Artist Profile

SAVANHDARY VONGPOOTHORN

SAVANHDARY, CAN YOU REFLECT ON YOUR MIGRATION to Australia?

I was eight years old when my mother one morning got up at dawn, packed all the children, left the dog, and took us down to the Mekong River and locked us in a dark room. All day long we weren’t allowed to make any sound or go outside. When it was night time, what the current Australian government would call “people smugglers” took us onto a little boat and crossed us over to the other side of the Mekong River. It was a big risk that my mother took. She did that because my father was going to be taken to a re-education camp which was notorious, as people opposed to the Communist party never returned from it. He was smuggled out first to Thailand, and we then had to do the same.

Why Australia?

We stayed for nine months in a Thai refugee camp. My mother had a brother in France and a sister in Australia, my father’s relatives are in America. My aunt from Australia sponsored us over first and that’s how we ended up here.

What does it mean for your mother and father to be in Australia?

Australia for them is home, the grandchildren are born here, compared to Laos they know Australia is a lucky country. They are very much

involved in the Lao Buddhist community. We don’t see ourselves as refugees any more, that is in the past, and we have been here for such a long time. I see

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