The last Australian troops were withdrawn from Vietnam in 1972 (Gough Whitlam PM) and US troops were also pulling out, mainly due to the growing anti-war movements in these countries. In April 1975, Saigon - the capital of the South - fell to the North Vietnamese forces and Vietnam was reuinfied under the communist leadership of Ho Chi Minh. For many South Vietnamese this was a disaster. The remaining American troops were evacuated and many Vietnamese people with links to the defeated regime, desperately tried to escape with them before the borders were closed. Watch this dramatic video.
As Cambodia and Laos also fell to Communist control, thousands in Indo-China feared for their safety and liberty and lives, as these regimes imposed heavy penalties on those suspected of being opposed to Communism. (This New York Times video gives a glimpse of the horrors inflicted on Cambodia by the Communist rule of the Khmer Rouge - and the making of "The Killing Fields" - a 1984 movie about the events).

Hundreds of thousands escaped by any means they could to reach the refugee camps in Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia etc -where they were by and large unwanted because of the huge burden they represented to those countries. The international community was slow to respond at first, partly because of pro-Communist leanings. Whitlam refused entry to the first refugees. However, eventually the desperate plight of these people was recognised and in 1979 the UN High Commission for Refugees sought world support. The Fraser Gvernment had already been accepting small numbers, including about 2000 boat people, but now agreed to take many more, up to 10 000/year. This was the first wave of significant Asian immigration and many in the community were suspicious and unsupportive at first. Vietnamese and other Indo-Chinese refugees have gone on to contibute to and enrich our Australian society in many ways.

The Fraser Government also formalised the policy of Multiculturalism, which had begun in the Whitlam years, and promoted the inclusion and valuing of all the cultures that made up Australian society, including Asian cultures. Explore multiculturalism [[@’s-emerging-diversity-|here]].

What have migrants brought to Australia?
  • economic growth
  • skills and labour
  • cultural diversity
  • international foods and products
  • SBS
  • soccer

The Immigration Bridge in Canberra is a new project to celebrate the contribution of migrants to Australia. Look!

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