before we went to visit Galang Refugee Camp in Indonesia. It was a much needed break!
My experience on this study tour was so different to the experiences that I’d already had. It’s a really intensive way of learning, but such a short period of time has had a huge impact on my perspective. Hearing about the modern day refugee crisis is one thing, but it is another to trace the route of Vietnamese refugees to Australia almost 40 years ago.
Hearing the narratives from former refugees really put into perspective the importance of compassion and generosity in todays wave of refugees. I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity, and would urge anyone considering exchange or a short study tour to jump in with both arms open!