Socio-cultural alienation among first generation elderly Vietnamese immigrants living in Australia

Dominic NGUYEN

Socio-cultural alienation among first generation elderly Vietnamese immigrants living in Australia
Submitted by Dominic NGUYEN
BA (Dalat - Vietnam), BSW (Curtin), GDipInt/Trans (Deakin), DipCS (MEC)

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Social Science (Human Services)

School of Arts and Sciences Faculty of Philosophy Australian Catholic University Research Services Locked Bag 4115 Fitzroy, Victoria, 3065 Australia

July 2003

Table of Contents

Abbreviations / Boxes / Tables…………………………………………………………..…..……. 05 Abstract……………………………...…………..…….…..……………………………..……..……… Statement of Authorship..……….……………….…………....…...……………..………………… Acknowledgments..……….………………………………...…....…...…………….…….....….…… 06 07 08

Introduction..……….…………………………………...……...….…….……………..…….…… 09 Chapter 1: Traditional beliefs of elderly Vietnamese immigrants before leaving Vietnam……………………….…..…... 13
VIETNAMESE CULTURAL VALUES……...………………………………….………...…... 13

CULTURAL PRACTICES IN SOCIAL RELATIONS……………….…..…………...….… 15 Hierarchy in Vietnamese Family & Society…….……….……………..…………...….…….… 15 Spirit of Family……………………….…………………..………….……….……...…..……….….. 18 Filial Piety Shown by Family Members Towards Parents…………………………..….…… 22

Chapter 2: Culture Shock and the experience of elderly Vietnamese immigrants in Australia………………….……....…...


CULTURE AND CULTURE SHOCK………………....………………….……….…....……… 26



31 32 32 33 34 27 36 37

Language Barriers……………………………………..…….……....………………………..………
Loneliness………………….………………………..……………...….………….…………....…...… Isolation………………….………………………...….…...………………………………….…..…… Lack of Home Ownership…………………………………………………….……………………. Financial Disadvantage…….……….……………………………...……………….…….…....…… Relying on Others’ Support…….…………………….…...……….…….…………..…………….. Homesickness and Other Experiences……………………………..……………..………………

Chapter 3: Conceptualising Socio-Cultural Alienation………….…..…...… 39
THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION……….……………...……………………………..……… 39


The Classical Concept………………………………………………………………………………. 39 Marxist and Contemporary Concepts…………………………………………..………………... 40 Recent Developments in the Understanding of Alienation…………………….......…...…… 43 ALIENATION AND THE EXPERIENCE OF ELDERLY VIETNAMESE IMMIGRANTS IN AUSTRALIA…………………….………....……….……... CAUSAL FACTORS OF ALIENATION………………………………………………………………… Losing Original Homeland……………………………………..………..………...…….………… Losing the Admired Leader / Regime…………………….…….……...………………..….…… Lacking Control over Income and Production.………………………….…………….....…..… Losing Authority over Family Members..…………………...…………….……………………. Loss of Norms and Ethics…….…...……………………...…………...……………….……...…… Displacement………………….…….…………………………………………………..……………. Cumulative deficits……….……………………….……………....…………………………………. 44 47 47 48 48 49 49 50 51

Chapter 4: Methodology…………………………………………….……………………... 52
BACKGROUND…………….……………..……..………...……………....………….…..........................................................…….… 52

AIMS OF THE STUDY…………….…………..………………..……................................................………..……………..…… 53 LIMITATIONS…………….………………..……….………................…………………….…………...….… METHODS……………………………………………………………………………………………. RESEARCH PROCESS…………….………………..……………..……………..………….….… In-Depth Interviews………………………………...……...……………………………..……….… Focus Interviews……...……...………………..............................................……………..……….… Data Analysis……...……...…………………....................................................…………..……….… ACCESS / RECRUITMENT…………….…….................……………....……..…………..………...…… ETHICAL CONCERNS…………….…………….......………………………..………...……...…. 54 54 55 56 56 57 58 60 62 62

Chapter 5: Participants’ Responses.………..……………..………………..…………
DEMOGRAPHIC DETAILS….…………………..……….…………...…....…………….....……

PARTICIPANTS’ MOTIVES FOR LEAVING VIETNAM…………………….…….....… 63 Fleeing from Communism. …………………………………………………………...…………… 63 Preferring Capitalism to Communism..………………………………………………………..… 65 Joining other Family Members………………………………………………………………….… 66 Concern for Children and/or Grandchildren…………………………………….…………...…. 66 PARTICIPANTS’ EXPECTATIONS AND THEIR SATISFACTION IN AUSTRALIA…………………..………….……………………. 4 67

Enjoying Freedom…………………………………………………………..…………………..…… Fighting for Freedom and Democracy in Vietnam………………………………..……....…... Getting Good Jobs………..…………………..…............................................................................… Helping Children to Create a Good Future……………………………………….…………….. Leading Retired Life beside Children and/or Grandchildren…….……......……….……..… Preserving Vietnamese Culture…….…………………………………………....….…………..… Leading a Better Life…….……………………………………………..…..…………...………...…

67 68 70 72 73 75 77

PARTICIPANTS’ EVALUATION ON THE PAST AND CURRENT VALUE SYSTEMS…………………………..……………………………………… 83 Evaluation of the Past Value System (Vietnamese)……………......…………………………. Evaluation of the Current Value System (Australian)…………..……......……..……………. PARTICIPANTS’ EXPERIENCE ON ALIENATION…………….…………….……...….. Feelings of Loss and Separation…….…………….………………………….….……………….. Lack of Belongings (Home Ownership and Savings)…………….………………………..… Difficulty of Communication………………….…….……………..…………...…..……………... Lack of Social Interaction and Participation…….…………….……………..…………..…….. Sense of Social Isolation……………………...………….………….….………….……….……..... State of Powerlessness…..………………………….…………………...……..……………………. Sense of Diminished Self-Identity……………………………..…………………....………….… 85 86 89 92 93 94 96 97 97 98

Chapter 6: Findings and Recommendations………………………………..…….. 101
FINDINGS FROM RESEARCH ………...……………….……….……..…....…….………….. Alienation due to Language Barriers…….………………………...….....………..………….….. Alienation due to Changed Family Relationships……………………………………………... Alienation due to Changed Social Relationships……….......…….……..…..…...………….… Alienation due to Loss of Norms and Ethics……………………………………….…….…..… RECOMMENDATIONS………………….…….…..….……………….....….…………...………. 101 101 102 102 103 103

Supporting Those with Language Problems…….…………….…………….….......................... 103 Supporting the Development and Maintenance of Family and Social Relationships…. 105 Others…….…………….……….………...…………………………….……………………..…..…… 106 FURTHER RESEARCH RECOMMENDATIONS….……………..…………………...…… 106

Conclusion .….….….….….…………………………………….…..…………………………...… 107 Appendices….……….….………..……….…..…………………………………..….......……..…. 108 Reference List ….….….……….………….……….…….……………...….……………….…… 123


ADASS AIHW AP CEO DIMA DIMIA EEO ESB EVIM FPT HACC HREC IPT LOTE NESB ODP POW RDNS TESOL UNHCFR Adult Day Activity Support Service Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Aged Person Chief Executive Officer Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs Equal Employment Opportunity English Speaking Background Elderly Vietnamese immigrants Focus group interview participants Home and Community Care Human Research Ethics Committee In-depth interview participants Language other than English Non English Speaking Background Orderly Departure Program Prisoner of war Royal District Nursing Service Teaching English for Student of Other Languages United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

3-1 5-1 5-2 5-3 Dimensions of alienation Mr. Nghiem’s Comments on Communism Evaluation of the Past and Current Value Systems by Participants (Both IPT and FPT) Feelings of Alienation Experienced by Participants

1-1 5-1 5-2 Word Order in Vietnamese and Australian names due to different cultures Age and Gender of In-depth Interview and Focus Group Participants Participants’ Years of Residence in Australia.



The number of elderly Vietnamese immigrants in Australia has grown significantly in the years since the fall of Saigon, Capital of the Republic of Vietnam, took place on 30 April 1975, following the total occupation by Vietnamese communists (ABS, 1997). The reasons why Elderly Vietnamese people leave their homeland are various. As refugees, they left their country by boat or by land in order to seek freedom and they were welcomed to Australia under humanitarian programs. As migrants, they wished to join their family members in Australia as well as seek freedom, and came to Australia directly from Vietnam under the Family Reunion or Orderly Departure Programs. Whether refugees or migrants in Australia, elderly Vietnamese immigrants bring with them their own traditional habits, values and beliefs that they expect to be able to continue to follow in their new country. However, when brought face to face with the Anglo-Australian value system, elderly Vietnamese immigrants find it very difficult to adapt to the strange culture. The impact of the two cultures causes culture shock, followed by experiences of alienation. Using qualitative methods, including in-depth interviews with 4 individuals and focus group interviews with 35 participants, this study focused on the disparity between oriental and occidental lifestyles and value systems, which lead the target groups to experience feelings of alienation. A number of conclusions were drawn, and recommendations were proposed accordingly. The findings and recommendations of this research may contribute useful information for government agencies and others who are concerned about the welfare of this ethnic group and who wish to reduce their feelings of alienation and help integrate them into their second and final home in Australia. It may also be helpful for elderly Vietnamese immigrants who may be in similar circumstances and have similar feelings to those of the participants, and who may be able to benefit also from suggested preventative measures and remedies.


Statement of authorship

Except where reference is made in the text, this thesis contains no material published elsewhere or extracted in whole or in part from a thesis by which I have qualified for or been awarded another degree or diploma. No other person’s work has been used without due acknowledgement in the main text of the thesis. This thesis has not been submitted for the award of any degree or diploma in any other university. Candidate’s signature: Date: July 2003



I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the following persons, without whose assistance I would not have overcome difficulties encountered during my studies or achieved the goals of the research. I am grateful to Dr Judith Bessant, Former Co-ordinator of the School of Arts and Sciences, Australian Catholic University, St Patrick’s Campus, for her initial encouragement, advice and organisational support. I am most grateful to Dr Klaus Serr, Co-ordinator & Supervisor of the School of Arts and Sciences, Australian Catholic University, St Patrick Campus, for his extensive academic advice and expert support, and for helping me gain new insights into the topic and into the procedures of qualitative research. I am also grateful to Presidents of communities and associations for elderly Vietnamese in Victoria, who have generously facilitated my access to members of their organisations. I wish to express my sincere gratitude especially to all research participants, who have enthusiastically responded to my interviews and have frankly expressed their feelings and points of view. My thanks are also due to Martina ang financial support of my studies i, C ng Nguy n and other benefactors for their spiritual


The number of elderly Vietnamese immigrants (EVIM) in Australia has grown significantly in the years since the fall of Saigon, the Capital of the Republic of Vietnam in April 1975 (ABS, 1997). Before 1975, there were approximately 1,000 Vietnamese people living in Australia, including 537 orphans adopted by Australians and 465 private or Colombo Program students. The Research and Statistics Unit of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) reported that by 1996 the number of Vietnam-born persons had increased to 150,941 (DIMA, 2001). These immigrants came to Australia as refugees between 1975 and 1985, or as ‘quasirefugees’ who were granted visas to emigrate from Vietnam to Australia under the Orderly Departure Programme (ODP) implemented in Australia from 1985 onwards. Cahill (cited by Ngoâ, 1997, p. 241) considers people who came via the ODP as quasi-refugees by pointing out that: ‘ a real sense all permanent migrants are also refugees to an extent that the push factors are sufficiently strong to make living in another country more attractive’. The aim of the ODP was to regulate the refugee exodus from Vietnam. The ODP was created in 1979 through an agreement between the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Its objectives were to control the numbers of immigrants and encourage safe alternatives to boat or land departures (Ngoâ, 1994).

Of this total population of 150,941 persons, 7,816 were elderly immigrants aged between 5564 years, and 7,367 are aged over 65 years. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) states that the Vietnamese population aged 65 and over increased from 8,031 persons in 1996 to 11,127 persons in 2001 (AIHW, 2001).

In the 1996 census, the population of elderly Vietnamese immigrants (EVIM) of 55 years old onwards was 15,183, or 10.06% of the whole Vietnam-born community in Australia (DIMA, 2001). This figure is worthy of consideration by the whole community, as it demonstrates that the EVIM form a significant group in Australia, justifying a study of this kind.


The reasons why EVIM leave their homeland are various. As refugees, they left their country by boat or by land in order to seek freedom and they were welcomed to Australia under various humanitarian programs. As migrants or quasi-refugees, they wished to reunite with their family members as well as seek freedom, and came to Australia directly from Vietnam under the Orderly Departure Program. Most EVIM long to go back to Vietnam one day when Communism ceases (Cahill, 1985).

Fleeing communism was the main factor prompting Vietnamese people to undertake the great exodus that took place in the last decades of the 20th century. A large number of people fled communism twice. In 1954, when the communist party occupied North Vietnam, millions fled communism, leaving their homes and moving to the South for a new life. When the South also became red in 1975, a large number of Vietnamese people had no choice but to leave their homeland any way they could: by boat and/or by traveling overland in search of freedom. Avoiding communism and seeking freedom sometimes cost the lives of Vietnamese people (Grant, 1979; Nguyeãn, 2001). Over one million Vietnamese refugees’ footprints in all five continents proved to all peoples of the world that Vietnamese people loved freedom but they did not have it in their own country, so they had no choice but to try to escape overseas, seeking asylum in any country that guaranteed freedom (Leâ, 1998).

This thesis explores issues of socio-cultural alienation among the first generation of the Vietnamese elderly who settled in Australia. In this context, the study examines specific aspects of Vietnamese culture and how these differ from Australian culture. It further looks at how different cultural values lead to social isolation, loneliness, and to a state of alienation between this particular group of people and Australian society. The analysis also identifies feelings of estrangement among different generations of Vietnamese family members. The thesis discusses socio-cultural issues related to EVIM between their status quo (the time before they left Vietnam) and status quem (their time of living with and within AngloAustralian culture). The gap between their experiences at two points of time will help identify the nature of their alienation.


Ngoâ (1994) and Võ (1997) describe the ‘status quo’ (starting point) of the EVIM as the time before they left Vietnam. They brought along with them their own traditional values and beliefs that were quite different from Anglo-Australian traditions. The Vietnamese people brought with them to their new country long-standing customs and traditional knowledge and beliefs (Võ, 1997, p. 109). The people generally assumed that these traditions would still play a key role in their families and in society generally. Specifically, they assumed that family life would continue to follow traditional Vietnamese values and beliefs; that they would own a home in Australia with their children’s and the government's support and that this would result in a comfortable and happy life. Some authors (Cahill, 1985; Gallipoli, 1993; Gurney and Means, 1993; Halpin et al., 1972; Ngoâ, 1994; Thomas, 1993) identify a large number of problems confronted by EVIM at their ‘status quem’, that is, the time they start their lives in Australia. Modern Western values come as a shock to the elderly Vietnamese immigrants, and present them with many difficulties, challenging their very being. Accordingly, powerlessness, isolation, loneliness, homesickness, dependence on others and feelings of deprivation result from their unpleasant ‘status quem’ (Võ, 1997). Some EVIM would have been thinking of returning to Vietnam to live in ‘their own home land’ (Võ, 1997, p. 12). Consequently, Leâ (1998) defines the above experiences as a ‘socio-cultural alienation’ due to the culture shock. Such alienation takes place when EVIM leave their own ways of life (that is, cohesion to people, land and properties owned in Vietnam) and arrive to live in Australia (that is, life in the new strange environment lacking adequate social relations and asset and property ownership). Ngoâ (1998) compares these changes with uprooting a tree growing well in its own area and then transplanting it to a new area. He emphasises that: ‘the planter needs to study the features of the soil at both locations. He can then adequately adjust the environment for the tree to so that it can continue developing well in the new environment’ (ibid p.19). However, socio-cultural alienation occurs among the EVIM of the first generation more than among following generations. Cahill (1985, p. 9) found that the second generation and the following ones who are EVIM’s children and grandchildren in Australia may be changed due to their possibly greater levels of integration into Anglo-Australian culture through, for example, bicultural marriages and the influence of education. As these generations were born 12

in Australia or arrived in Australia at a young age, they have no significant attachment to their parental culture and traditions. This is because they do not have much opportunity to be in contact with their traditional lifestyle and culture or practice these traditional values either in their origin country or in the host country (Ngoâ, 1997).

In order to study alienation among the EVIM of the first generation in Australia, the study focuses the following research questions:
  

What were the expectations of the target group before they came to Australia? Were the expectations of the participants met in Australia? Did participants feel alienated in Australian society after their arrival?

The significance of the thesis is that it will:  Assist Australian policy makers and relevant community organisations to understand more fully the experiences of EVIM in order to develop better policies and services;  Enable the public to understand more fully the situation of EVIM in the Australian community;  Collect useful information that could then be provided to potential Vietnamese emigrants in Vietnam. The limitations of the research are:  The research sample was restricted to particular EVIM groups in Melbourne;  Participants’ answers to some questions were limited due to the observance of traditional values or family honour. For example, Vietnamese people are unlikely to disclose negative information that may humiliate their family.

Chapter 5 will present data from four in-depth and four focus group interviews. These explored participants’ responses and feelings on the above issues. The data presented in this way will be followed by conclusions and recommendations in chapter 6.


This chapter discusses the cultural background of elderly Vietnamese immigrants (EVIM) before leaving Vietnam. It explores their cultural values and practice. These cultural values are rooted in, and are a combination of, different Eastern and Western religions. Cultural practices affirm the regulations and traditional norms for relations in family and society. EVIM have believed in these values and have practiced these traditional beliefs throughout their lives before leaving Vietnam and to arriving in Australia.

Vietnamese culture is built up from a variety of religious sources intertwined with the history of Vietnam. These sources include a range of beliefs such as Buddhism, the cult of ancestors, Confucianism, Taoism, and Christianity. In the early 20th century, two indigenous sects, Caodaism and Hoahaoism, have increased in influence (Võ, 1999).

Whether a Vietnamese is Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, Caodaist, Hoahaoist or Christian, the teachings of Buddha, Confucius and Laotzu (a direct disciple of Confucius) constitute a source of wisdom, which dictates the behaviour of Vietnamese aged people in general, and the way they communicate in particular. Ngoâ (1994) outlines the Vietnamese traditions and values that create the traditional personality and the lifestyle of EVIM: ‘They [EVIM] play a key role as leaders of the family, which is considered the solid foundation of the Vietnamese society where respect of elders is an essential norm’ (p. 13).

Confucianism is a main foundation of Vietnamese traditional social hierarchies. The religion defines attitudes that each member of the society should have towards each other by rigid rules regarding the relationship between generations. This applies to life both inside and outside the family (Traàn, 1976). 14

Dieân Höông (1981, pp. 83-86), Nguyeãn (1964, pp. 412-419) and Traàn (1971, pp. 185-198) consider the so-called “Confucian bibles” the foundation of values, norms, and strict traditional rules for Vietnamese family members to follow and practice. These ‘bibles’ consist of:  The Four Ethics Books: Great Learning (Ñaïi Hoïc), Happy Medium (Trung Dung), Analects (Luaän Ngöõ), and Mencius (Maïnh Töû).  The Five Canonical Books: Book of Changes (Kinh Dòch), Book of Odes (Kinh Thô), Book of Poetry (Kinh Thi), Book of Rites (Kinh Leãõ), and Annals of Spring and Autumn (Kinh Xuaân Thu).

The essential contents of these bibles of Confucianism teach people how to attain innate goodness and self-perfection, and how to achieve good social relations in family and society, as well as other substantial virtues (Traàn, 1976). EVIM have lived the ethics and spirituality of the above Confucian bibles, so they are surprised at their children who do not live in the same manner in Australia. These Confucian bibles, which EVIM still rely on as norms in their daily lifestyle and outlook on life, are seen by the elderly to have no place in the life of young Vietnamese boys and girls.

Thus, in Australia the EVIM may feel that they are losing their cultural values and code of ethics (Ngoâ, 1997). Their traditional norms, influenced considerably by the three main Asian religions, are quite different from the Australian values system rooted mostly in Christianity and the traditions of Western civilisation. This difference is defined by Ngoâ (1997) as a ‘strangeness’ that is different from what they have previously experienced. It causes feelings of strangeness and confusion when EVIM arrive in Australia. Ngoâ (1997, p. 131) notes: ‘Some [EVIM] said they felt themselves to be in a state of disarray when exposed to a new way of life.’ 15

Elderly Vietnamese immigrants (EVIM) have inherited a traditional culture system built up over 2000 years. It has been made of different resources or religions. This section outlines its significant features regarding family and social relationship:    Hierarchy in Vietnamese Family & Society The Spirit of Family Filial Piety by Family Members towards Parents.

Hierarchy in Vietnamese Family & Society
Under the influence of the above religious values, there is in Vietnamese families an obvious hierarchy from generation to generation. This determines the subordinate position of children, the compliance expected of them, the different roles expected of female and male, and the superiority of male to female. This hierarchy also applies in society.

FOR MEN Barker (1982) reports that Confucius prescribes the formula for three important sets of social interactions (Tam Cöông) for sons in the family and males in society. These interactions are: 1. 2. 3. Quaân Vi Thaàn - between ruler and subject , Phuï Vi Töû - between father and son and Phu Vi Phuï - between husband and wife.

Confucius also dictates the moral code for a virtuous man (Quaân Töû), who should be a living example of the five cardinal virtues (Nguõ Thöôøng): 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Nhaân - Humanity, Nghóa - Benevolence, Leã - Urbanity, Trí - Intelligence, and Tín - Honesty.

This moral code may be progressively attained by self-training via four essential steps: 1. 2. 3. Tu Thaân - the improvement of oneself Teà Gia - the management of the family Trò Quoác - the governing of the country , and Bình Thieân Haï - the pacification of the world. 16


These ‘Tam Cöông’ (three sets of social interactions) and ‘Nguõ Thöôøng’ (five cardinal virtues) are virtues prescribed and applied especially for Vietnamese males. According to these traditional values, Vietnamese males must learn the appropriate virtuous behaviours towards their country and the head of the family, and should put them into practice (Ñaøo 1938). These virtues are summarized in the two main virtues of Confucian teachings: filial piety and compatriotism (Döông, 1968). Nguyeâãõn (2002, p. 119) emphasised that these traditional virtues are still valuable and worthy of being observed by all Vietnamese people, whether inside or outside Vietnam.

FOR WOMEN The duties of a woman are in all circumstances to conform to ‘Tam Toøng’ obedience): 1. 2. 3. Taïi Gia Toøng Phuï - obedience to her father until she is married; Xuaát Giaù Toøng Phu - obedience to her husband after she leaves her father’s house to be married; and Phu Töû Toøng Töû - obedience to her eldest son should she be widowed. (tripodal

arker (1982: 12) also identifies the ‘Töù Ñöùc’ (four essential virtues) expected of a woman: 1. 2. 3. 4. Coâng Dung Ngoân Haïnh Skill with her hands; Agreeable appearance; Prudence in speech, and Exemplary conduct.

To demonstrate exemplary conduct, a woman is obliged to obey her superiors or higherranking members of the family (Toan AÙnh, 1992). For instance, in Vietnam, if one discusses something with a widow to reach any decision, even if she agrees with you, she might respond thus: ‘Yes, you are right and I agree with you, but let me ask my son first, before I go ahead.’ Under Confucian influence, a Vietnamese woman always knew what her position is, what she is, and what she must do when making decisions. In ancient times, Confucian teaching dictated that a woman’s place was at home not in public society. Women were supposed to be the followers, as evident in the requirements of tripodal obedience as mentioned above. These norms were important to Vietnamese girls because they had to identify with their subordinate places in family and society. 17

Integrated into the Western education system without any moral lessons with traditional values, Vietnamese girls are not required to learn and practice the four essential virtues and tripodal obedience. Under the Western education system, Vietnamese girls are freer in their independent decision-making, with minimal advice from the family head and other family members. This may result in their parents and/or grandparents living in Australia feeling as if they no longer have authority over family members, as they cannot carry out their traditional roles (Leâ, 1998).

MALE SUPERIORITY Confucian philosophy teaches Vietnamese people to respect the male, and is condescending to the female (Ñaøo, 1938). Male power is respected in the Vietnamese family. An old Vietnamese expression says: ‘Nhaát Nam Vieát Höõu, Thaäp Nöõ Vieát Voâ” (Having one son is having a child, but having ten daughters is having no children). This encapsulates the spirit of Vietnamese gender discrimination. Ñaøo (1938, p. 109) says that a woman has no rights in the family, as Confucius teaches that ‘Nam Toân Nöõ Ty’ (the male is superior to the female). In traditional families, Vietnamese women are so submissive that they sometimes do not have any say about who they will marry. If a Vietnamese woman does not wish to marry the man proposed by her parents, she might be required to leave home and not be considered as a family member any more. This would be shameful for her as well as her family ( Ñaøo 1938, p. 113). Women are supposed to marry the person of their parents’ choice. It is notable that Confucian society requires so much of women and not much of men.

In Australia, males and females are legally equal in all aspects of life: education, employment, family and society. Both genders find that individuality must be achieved, independence asserted and autonomy won (Turner and Helms, 1979). Young Vietnamese boys and girls would rather follow Western culture and a free lifestyle, but EVIM are not prepared to tolerate this cultural estrangement.

No schools in Australia teach these traditional Vietnamese norms to young Vietnamese boys and girls, so young Vietnamese unlikely practice norms as their parents and grandparents have done. This situation may lead to family conflict between the generations. In other words, the younger generations hardly communicate with the older generation in the traditional manner because they do not know how to behave themselves properly with regard to older generations (Võ, 1999). As parents or grandparents feel left out under such circumstances, 18

they can become victims of intergenerational conflict, sometimes leading to an alienated life even within their own families.

The Spirit of Family
In Vietnamese society, the family is the centre of the universe, as the family is the basis of the social identity of the individual. From generation to generation all Vietnamese people observe the spirit of family: anything Vietnamese people do is not done for themselves, but for their families. Individuals look first to their family for help and counsel in times of personal crisis. Vietnamese traditions and beliefs dictate a hierarchy in family, filial piety, and parental authority (Ngoâ, 1997). Social contact reflects this spirit of family. This spirit is based on various religions. When Vietnamese elderly refugees / migrants arrived in Australia, they brought with them long-standing customs, traditional values, knowledge and beliefs (Võ, 1999, p. 109). They expected that they could carry on with these habits of family spirit and traditional values in Australia at least within the Vietnamese family. However, this does not always happen, as younger Vietnamese have had no opportunity to learn the same traditional values as their parents. Anglo-Australian education integrates younger Vietnamese, not to the EVIM’s longestablished tradition, but to that of the host community (Ngoâ, 1997). The family conflict that sometimes develops in this situation can be further explored through the analysis of kinship issues. KINSHIP TERMS DENOTING THE SPIRIT OF FAMILY Barker (1982, p. 5) emphasises the importance of the rank or position of a family member and the use of kinship terms when Vietnamese people address each other. Personal pronouns in the Vietnamese language always indicate the social, hierarchical or age relationship between three persons in conversation (1st, 2nd and 3rd person). The language also denotes the hierarchical and authoritarian spirit of Vietnamese families. Any kinship term may denote any one of three personal pronouns such as: paternal grandmother/paternal grandfather; granduncle/grandaunt; mother/father; aunt/uncle; son/daughter; elder brother/elder sister; young brother/young sister; nephew/niece; granddaughter/grandson; grandnephew/

Grandniece, etc. When listening to relatives or family members addressing each other, it is possible to know the kinship position or family relationship of each family member. The following example makes this clear: 19

In English The mother speaks to her son: “Peter! (2nd person), while I (1st person) prepare dinner, (you = 2nd person) have a shower, and then (you = 2nd person) help Anne (3rd person) to prepare the visitor room for Aunty Maria (3rd person) who will come and stay with us tomorrow. We will have dinner at 7 O’clock when Paul (3rd person) comes home from work. And Peter replies: “Yes Mother, I (1st person) want to have a drink before I (1st person) have a shower”. In Vietnamese The mother talks to her son: “Peter, while mother (1st person = I) prepares dinner, son (2nd person = you) have a shower. And then son (2nd person = you) help your big sister Anne (3rd person = Peter’s big sister) to prepare the visitor room for your maternal Auntie Maria (3rd person = Peter’s aunty = younger sister of Peter’s mother), who will come and stay with us tomorrow. We will have dinner at 7 O’clock when your big brother Paul (3rd person = Peter’s big brother) comes home from work.” And Peter replies: “Yes Mum, son (1st person = I) want to have a drink before son (1st person = I) have a shower”. The Vietnamese way of using personal pronouns in conversation reflects the position of members in the family. Each member has his/her own position or order in the extended Vietnamese family. Everyone observes this order, even in their daily conversation. People rarely use bare personal pronouns such as I, you, he, she, they, and we, but instead address each other by using kinship terms. Nguyeãn (2001, p. 91) notes that Vietnamese ways of addressing the speaker and the listener demonstrate order and hierarchy in family as well as society, sensitivity to relationships and human piety (such as filial piety, conjugal piety, student piety, and friendly piety). The EVIM are astonished and sometimes upset with their grandchildren who do not know the traditional kinship terms, and then address others in the family in the Australian way. This misunderstanding may lead EVIM to feel left out by family members, as their authority and position in the family is not recognized properly. NAMING SYSTEM DENOTING SPIRIT OF FAMILY The importance of the family rather than the individual is reflected in the manner in which names are written. The full name of a Vietnamese starts with the surname or family name, not 20

the given name or Christian name as do Australian names. A typical Vietnamese name usually has three words: first the family name or surname; second the middle name, and the given name comes last. It is the reverse of the Australian name in respect of Western culture that put individuals first. The following Table (Table I) compares the word order in Vietnamese and Australian full names: Table 1-1: WORD ORDER IN VIETNAMESE AND AUSTRALIAN NAME DUE TO DIFFERENT CULTURE Order Culture Vietnamese

1st Word
Family Name NGUYEÃN

2nd Word
Middle Name Vaên Middle Name William

3rd Word
Given Name Phöông Family Name KEATING


First Name Peter

The above comparison indicates the family spirit of Vietnamese culture, which is concerned with the family and its hierarchy rather than with individuals in the family. In Australian culture, people are more concerned about, and respect, individuals in the family rather than the family as a whole (Ngoâ 1997). Thus the second row of Table I denotes the characteristic Vietnamese family spirit: family name comes first and is followed by middle name(s), if any, and finally given name(s). The third row suggests that in Australian culture the individual is more important than the whole family. Ngoâ (1997) mentions further implications of the naming system: 1. Family welfare, namely of parents, siblings and children as a whole clearly prevail over that of individuals. 2. The father has the power over other individuals, because he is the head of a small well organised unit of society, that is the family. 3. Hierarchy originates from the family where all family members are subject to its head representing the whole family. Living in Australia where individuals in a family have their own say and may make their own decisions, listening less to their parents and grandparents, and considering individual freedom before the wishes of their parents, the EVIM may find themselves confused about their own authority in a Vietnamese traditional family. Ñaøo (1938, p. 112) confirms that: ‘In the Vietnamese family children are the father’s possession, leading to the fact that in old times the 21

father had the right not only to sell away children but also to beat them to death. Even in such a situation, he would not be considered guilty’. So, the father’s role is to order, and children are to obey. When parents/fathers pass away, children have to worship them as gods among other ancestor gods (Toan AÙnh, 1992). MOURNING AND FUNERAL TRADITIONS DENOTING SPIRIT OF FAMILY The authority in the Vietnamese family is such an extent that the extended family members keep respecting their parents and grandparents even after they pass away. When their time comes, their souls are going to be worshiped like those of the ancestors. The transition between this life and the afterlife is very important because it is the time of the last veneration of parents on the physical plane before they leave and join the ancestors. Their souls are venerated and worshiped like gods. This ancestor worship is a significant belief for EVIM (Toan AÙnh, 1992).

Therefore, an important event, which deeply involves the whole family, is the death of a family member. The dying person is usually brought home so that his spirit will stay at home and will go to the family altar. The deceased are remembered or given reverence daily in the evening, especially on the 1st day and 15th day of each lunar month, by living family members. Nguyeãn (1964) reports that according to tradition, the deceased’s children must be in mourning for a three-year period. During this period of mourning, the following requirements are observed:        Music is not listened to, Parties are not attended, Alcohol is not consumed, People do not get married, Women should not become pregnant, Public servants in office have to leave their position on a temporary basis in order to stay home for mourning, Food or fruits must be served at the deceased’s altar.

Ñaøo (1938) and Toan AÙnh (1992) show that the general central ancestor altar of an extended family is located at the house of their family head. It can be in the main part of the house or in a small separate shrine outside the house. Each related family has its own ancestor altar. The deceased person's photo is displayed on this altar for daily worship and/or for worship on 22

special occasions. Each year, on the anniversary of a family member’s death, family members gather to present offerings (e.g. fruits and other foods) to the deceased, and share together a meal consisting of dishes, which were favourites of the one being remembered. Nguyeãn Höông (2002) also remarks on the importance of piety by the living towards those who have passed away. Ñaøo (1938) specially emphasises this respect by saying: … Ancestor worship is an essential duty and virtue that will never be neglected by descending generations. Rich extended families put aside some of the financial inheritance to spend on costs of worship ceremonies that may be expensive (p 206). EVIM wish to be commemorated on these altars and be given reverence after death by their children and grandchildren, and following generations. Otherwise, they may lose the feeling of belonging to their own extended family in the after-life. In Australia, the kinship terms, naming system and mourning and funeral culture are quite different, and do not reflect the Vietnamese spirit of family. Such circumstances may give EVIM a feeling of being left out or not belonging within the extended family, as when addressed by only given name(s) without kinship position, they might feel as if they are being considered as equal to the younger generation, and feel humiliated and less respected by their children and grandchildren who owe them birth and life (Ngoâ, 1997).

Filial Piety Shown by Family Members towards Parents
Võ (1999, p. 30) highlights filial piety as the cornerstone of Confucianism, and defines the father-son relationship as the most important factor in society: ‘... the son’s obedience and respect towards his parents, and the responsibility must be undertaken to provide for their material and mental well being in their old age’. Ngoâ (1994) notes “ Lão”, that is the idea

that the elderly have sacrificed themselves for, and given their lives to, their motherland. When describing the responsibilities and duties of each member of the Vietnamese extended family, Toan AÙnh (1992) emphasises the Family Head’s power and notes that all family members must respect and be subject to that power, as the family head is the reference point and mediator for all members of the extended family. In other words, the Vietnamese tradition has strictly observed the patriarchal system.


Women have their essential place as family housekeepers, and do not exist outside the family in society. According to such traditional values, old persons have sufficient experience and wisdom to guide the younger generations, especially their children and grandchildren. The other roles they enact are: living ancestors, family historians, mentors, nurturers, and mediators in family matters (Võ, 1999). Hence, they deserve to be respected and obeyed by the younger generations. However, in Australia, younger Vietnamese seem unlikely to hold on to traditional family values. This overturns EVIM’s expectations that the priority of kinship relations would remain intact as if they were still in Vietnam (Ngoâ 1994).

Barker (1982) discovered that filial piety stems from the idea that children are indebted to their parents for all the sacrifices they made in giving them birth, bringing them up, and educating them to become mature persons. Therefore, he points out that children owe their parents many favours, kindnesses and gratitude for the greatest gift of all: the gift of life. Consequently, the children owe submission to the authors of their existence, no matter what their age. When parents grow older, children ought to prove their gratitude by providing for their wants. In other words, the altruism of parents must be recognized by children’s love and absolute gratitude. Parents’ acts and kindness to children can be compared with the height of mountains and the depth of the oceans, as in the following words of a popular Vietnamese folk-song. The song is well known to Vietnamese children (Nguyeãn, 1964, p. 303): Coâng Cha nhö nuùi Thaùi Sôn. (The accomplishments of our Father are comparable to Thai Mountain) Nghóa Meï nhö nöôùc trong nguoàn chaûy ra. (The kindness of our Mother is comparable to a perennial spring). Moät loøng thôø meï kính cha, (With our wholehearted love, we venerate our Father and Mother) Cho troøn ñaïo hieáu môùi laø ñaïo con (We do so in order to accomplish our filial piety as pious children). The ideals of filial piety and obedience support an extended family system, in which age is the basis of authority. Barker (1982) points out that the father is the head of the household in the immediate family, as the Vietnamese family structure is paternal. The father is supposed to uphold family traditions and set moral standards for his family. The oldest child has the responsibility of caring for younger siblings, who in turn obey and respect him. From the legal 24

point of view, the family head is responsible for his family members’ offences, and the eldest sibling for those of his younger siblings (Ñaøo, 1938). Based on this paternal structure and system of legal responsibility, Vietnamese parents have authority in making decisions about family affairs: buying or purchasing houses; engaging in business contracts; changing residences or moving to another place; establishing business; children’s marriages and the choosing of sons/daughters-in-law. EVIM expect these things to be carried out in Australia: children should respect parents, obey them, care for them in their old age, organise their funerals properly, and worship them or honour them after they die. Otherwise, EVIM may feel alienated, because they regard filial piety as the first and foremost of other virtues, and now their children ignore it (Ngoâ 1997, p. 241). This results in a heavy toll for EVIM, who face family conflicts because they find that their traditional roles and mandated positions in the family are now severely diminished (Ngoâ 1997, p. 81).

Vietnamese parents consider that the marriage of their children is the business of the parents, and they must arrange the marriage accordingly. Ñaøo (1938) and Toan AÙnh (1992) remark that both the brides and bridegrooms have no independent choice in marriage. Moreover, in some Vietnamese rural villages, engagements and marriages might be arranged by parents even when the children are still minors, and a man can marry two or three wives, but a woman can have only one husband (Toan AÙnh, 1992, pp. 114-115). Different practices in Australia may lead the EVIM to feel that: they are losing their authority in family affairs; their roles in the family are reversed as younger Vietnamese seem not to unconditionally hold to traditional values such as marriage arrangement (Ngoâ (1997, p. 85).

As mentioned earlier, most Vietnamese habits, customs and traditions are rooted in, and conditioned by, religious beliefs. Confucian ideals have played an essential part in Vietnamese life. The ideals of filial piety and obedience are still the basis of ancestor worship, and support an extended family system, in which age is the basis of authority. However, it is quite different in Australia, where children are educated to become independent as much as possible and their rights are protected by laws. The raison d’eâtre for this protection of the child stems from a principle that children have a right to have their welfare treated as the paramount consideration. Parker (1994, p. 737) confirms that the community in Australia is obliged to promote children’s welfare and implement their rights. As welfare right holders, children may claim for the protection of their welfare. The protection is implemented in accordance with relevant regulations, as welfare is rooted in concerns for personal autonomy. 25

This is outside the Vietnamese concept of ‘filial piety’ and accordingly is unlikely to be accepted by the EVIM.

However, EVIM in Australia still believe in influencing their children in most aspects of life, and expect their children to serve them during their daily lives, show great respect to them at their death, and worship them after their death. In Australia EVIM are witnesses to the fact that the body of the deceased is kept unattended most of the time at the funeral agency until it is cremated or buried. Being aware of such differences from the Vietnamese culture of bereavement, EVIM may have a question mark over what will be happening at their own deaths and after death (Nguyeãn, 2001). This situation may contribute to their state of alienation. This chapter discussed the idea that EVIM had long-established traditions at the time of leaving Vietnam (status quo), may feel that these values are alien to the Australian society (Ngoâ, 1997; Võ, 1999) in which their children are being educated in the Western curriculum. Quaùch (2002) agrees that Vietnamese values are quite different from Western ones. Vietnamese culture focuses on ‘the spirit of family’: mutual support, respect for authority, concern with family and collective rights, sacrifice and making family the top priority. In contrast, Australian culture is characterised by ‘the spirit of democracy: democratic respect, individual freedom, legislation, importance of the individual and consumerism. It is therefore difficult for the EVIM to adapt to the Australian lifestyle that observes individual rights and independence rather than family-based rights and authority. As a result, EVIM have been experiencing culture shock. They are unable to change their ethnic identity in their old age. Chapter 2 will discuss culture shock and the difficult adjustments that EVIM are experiencing in Australia.


There is no doubt that great differences exist between Vietnamese and Australian cultures. At the point of Status Quo (at the time before leaving Vietnam), the EVIM bring their beliefs and traditional customs to Australia as outlined in the previous chapter. Many of them wish to carry on with their cultural practices after arrival. This chapter will identify what EVIM have been experiencing at the point of Status Quem, that is, after the time they arrived in Australia. For many Vietnamese people, their new lives and engagement with the Anglo-Australian lifestyle in Australia led them to experience culture shock, and to some extent, alienation.

Culture is a general term describing a people’s whole way of life. A people’s culture consists of all the ideas, objects and ways of doing things created by the group. It also consists of learned ways of acting, feeling and thinking (Abercrombie et al., 2000; Bohannan, 1982; Williams, 1981). Culture can be broken down into simple units called cultural traits: rituals such as the burial of the dead; use of devices such as a plough; shared gestures such as a handshake, or belief in an idea such as democracy. A group of related traits is called a ‘culture pattern’ or ‘culture complex’; examples include childbearing customs, styles of dress and various economic, political, and social systems. Nations, most tribes, and even some villages have a culture in this sense (Furnham, 2000). EVIM also have a culture and traditional values of their own. This pattern of culture, the essential factors of which were described in the previous chapter, has been maintained verbally or in writings, practiced in daily activities in villages, in towns and cities, and passed on from generation to generation. Elderly people are verbal (and sometimes in writing) transmitters of these traditions and habits to the young generations. 27

Cultures differ from one another in details. For instance, eating is a biological need for people in every culture. However, what people eat, when and how they eat, and how food is prepared differ from one culture to another. People feel most comfortable within their own traditions and they prefer the company of others who share their habits. When people have to deal with persons of another culture, even small differences in behaviour may make them uneasy. According to Furnham (2000) the difficulty or uneasiness that people experience when they leave his or her own way and enter another, is called culture shock. Culture shock (Furnham, 1990) refers to a sense of confusion and uncertainty, sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation. First generation EVIM have undergone this sense of confusion and uncertainty, as they were not prepared to, or were unable to, adapt their own cultural pattern to that of Western culture in Australia. Furnham (2000, p. 48) discusses the causes of this culture shock. It is partly because the alien culture is unexpected, and partly because it may lead to a negative evaluation of the immigrant culture. He also describes experiences associated with culture shock, such as: a) b) c) d) e) f) strain due to the effort required to make necessary psychological adaptations; a sense of loss and feelings in regard to friends, status, profession and possessions; being rejected by and/or rejecting members of the new culture; confusion in role, role expectations, values, feelings and self-identity; surprise, anxiety, even disgust and indignation after becoming aware of cultural differences; feelings of impotence due to not being able to cope with the new environment.

Oberg (1960) gives some examples of anxiety-producing situations resulting from loss of familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse. These include when to shake hands and what to say when we meet people, and when to accept and when to refuse invitations. The cues for understanding such situations may be ‘words, gestures, facial expressions, customs, or other norms learned by all of us in the course of growing up, and are as much a part of culture as the language we speak or the beliefs we accept.’ (p. 177). One depends for peace of mind and efficiency on hundreds of these cues, most of which one is not consciously aware. Oberg (1960, pp 177-181) also identifies some symptoms of culture shock such as: absentmindedness; feelings of helplessness, and desire for dependence on long-term residents of one’s own nationality; fits of anger over delays and other minor frustrations; delay and 28

outright refusal to learn the language of the host country; excessive fear of being cheated, robbed, or injured; and great concern over minor pains and irruptions of the skin. Under the influence of such experiences of culture shock, Furnham (1990) discovers that: … [Immigrants] long to be back home at their ancestral land, to go shopping at familiar places, to visit one’s relatives, and in general, to talk to people who really make sense (p. 49).

The preceding discussion describes the general characteristics of culture shock and this section focuses on the experiences of EVIM. Barker (1982) and Voõ (1999) find that in their lives in Australia, EVIM had not obtained what they expected before leaving Vietnam, such as: residing in their own home; receiving enough money from their children in order to lead a quiet, happy and comfortable life; being served by children and/or grandchildren; being respected and listened to by their extended family members; living together with children; being accompanied by their family members in outings; playing the family leader role, etc. Voõ (1999, p 25) confirms that: … The failure of their children’s relationship is the first source of stress in their family relationship... They [EVIM) are often the victims of intergenerational conflict... And being unable to communicate with their children and grandchildren is a major source of stress for them. In other words, EVIM expected to live the rest of their lives the same way as they had in their home country. They believed their children and/or grandchildren would arrange this pattern of life for them. EVIM rely heavily on their family members (Ngoâ 1997). However, the education for an independent life in Australia influences the younger Vietnamese generation to live their own lives by themselves, separate from their parents or grandparents. There is a very large gap between the beliefs and practices of different generations due to their different systems of education and cultural environments (Leâ, 1998). Ngoâ (1994) and Thomas (1993) maintain that Vietnamese family members in Australia are crossing the traditional cultural boundaries and entering a Western society to live a new way of life. This other way of life has a set of values different from those in Vietnam, for both the 29

family and society. According to (Ngoâ, 1994, p. 15) these changes directly affect the quality of the relationship between the first generation parents and their adult children. Thomas (1993, p. 27) reports that the Vietnamese elderly experience multiple stresses. The language barrier gives them no means of communication with non-Vietnamese neighbours, and makes them rely more on their family. The dependence becomes so intense that it creates a heavy burden for their adult children. Hence, what EVIM expect as the status quo does not come true, leading them into embarrassed, confused and uncomfortable situations such as loneliness, isolation, homelessness and feelings of powerlessness. Many writers discuss problems related to the unmet expectations of EVIM. For instance, Traàn (1991) summarises the impact Anglo-Australian culture has on EVIM in his report to the Department of Community Services (Victoria) on completion of a one-year project involving the provision of Home and Community Care to the target group. Traàn (1991) states that: … The experience of having to leave their homeland with their culture, language, religions and food, and to settle in an alien environment has been greatly traumatic for the elderly. They have had real problems adapting to a new life, in which they are likely excluded from playing a traditionally active role, due to their old age and the language barrier. While their family members go to work or attend English classes or general schooling, the old family members stay alone at home and become isolated. Sometimes they feel alienated among their close relatives. This situation regularly happens to the active elderly Vietnamese; it must be worse for frail aged people and those with disabilities (p. 3). As discussed in the previous chapter on the spirit of family, the family is the centre of the universe. Anything Vietnamese people do, they do for family considerations, rather than for themselves. Having extensive family connections is one of the means by which the average family can sustain itself and provide opportunities for advancement for its younger generations. In Australia, these relationships seem loose, causing misunderstandings between the Vietnamese elderly and younger generations. EVIM expect that this spirit of family will continue with their children and grandchildren in Australia, who will evaluate Vietnamese culture and understand the feelings of the elderly (Ngoâ, 1997).

It is worth noting that within the family, a hierarchy is respected, and its top level is the grandparent. As a result, EVIM expect the younger generation to respect the old people not only in their manner of address, but also through emotional and financial support. Their children, educated under Anglo-Australian culture, sometimes do not remember how to address their family members correctly, and more than that, may be living independently and 30

separate from parents, especially when married. EVIM have grown up with traditional values, and wish to maintain their leading role in the family as mediators between ancestors and descendants, linking all extended family members together, and bringing about the reconciliation of family conflicts (Voõ, 1999). They are often disappointed when in Australia there is no room for them to carry on and bring those family values into practice, and they may thus fall into a state of alienation. In both Australian and Vietnamese cultures, a most rewarding and complex relationship that unites the generations takes place in grandparenthood. Grandparents have a double role, taking care of two generations of children, that is their own children a nd their children’s children. Westheimer (1999) in her book Grandparenthood discusses the potentially wonderful relationship between three generations in Australian society: grandparents, children and grandchildren. As grandparents, people can enhance their own life, their children’s lives and the lives of their grandchildren in various ways. They preserve their family heritage and traditions and share their own tried and true techniques. However, this is not common in Australia, as the elderly accept living alone, and children can leave home at anytime (Voõ 1999). Voõ (1999) confirms that grandparents play a variety of vital roles in Vietnamese families. They are considered a uniting factor in all situations of dissidence. They also provide a focus for the gathering of children and children’s children on special occasions such as ancestors’ anniversaries, traditional festivals and national festivals including Lunar New Year’s Day (Teát Nguyeân Ñaùn), Double Fire (Teát Ñoan Ngoï), Wandering Souls’ Day (Leã Vu Lan), MidAutumn Festival (Teát Trung Thu) and other family anniversaries such as weddings, deaths and birthdays. In addition, local festivals and family anniversaries are also good occasions for all extended family members to gather together and meet their living family heads such as grandparents, parents, aunties and uncles. In these ways, EVIM usually play a role of mediation between the generations and within their children’s families. EVIM in Australia long for the return of these yearly traditional occasions to see their extended family members all together, but they are disappointed, because their children do not remember or do not gather and meet with them accordingly for one or another reason. When becoming parents and grandparents, they feel left out of the lives of their children and grandchildren, as they have no concrete opportunity to serve their role as family head. They feel alienated. 31

Inglis (1974) notes that Chinese immigrants adjust to Australian society by adopting the characteristics of the host society. On the one hand, she lists a variety of adjustments made by the Chinese, such as: residential adjustment; cultural adjustment; social adjustment; marital adjustment and civic adjustment. On the other hand, she is also concerned about the adjustment of Anglo-Australian society to Chinese settlement. Inglis agues the ‘adjustment’ that Australians demand of migrant and minority groups is in fact assimilation. This attitude of assimilation requires that all immigrants and minority group members should become indistinguishable from members of the host society through the adoption of the latter’s way of life. It also requires that migrants should become culturally assimilated and should not live in ghettoes. Inglis (1974) argues that a differing attitude or ideology concerning immigrant adjustment is that of integration. This approach is associated with the “melting pot” debate and requires a homogenous population, though it envisages that this may come about through a blending of cultures. Inglis also mentions a third ideology of migrant adjustment, which may be described as pluralism. It differs from the two previous ones (assimilation and integration) in that it does not demand or set as the ultimate aim a homogenous society, but instead envisages the continuance of ethnic groupings.

In Australia, pluralism has been developed into the policy of multiculturalism. Lopez (2000) points out that Australia was officially on its way to becoming a ‘multicultural society’ by 1973, following the assimilation phase (1947-1965) and the integration phase (1965-1972). When announcing this policy of multiculturalism, the Whitlam government meant at the time that governments could speak of the ‘national family’ while also recognising that people from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB) had special welfare, health and education needs. From that time on, multiculturalism has maintained a space for cultural diversity within a common Australian framework. The Hawke governments recognised three dimensions of multiculturalism (Bessant and Watts 2002):    The right of all Australians to express their specific cultural identity while sharing a common Australian culture; The right of all Australians to equality of treatment and opportunity; and The need to maintain and develop the skills of all Australians, regardless of their cultural background. (p. 235) 32

However, EVIM are not able to participate effectively in these three dimensions of multiculturalism due to a range of factors discussed below.

Language Barriers
The language barrier is the first and most fundamental factor that prevents EVIM from participating in Australian life successfully. Ngoâ (1997), Gallipoli (1993), Thomas (1993) and Voõ (1999) all agreed on the fact that EVIM have been facing significant difficulties when communicating with the mainstream community. Voõ (1999) emphasised that lack of communication and poor confidence due to language barriers and transport difficulties become ‘factors reducing opportunities for EVIM to participate in mainstream recreational and other activities’ (p. 24). Gallipoli (1993) discovered that some elderly people are ‘too old to learn English and that there is a lack of interpreters available to explain mainstream services available to elders’ (p. 46). Ngoâ (1997) noted that before arriving in Australia, over 95% of EVIM do not understand or speak English at all, or only with difficulty. In addition, Traàn (as cited in Thomas, 1993) stresses that ‘lack of English may prevent them [EVIM] from being able to carry out their daily activities such as shopping to buy food, accessing community services, or making a phone call to emergency agencies’ (p. 10). Under the policy of supporting NESB migrants, the Australian government has organised 510-hour English program by AMES. This amount of hours may not be enough for the EVIM to adapt to Anglo-Australian lifestyle and especially to be confident in communication with English-speaking people.

Confronted with linguistic problems, and isolated accidentally from family members, EVIM suffer from loneliness. Their children have no time to be with them due to the commitments of work and/or studies. Their grandchildren are busy at school and homework. Even if the latter have time, there is a big difference between the old and young generations. The grandchildren speak English at home, and their grandparents cannot understand or talk to them. In other words, EVIM are lonely even among their family members.

With the fast pace of modern life, young Vietnamese, like others, are often busy and have a tight time schedule, which means that EVIM are alone most of the time. Schooling and 33

working schedules require young family members to be out of home. To those who are home without independent activities, a day becomes unbearably long and boring. Elderly Australians, on the other hand, usually live apart from their children, so they have their own lifestyle that is planned carefully. Westheimer (1999), says: … I’ve always made sure that I lead my life and don’t let the life lead me y this, I make sure that I have the time for things, and especially the people, who really matter to me (p. 220). In their study of loneliness among the elderly in England, Halpin and Babour (1972, p. 56) mark ‘the onset of real loneliness and its possible consequences when older people enter retirement’. The authors describe how, despite attempts now being made to alleviate their loneliness, thousands of the elderly die alone each year in England, not only in their own homes but also behind screens in busy hospital wards. For those used to living together with their children, like EVIM, the loss of this contact leads to social isolation and loneliness.

In Australia, there are services such a Home and Community Care (HACC) aiming to support the elderly at home or in residential care facilities, and reduce their loneliness. The question is whether EVIM, like other ethnic aged groups, are informed about, and know how to access such services. Bilingual community workers should become involved in dissemination and/or training the target group in their own language about the mainstream services provided to the elderly, and how to access them, for example, how to use the Interpreting Service to communicate with service providers.

Unable to take part in the mainstream activities, ethnic elderly groups may become further isolated. In her study Isolation and the Ethnic Elderly, which included Vietnamese elderly people, Gallipoli (1993, p. 49) identifies various factors contributing to isolation: ‘Lack of transport prevents frail, disabled and housebound aged people from attending group functions and activities provided for the elderly’. Other factors include lack of information and the cultural inappropriateness of support services, low level of proficiency of English language, and lack of sufficient bi-lingual workers in support services. These factors suggest that migrants are being deprived of an important means of social contact. Social interaction is important at all ages of life, but perhaps more so in old age when failing health, loss of partner and the absence of family and friends may result in social isolation and loneliness. Picton (1991) remarks that: 34

… While many older persons find that the retirement years are fulfilled with activities that are extensions or continuations of earlier interests, it is common to find people who do not have ready substitutes for work-related, or family, interactions (p. 25). Involvement in social interactions such as marriage, contacts with close friends, church membership, informal and formal group associations, regular volunteer work, and remaining active in social affairs are considered by Schuls-Aellen (1997) to result in lower mortality rates than for those who retire from active personal involvement. Moreover, “the types of social contacts involving mostly friendship, moral support, confidence, and love are the ones capable of conferring the necessary relaxation and feelings of relief” (ibid. p 29). Many EVIM may choose to live as they did in their home land in Vietnam: speaking their own language at gatherings; having opportunities to plan and do something for their communities; being able to communicate freely with their neighbours; sharing feelings and responsibilities with their community. However, due to various factors such as language barriers, they are unable to communicate. Due to cultural differences, they cannot discuss anything with, talk to, or share their feelings with, their neighbours and other counterparts at the local community or senior citizens clubs in Australia; they are isolated. Thought should be given to the possibility of enabling EVIM to live together, for instance in the same Housing Commission high-rise building. This physical environment may give elderly people the opportunity to communicate with each other and have feelings of belonging to each other, like being in their own villages and towns in their homeland.

Lack of Home Ownership
Those Vietnamese elderly who do not own a home consider themselves as low class persons, having nowhere to stay and belong to. Gurney and Means (1993) illustrate the significance of home in later life. They identify a hierarchy of meanings, based on different levels of cultural, social and personal experience. In addition, they also explore key issues about home: ‘age versus length of residence, tenure in latter life, emotional security, and the importance of memories and money’ (ibid, p. 129). Many elderly middle class people become ‘used to treating their houses as part of their investment for retaining their standard of living in later life’ (ibid. p 130). In Vietnam, ‘old age is a time to be passed in the bosom of one’s family’ (Ngoâ, 1998, p. 29). The elderly are not sent away to live alone. If they are invalids and need to be nursed and 35

waited on, their close relatives will do this task most of the time at home. It is an opportunity to respond to the obligation of filial piety. Some EVIM see this “exile” in the new country as temporary, and the homeland as a place of goodness and happiness. Cahill (1985) discusses the shock of encountering an unfamiliar society, as experienced by the refugees, and states that the refugees have a desire to maintain the cultural heritage, replicating it in a new time and space.

To the Vietnamese elderly, a home is meaningful and important. Owning a home is very important to EVIM. In Vietnam, they would have had a home of their own for three reasons: first, to accommodate the family; second, to prepare for their retirement; and third, to have a place for the purpose of ancestral worship. In Australia, such belongings do not come along with them. Unable to afford to buy a house, they feel that they live in lodgings, having no place for ancestral worship, and no appropriate preparation for retirement (Ngoâ, 1997). To reduce these negative feelings, EVIM need to be compensated with more respect from their children and grandchildren. This will give them feelings of belonging to the extended family.

Financial Disadvantage
Arriving empty-handed in Australia, and living on social security benefits, EVIM of the first generation have limited finances. There is often just enough to survive. They feel that they are in a disadvantaged financial state, as they do not have many assets or properties to manage, and little to spend on what they want, such as traveling, buying a car, purchasing wanted things, giving donations to charity organisations or bequeathing an inheritance to children and grandchildren (Ngoâ, 1997). These feelings of being disadvantaged financially make EVIM feel alienated. There is a close correlation between wealth and independence. The more wealthy elderly people are, the more they can live independently, and the more independent, the better their lives. Wilson (1993) described positive concepts of independence. Positively, independence was defined as the ability to make choices and act without any extra assistance in such activities as driving a car, using public transport, shopping, decorating the house, making decisions on lifestyle and health issues. Negatively, independence was described as the restriction of a range of goals or a willingness to give up certain aspirations in exchange for remaining in control of some life aspects. For example, an isolated and housebound person may have little social contact but be living independently. 36

Wilson (1993) also described the concept of autonomy as it was related to independence. In terms of maintaining independence and autonomy, the main contribution of money was in allowing access to a decent standard of living. While money does not buy happiness, it is no doubt associated with a longer life span, providing the owners with a happier life and access to better health care facilities. In the case of EVIM (Ngô, 1997; Võ, 1999), it should be noted that they arrive in Australia empty-handed, having left behind all their assets such as house, land, rice paddy field, orchard, business and neighbourhood environment. They are disadvantaged on various grounds. First, they have no substantial life savings nor are they entitled to any superannuation scheme. Second, unlike business migrants, EVIM are refugees or migrants under the ODP, bringing with them few or no assets, so none of them could afford to own a house in Australia. Third, their recent arrival status prevents them from being eligible for the age pension because of the 10-year residence requirement. And fourth, as required by immigration regulations, all of the ODP aged immigrants arrive in Australia under the ‘Assurance of Support’ scheme and are therefore not entitled to any welfare benefits during their first two years of residence (Ngoâ, 1997; Voõ, 1999). In brief, the EVIM face

considerable financial problems as they either have no income or an income relying on social security payments. They may fall into a state of alienation.

Relying on Others’ Support
Unlike other migrants groups, EVIM came to Australia when they were old, most of them have never worked in Australia, nor have they been able to prepare for their old age. They come to Australia to live with their children and grandchildren, especially those who arrive under the Family Reunion program (Võ, 1999). In relation to social contacts, Ngô (1994) points out they rely entirely on the support of their family members and the government. However, their family members cannot be beside them all the time, as their children have their own lives with their own families. Hence EVIM cannot do what they want, or go anywhere they would for their own sake such as: shopping, banking, going to church or temple, paying visit to relatives or friends, travelling, participating in community activities far away from home, contacting governmental bodies and/or community services. The reliance on others is due to language barrier, transport means and strange environment. This puts them in a powerless situation. 37

Homesickness and Other Experiences
In Vietnam, EVIM have all their lives been committed to the physical environments of their homeland. In Australia, they have to start their lives again, as they leave almost everything behind (Hoaøng (1998). They feel intensely the loss of the familiar cottage, the bamboo belt around villages, the hamlet roads, the small shop, and the sunny days on farms, the early mornings at the beach, and the moonlight on rivers. Ng (1994, p. 15) emphasises: ‘What they miss the most is their homeland, the land of their ancestors.’ Experiencing such homesickness may increase the feelings of alienation among EVIM. In addition, EVIM have had some other difficult experiences when settling in Australia (Hunter, 1982; Ngô, 1994, 1997, and 1998; Voõ, 1999):  Public and Private Agencies Contact: Coming from a non-English speaking

background, EVIM have difficulty making contact with public servants and/or community based agencies from English-speaking backgrounds. An interpreting service is sometimes not available or not satisfactory.  Use of Money: The Vietnamese currency system is quite different from the Australian, so EVIM when arriving in Australia do not become familiar with the new currency for a long period. Some of them will not touch money, but let family members deal with money issues.  Friendly visits and meals: According to Vietnamese traditions, friendly visits and meals are popular. 'BYO' culture is not familiar in Vietnam. EVIM may be embarrassed if you 'bring your own' when you are invited to have meals with them. It is charged to them even when you are invited to restaurants. If you invite them, they understand that you’ll pay for them.  Transport System: The transport system, including train, tram and bus in Australia is quite different from in Vietnam. In Vietnam, each of them is independent and is not organised as a network, and routes for each are separate. EVIM are confused about the public transport network in Australia.  Shopping Culture: Shopping areas in Vietnam are open markets. Purchasers usually talk to, and make a bargain with sellers. There are no supermarkets like those in 38

Australia. Asian shops are available in some locations in Melbourne, but the question of transport is sometimes a factor preventing EVIM from accessing such centres. Most of them do not drive and their children are often not available. Due to a lack of English, they hardly use public transport.  Adaptation to Modern Facilities: Electronic or electrical facilities in shops, banks and transport services are likely to be unknown to EVIM. It’s hard for them to learn how to operate these facilities without repeated and clear instructions and practice.  Public Notices: Some practical notices from the City Council or the Electoral Commission even when in the Vietnamese language seem to be strange or unfamiliar to EVIM. These systems are quite different from those in Vietnam. For instance, EVIM rarely read “how to vote” sheets, which are in English.

This chapter has discussed the culture shock experienced by EVIM due to the gap between the Vietnamese lifestyle at the “status quo”, that is, the time before they leave Vietnam, and the Anglo-Australian culture at the “status quem”, that is, the time they start their lives in Australia. Chapter 3 will look at the consequences of culture shock.


In the previous chapter, we saw that socio-cultural factors can lead to a state of culture shock and may possibly lead EVIM into a state of alienation. In this chapter, the nature of alienation is examined, and causes, dimensions, and consequences of alienation are identified in order to provide a basis for analysing and suggesting methods of alleviating socio-cultural alienation among elderly Vietnamese immigrants.

The term ‘alienation’ is a word used by social scientists to describe various concepts based on the evolution of social movements in the history. This section discusses  The classical concept of alienation  Marxist and contemporary concepts of alienation  Recent developments in the understanding of alienation

The Classical Concept
Alienation is a term with a long history (Williams, 1974), dating as far back as Eve’s lapse and her expulsion, along with her unfortunate mate, from the Garden of Eden. This episode was recounted in the Book of Genesis of the Old Testament (Jones, 1996). God gave Eve and her husband Adam all the fruits in the Garden of Eden to eat, except the one in the middle of the Garden. They thought they would know good and evil like gods when eating it, and so eventually ate the forbidden fruit. From their disobedience resulted the Christian doctrine of original sin and redemption (Petrovic, 1967). Adam and his wife Eve were alienated from the state of grace given by God before their transgression. Until the mid 20th century, alienation was still used mainly as a term referring either to a legal transfer of property or to progressive insanity. In the first definition, 'alienation' aims at putting property in nobody’s hands physically, so that no taxes can be charged to anyone, leading to the noteworthy result that the land was tax-free. In other words, alienation of 40

formal property means a transfer of ownership, either by sale or as a gift, from a physical owner to a legal owner of land (Petrovic, 1967; Williams, 1981). Another classical concept of alienation concerns the so-called ‘alienation-effect’ or ‘critical detachment’, which characterises the mental state of the audience of a play. This stance is said to best enable the audience to grasp the play’s message and morality. This effect reminds the audience that what they are watching is only a play, and not real life. The audience is accordingly distanced from what is taking place on the stage (Gontrum, 1982; Williams, 1981). In brief, the classical use of the term ‘alienation’ involves a ‘making alien’ (foreign, estranged, detached).

Marxian and Contemporary Concepts
Haralambos (1982), Marshall (1998) and Tucker (1972) identify the Marxist concept of alienation. Karl Marx established a specifically modern usage of the term of alienation socalled ‘alienated labour’. To Marx, alienation is the status of a person who does not fulfill his/her species function as of ‘human being’ in work, such that the essence of man remains unrealised. Workers become a commodity in the labour market, as they are compelled rather than being spontaneous and creative. Labour power for Marx defines humanity that is the species of human being. However, Marx held that all forms of production result in objectification. People manufacture goods, which embody their creative talents, yet which come to stand apart from their creators. ‘Alienation’ is the distorted consequence of this process, under capitalism. According to Marx it is under capitalism that the fruits of production belong to employers, who appropriate the surplus created by others and in so doing generate alienated labour (Tucker, 1972). Many earlier writers on Marx discuss the characteristic manifestations of alienated labour (Abercrombie et al., 2000; Caute, 1972; Marshall 1998; and Williams, 1981). According to Haralambos (1982, pp. 228-232) and Tucker (1972, pp. 56-67)), there are four main characteristic manifestations of alienation: 1. Alienation of the worker: Alienation from their species essence as a human being rather than animal. Workers’ productive activities denote their human qualities and nature that distinguish those activities from those of animals. ‘Unable to express his true nature in his work, he [the worker] is strangled from himself, he is a stranger to himself’ (Haralambos (1982, p. 229). The worker accordingly is alienated. 41


Alienation between workers: The capitalist employer reduces labour to a commodity to be traded on the market rather than a social relationship. Workers are pitted against other workers. ‘Alienated from the product of his work, the performance of his labour and from himself, the worker is also alienated from his fellow men’ (Haralambos, 1982, p. 230).

3. Alienation from the product: As workers have no control over the work process, the production is really appropriated by others, which leads to the situation where workers have no control over the products of their labour. ‘Alienation is increased by the fact that workers do not own the goods they produce’ (Haralambos, 1982, p. 229). 4. Alienation from the act of production: Productive activity that is undertaken by workers but involving someone else’s bidding, becomes alien activity that does not bring about any intrinsic satisfaction. Work becomes a commodity that is to be sold. The only value of this commodity to the worker is its saleability. ‘The worker is related to the product of his labour as to an alien object’ (Haralambos, 1982, p. 229).

The above four Marxian manifestations of alienation did not directly address the psychological state of alienation, but were a foundation for later writers to develop and apply the concept of alienation in other areas.

For Karl Marx, the possessing class and the proletarian class represent one and the same type of human self-alienation. The only difference between these two classes is that the ‘haves’ feel satisfied and ‘affirmed in this self-alienation, experiences the alienation as a sign of its power, and possesses in it the appearance of human existence’ (Tucker, 1963, p. 104). The have-nots (proletarian class), on the other hand, feel themselves destroyed in this alienation, seeing in it their own impotence and the reality of inhuman existence. Wright Mills (Haralambos 1982, p 234) applies Marx’s concept of alienation to non-manual workers who are the so-called white-collar class. He states that manual workers become like commodities by selling their ‘skills with things, whereas a similar process occurs when nonmanual workers sell their ‘skills with persons’ on the open market. Managers and executives are hired due to not only their professional qualifications and capacity, but also their ‘ability to get on with people’. Getting on with people involves apparent warmth, friendliness and 42

sincerity. Therefore, some aspects of human personality are bought and sold like any other commodities, and non-manual workers are thus alienated truly from themselves.

The moralistic allegorical works reflect alienation among both the well off and those on the margins of society. Sinclair (1979) states that both the haves and the have-nots are alienated but at different levels. He mentions this difference: ‘The most alienated are: union representatives; wages workers; female staff; the youngest; the under-educated… And the least alienated are: managers; senior professionals; and the well educated’ (p. 130). Sinclair also confirms that the haves and the have-nots are alienated from each other. This is due to the injustice applied to the high scorers (haves) by the low scorers (have-nots). ‘In every walk of life, … those who are denied justice must become alienated from those denying justice (ibid. p. 137). Albert Camus describes alienation as the isolation of people in an alien universe, the estrangement of the individual from himself. He sees human problems and the pressing finality of death as an accurate reflection of the alienation and disillusionment of the post-war intellectual (Scoll, 1982). Franz Kafka, a Czech existentialist writer (Hoffmeister, 1982), describes this world in which people are deprived of spiritual security and tortured by anxiety and loneliness. People in the limbo of hope and despair, attempt and failure, experience painfully their remoteness from a divine authority. All human conditions lead people to a state of alienation, as it is an inescapable destiny.

Other contemporary authors (Avineri, 1968; Blauner, 1964; Fernback, 1973; Kamenk, 1970; Keniston, 1965; Lewis, 1972; Petrovic, 1967; and Tucker, 1972) develop the above Marxist fourfold concept of alienation in various ways in their studies of human relations. In particular, they identify special dimensions of alienation that will be presented in details below and they emphasise the central place of alienation in contemporary social science. Contemporary writers agree on the general view that alienation denotes the estrangement of individuals from key aspects and dimensions of their social existence (Mitchell, 1979). McLellan (1969) examines the alienation that occurs because of religious belief. The alienation of religion arises from a split in the individual’s consciousness and the illusion that not only is something existing apart from, and independent of, the individual’s consciousness, but also that the individual himself/herself is dependent on his or her own creation. According to McLellan (1969), a division in consciousness occurs in which religion 43

becomes opposed to consciousness as a separate power. Self-consciousness makes itself into an object, an imaginary separate being. In this situation, self-consciousness loses control of self, having deprived itself of all its values, and feels itself as nothing before the opposing power. A religious consciousness exists due to this breaking up or tearing apart of consciousness. In other words, religious consciousness deprives people of their own attributes and places them in a heavenly world. McLellan cites runo launer’s view of religious belief as ‘an attitude towards the essence of self-consciousness that has been alienated from itself’ (ibid. p. 64).

Heydebrand (1982) says that alienation may have various negative consequences: the alienated person may become disoriented or hostile, feel helpless, withdraw within himself or herself, and/or reject the values that society has established even to the extent of involvement in criminal behaviour, or of undergoing mental illness. Positive consequences of alienation may include innovation, artistic creation, invention, and discovery.

Recent Developments in the Understanding of Alienation
In a more modern sense, social scientists describe alienation as an estrangement of individuals from one another, or from a specific situation or process (Marshall 1998), an estrangement of individuals from themselves and others (Abercrombie et al., 2000).

In particular, Tran, Wright and Mindel (1987) consider alienation as a psychological state, which is difficult to define in the abstract. To them, alienation is: … a psychological state or condition that arises as the product of complex interrelationships between losses in the individual’s support system, decreased participation in social activities, and diminished sense of selfidentity (p. 61). Leâ (1998) maintains that each of us, when growing up, has experienced or possessed knowledge, spirituality, feelings and material assets and that these experiences and possessions attach themselves to us and create the ego and personality of ourselves. If, for one reason or another, we lose those resources and possessions, our ego and personality will somehow, to some degree, also be lost. Leâ (1998, p. 20) argues that under such circumstances we will fall into a state of alienation, ‘since we have lost some part of our ego and personality’. Leâ sees alienation as a psychological state where a person falls into a distressed condition, following a life-changing event. Leâ (1998) defines an alienated individual as: 44

… A person who loses something after a life-changing incident, and finds it difficult to adapt, or is not willing to be adapted to the current environment, and regrets what was lost and lives with the dream of what was lost (p. 21). This psychological state leads the alienated person into a situation in which he/she does not live fully engaged with daily activities, but instead his or her heart is always keen to return to the past beloved person or subject that is now beyond reach. The alienated person usually lives in dreams, living with a subject or someone else who has previously brought happiness or promised what the alienated person is looking for. This status makes the alienated person estranged from his current environment and even, very often, strange to him/herself. Due to displacement, EVIM have left behind, close friends and relatives, physical environments such as villages and hometowns, and traditional activities that they have had strict cohesion with. Arriving in Australia, they are missing all the things that had become an essential and integral part of their lives (Ngô, 1994, p. 15).

Marx and contemporary authors help us approach the concept of alienation in general. Approaches developed since then are useful in providing key concepts for examining the state of socio-cultural alienation among the EVIM. These writers pave the way to understanding the characteristics and causal factors of alienation, and help identify EVIM’s feelings of self estrangement when they undergo changes to their environments and are confronted with culture shock. Marxist concepts and various modern authors (see Box 3-1 below) inspired Leâ and Siahpush developed dimensions of alienation. These two writers, Leâ (1998, pp. 20-21) and Siahpush (1997, pp. 353-354), have developed different dimensions of alienation that are identified in the alienated person’s feelings. The dimensions of alienation include the following six significant factors:  Powerlessness  Meaninglessness  Normlessness or losing ethics  Social isolation 45

 Cultural estrangement  Self estrangement. The six main dimensions of alienation developed by writers and can be outlined as follows: BOX 3-1: DIMENSIONS OF ALIENATION DIMENSION (1) Powerlessness THEORETICAL APPROACH  Alienated Person (AP) has negative feelings, no Leâ enthusiasm, inability to act or carry out benefits for selves/others. SOURCE (1998)

 AP’s destiny is not under control, but determined by Zablocki (1980) external agents.  AP feels unable to influence social situations and Mitchell (1979) interactions  AP has sense of misery rather than well being due to Avineri forced labour as means for satisfying others’ need.  AP is controlled and manipulated by others. Blauner  AP’s prerogative and decision-making means are Seeman expropriated by ruling entrepreneurs.

(1968) (1964) (1959)

(2) Meaninglessness

(1998)  AP has no values to live with; feels no enthusiasm Leâ for current life; loses trust in the future.  AP has general sense of purposelessness in life as Zablocki (1980) lacking comprehensibility or consistent meaning in any domain of action.  AP has no guide for conduct or belief; feels Mitchell (1979) disappointed as having no energy of life; lets things go their own ways.  AP is confused; not understanding coordinated Blauner (1964) activities, and having no sense of purpose in work.  AP feels unclear about what to believe; does not Seeman (1959) meet standards for clarity.
  

(3) Normlessness or losing ethics

 AP finds new life having no traditional value as Leâ (1998) guide for living; lacks commitment to social prescriptions for behaviour.  AP feels as if losing ethics of life, as current society Zablocki (1980) does not follow precious norms which existed in their past culture.  AP finds policies of current society are against their Seeman (1959) past norms; and their traditional ethics have no room to continue in new environment.


(4) Cultural Estrangement

 Alienated Person (AP) sees that few present social Leâ (1998) leaders are concerned about models of valuable traditions and culture, and misses their wonderful traditions practiced in past.  AP has sense of removal from established values in Zablocki (1980) society, resulting in rebellions against conventional institutions.  AP experiences intellectual detachment from old Seeman (1959) popular cultural standards, and feels estranged from current society and culture.

(5) Social Isolation

 AP has no sense of belonging at work place, no Abercrombie feeling of being inside society, but sense of et Al. (2001) remoteness from the larger social order.  AP is absorbed in, stuck with environment and Leâ (1998) people of the past or dream; withdrawn in own and world; feels lonely and lost among current whole Zablocki (1980) community.  AP is withdrawn from current cultural goals and Mitchell (1979) society.  AP is so engulfed in the past that they have no time Kamenk (1970) to live or do not want to live with what is happening around them.

(6) Self Estrangement

 AP has two different egos/personalities. Old ego is Leâ equipped with traditions, which no longer exist. Current ego not equipped to live in new society, so AP must live with what’s lost.


 AP lacks contact between individual’s conscious Mitchell (1979) self and real self, manifesting a sense of unreality, and emptiness, flatness and boredom. Seeman (1959)  AP loses self-identity, reflecting profound inner Lewis (1972) contradiction.  AP is internally divided into parts conflicting and Petrovic (1967) alien to each other and feels strange to self.  Worker is alienated from the inner self in activity of Blauner work, as dissatisfied, unhappy and not voluntary but coerced to work. Self- esteem damaged.  AP is depersonalised and strange to self. AP feels Tucker being divided into Egos: one living with present, one with the past 1964)


Leâ (1998) states that EVIM may fall within one or more of the above six states of alienation. Leaving behind in Vietnam all long-term cultural traditions, living habits and material possessions, they arrive in Australia and start a new and quite strange life. Many experience 47

culture shock. They have undergone a culturally significant change leading them to experiencing many of the feelings of alienation described above. The most critical characteristic of alienation is ‘self-estrangement’, where the alienated person (AP) feels as if he or she has two egos or personalities: one belonging to the past and one belonging to the present. Having this close cohesion with the past and not participating in the present environment, EVIM have a sense of diminished self-identity. Leâ (1998) points out that: … Their previously familiar ego is no longer the same current ‘ego’. The ever-existing ‘personality’ that had been trained and equipped with traditional education no longer remains in new environment. In the meantime, the current ‘ego’ has no equipment developed enough to integrate into the new situation. Hence, alienated people feel reduced to a state of powerlessness, as familiar previously developed abilities do not help them live comfortably in the new social situation, leading them to the point of living in the dream of what was lost (p. 21). This thesis will take up the discussion of these dimensions/states of alienation in details in chapter 5, using them to help understand and categorise the experiences of the EVIM population, which is the focus of this study.

Hoffmeister (1982) states that alienation is an inescapable destiny of human beings, and one always falls into a state of alienation in one or another form. There are a variety of causal factors of alienation. People do not fall into a state of alienation without reasons (Leâ, 1998). Having described the characteristics of alienation (see Box 3-1), what follows is a discussion of how previous researchers have accounted for the alienated state of EVIM.

Losing the Original Homeland
Leâ (1998) defines alienated persons as those who lose someone beloved or something likely to be irreplaceable, after a life-changing incident. They afterwards find it ‘difficult to adapt to, or are not willing to be adapted to the current environment, but accordingly regret and live with the dream of what was lost’ (p. 21). What EVIM have felt losing here, they cannot live on their homeland, as it was under communist rule. Leâ (1998) applies this concept both to Australian Aborigines and to elderly Vietnamese immigrants who have lost control of their own homeland. The Australian Aborigines have 48

been an alienated ethnic community since whites came and occupied this continent. Suddenly Aborigines lost their relationship to the land that they had occupied for thousands of years. They have dreamt of going back to their past golden time when they had lived happily with their own traditions in the old tribes. Australian Aborigines hold that this continent is not a “Terra Nullius” (land of nobody), but belongs to them, and they wish to regain what has been lost. EVIM are in the same situation as the Australian Aborigines because they also happened to lose their homeland that is now under communist rule, and they dream of going back to their land but without communism (Nguyeãn, 2001). So, both EVIM and Australian Aborigines may have fallen into a state of alienation due to their missing the time of living freely on their own original homeland.

Losing the Admired Leader / Regime
Observing the phenomenon of alienation, various authors try to diagnose its causes. Heydebrand (1982) discusses some causes of alienation: alienation may come from the fact that a group loses a leader who represented its dreams and hopes, or when a child discovers the shortcomings of an adult whom the child admired. In addition, alienation may result if a person believes that certain political, economic, or social institutions are impersonal and unresponsive to change. For example, Vietnamese nationals felt alienated from the current communist government when they lost the republic regime of the Saigon Government in 1975 (Nguyeãn, 2001). EVIM living in Australia cannot take part in Australian political activities, as they do not know where to start due to language and cultural barriers. They cannot participate in political activities in Australia because they are not familiar with the parliamentary system. Due to their age and the language barrier, they could not stand for election at any level of governments. The Vietnamese community in Australia is small and new, having minimal say in politics. Therefore, EVIM have no significant participation in politic activities. Instead, they cling on to a dream that an outstanding leader will appear in Vietnam and bring them back to the homeland (Nguyeãn, 2001).

Lacking Control over Income and Production
Tucker (1972) develops Karl Marx’s concept, proposing that alienation comes from the fact that workers do not control their production or the income they have earned. This product or earned income reflects the human essence. The workers lose what they have made for 49

themselves and society, whereas the employers own what they have not made from their own hands but have gained by exploiting or depriving workers. Having the prestige and sense of belonging that may be gained as a member of a social group is very important to human beings. Leaving behind all that they had earned and possessed in order to come to Australia, the EVIM no longer have control over the assets they gained and income they earned from their labour. In Australia, the EVIM are not able to earn income or produce anything due to old age and lack of working skills, resulting in alienation from their human essence (Leâ, 1998; Ngoâ, 1997). Social security payments are enough for surviving only, not for buying a home of their own. The idea of earning income or producing goods may decrease their alienation, and represents ‘the fruits of their labour’ like home ownership does for their Australian counterparts.

Losing Authority over Family Members
Leâ (1998) finds that EVIM feel alienated even among their extended family members. As grandparents, EVIM usually do not have a common background of education and culture with their grandchildren. The former obtained a traditional Vietnamese education rather than the modern Western education obtained by the latter, and there are differences regarding lifestyle and language. At home, young family members usually and instinctively talk to each other in English while their parents or grandparents speak Vietnamese only. Parents and grandparents rarely know about or control what is outside the family. Leâ says that even at home, 'inferior' members frequently do not listen to their elders on family affairs. ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ are not followed by the young generation, as these may be different from what the latter study at school or what peer groups and classmates inform them of. For instance, marriage partners and the selection of family in-laws now are not determined by parents/grandparents but by children/grandchildren (Huyønh 2002).

Loss of Norms and Ethics
EVIM find that the spirit of family is decreasing among their children and grandchildren in Australia. This is due to cultural differences and socio-cultural emancipation. CULTURAL DIFFERENCES


Vietnamese people think that the Australian lifestyle imitates European norms in family relations, social structure, and the usual emphasis on individualism. Unlike Vietnamese traditions, the European tradition does not emphasise the role of the head of the family or lineage as the ultimate authority and respected accordingly. Young Vietnamese females in Australia rarely know about the four virtues: proper employment, demeanor, speech, behavior; and the three dependencies: during family life, dependence on her father; when married, dependence on her husband, and when widowed, dependence on her son. Young Vietnamese males in Australia unlikely preserve or know about the three fundamental relationship bonds (tam cöông): prince and minister, father and son, husband and wife; and the five cardinal virtues (nguõ thöôøng): humanity, benevolence, urbanity, intelligence and honesty (Leâ, 1998; Thomas, 1993, 1995 and 1999; Võ, 1999). Young boys and girls are accommodated with Australian influenced norms that they have learnt at schools, and they practice accordingly.

SOSIO-CUTURAL EMANCIPATION The socio-cultural emancipation of the second generation is also a consequence of alienation. Having no practical cohesion with parental traditions and culture, Vietnamese second generation migrants ‘do what the Romans do, when they are in Rome’. They emancipate themselves to adapt with the new environment of life (Carlin, 1983). It is a process of adjustments involving both the family and governmental or community-based agencies helping adolescents to live independently. Since Anglo-Australian traditions do not match with the ever-practiced values in Vietnam, EVIM find they are losing norms and ethics because there is no place suitable for such values and traditions to be observed in Australia (Thomas, 1995). Accordingly, they feel powerless and respected less by their children and grandchildren. They feel left out whether in the whole community, or even within in their family, as they have no customary leading role to play (Ngoâ, 1997; Nguyeãn, 2001; and Voõ, 1999). They are alienated.

Due to war or political, religious or racial persecution, people are forced to leave their country by crossing international borders (Nguyeãn, 2001). These persons are displaced persons. In recent years complex ethnicity-based conflicts or wars, mostly internal to one country and 51

involving deeply divided communities, have resulted in increased numbers of displaced people (Possony, 1982). Internal displaced persons are persons in a refugee-like situation but who had not crossed an international border. When peace initiatives are successfully sponsored by various governments, they may go back home; otherwise displaced persons remain so or become refugees/migrants by crossing international borders as asylum seekers and stateless people. Leâ (1998) states that these refugees/migrants leaving their homeland fall into a state of alienation.

Cumulative Deficits
Living in a new and strange environment, elderly people may feel alienated due to a cumulative deficit (Traàn et al., 1987). This deficit is due to factors mentioned by Traàn et al such as ‘loss of close family members or friends; leaving behind relatives and friends in the homeland; no social interactions; not enough support from the host society; diminished social status; decreased participation in the host activities, inability to communicate’, etc (p. 61). These deficits represent an assumption of alienation. The less the deficits occur, the less alienation exists. This chapter has discussed the general usage of the term ‘alienation’ from classic authors through Marx to contemporary writers. It has also described the characteristic feelings of alienation and considered causal factors. The next chapter will present the methodology for a small study of the socio-cultural alienation experienced by EVIM, focusing on their prior expectations of life in Australia, and their level of participation in, and satisfaction with, life in Australia.



This chapter reports on a small study involving research into the attitudes, feelings and experiences of a small number of elderly Vietnamese immigrants (EVIM) in Melbourne, Australia. The research population consisted of refugees under humanitarian programs and migrants under the Orderly Departure Program (ODP). The study accessed 39 participants, including 4 in-depth interview participants (IPT) and 35 focus group participants (FPT) divided into four separate groups.

As discussed earlier, EVIM brought with them their traditional beliefs and practices from Vietnam. When arriving in Australia, they brought along with them their traditional values of Vietnamese culture, which is constructed from the main religions: Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Christianity. These religious beliefs have underpinned and constructed EVIM self-perception, in which Filial Piety (Ñaïo Hieáu) towards parents is regarded as the first and foremost of other virtues. Filial Piety teaches that children have duties to respect and obey steadfastly their parents, caring for them in their old age, organising their funerals and worshiping them after they die (Ngoâ, 1998).

Due to their cultural values and difficulties in adjusting to Australian values, EVIM have experienced culture shock. They find it difficult to adjust to a society where the norms, traditional values, laws and ways of life are quite different from those in their homeland, where they were born, worked and lived for the larger part of their lives. In their homeland, age was associated with experience, knowledge and wisdom: Older people were traditionally custodians of the culture, decision makers and mentors in their family; they were valued and accorded absolute respect via 'filial piety' (Nguyeãn, 2001). Coming to Australia in their old age, and leaving behind almost everything, EVIM start all over again within a new environment without proper preparation. They have fallen into a very difficult condition that they could not adjust quickly like young immigrants. 53

Under such circumstances, the EVIM have experienced a state of socio-cultural alienation as discussed in chapter 3. The following study therefore tries to ascertain the experiences of some EVIM living in Melbourne and to examine whether or not they were alienated in Australian society.

The study looks at the alienation experienced by the EVIM of first generation in Australia. It focuses on the 'large gap' between the Status Quo (from the time before EVIM left Vietnam) and the Status Quem (the time of arriving and living in Australia). In particular it asks:  What were the expectations of participants before arriving in Australia?  Were the expectations of participants satisfied  Did participants feel alienated in Australia?  Were participants' support needs met after arrival in Australia?

The four main questions above were guiding questions that prompted further more detailed questions at the discretion of the researcher during the interviews. The first question was designed to discover what participants expected from life in Australia before leaving Vietnam. The second question was designed to discover the extent to which these expectations were satisfied whilst living in Australia. Discussion covered participants’ satisfaction with life in Australia, and their perception of comparisons between the cultural value system in the past (Vietnam) and the cultural value system in the present (Australia). This question enabled the researcher to investigate the difference between what had been expected and hoped for, and what was really obtained and experienced in Australia. The third question was designed to investigate whether or not participants felt socio-culturally alienated in Australian society. They were questioned about whether they had experienced feelings of losses and separation; inability of English communication; lack of social interaction; lack of participation; lack of belongings in relation to non-home ownership and their financially disadvantaged situation; sense of social isolation; feelings of powerless; poor sense of selfidentity. The fourth question was posed in order to discover the extent to which the participants’ support needs were being met. 54

The limitations of this study are:  The study population consists of those who joined the interviews on a voluntary basis from within EVIM groups selected in four locations around Melbourne. It is possible that the study population is not representative of the total EVIM population in Melbourne. As this study uses a small sample, the conclusions drawn from the sample could have limited application to the total population of the EVIM in Australia.  Due to family honour or traditional practices or beliefs, EVIM may not participate in or freely discuss negative points in the interviews. They may have chosen not to reveal confidential information (Ngoâ, 1997; Voõ, 1999). These factors may have resulted in the absence of some potentially significant negative data in the study.  EVIM are respectful to others’ ideas and grateful to the host society. This may have resulted in polite rather than entirely truthful answers, as they may have thought their dissident responses would cause non-satisfaction to the host country and its governments.  The study population consist of nationals, who are against communism. That is, they come from South Vietnam. Those who emigrate from North Vietnam rarely participate in associations or activity groups like the southern EVIM. This factor may also limit the accurate representation of the whole EVIM community.

Social scientists usually use two methods in their studies, namely, qualitative methods and quantitative methods. In quantitative method (Punch 2001), the key concept is quantitative, and numbers are used to express quantity. Quantitative research is designed to give numerical results, which can be reported in tables, graphs and charts stating the number of something, the proportion of something, or what the trends are. Measurement in quantitative methods is the process by which the researcher turns the data into numbers. Quantitative approaches will answer questions such as ‘How many?’ and ‘How often?’ or ‘What proportion?’ Appropriate answers to these questions are data in the form of numbers (Bouma, 2000, p. 171). Qualitative approaches, on the other hand, aim to describe what is happening in a group, in a conversation or in a community with what message, with what feelings and with what effect. 55

It is designed to find out ‘what is going on’ from the perspective of those who are in the situation being researched (Abercrombie et al., 2000; Punch, 2001). Bouma (2000) notes that the qualitative method allows reflection that is more continuous on the study in progress and more interaction with the participants in the study. Furthermore, there is generally more room for ongoing alteration as the research proceeds. This study does not use quantitative methods, as they would fail to capture the complexity of human experience in its use of standardized measures to fit a predetermined and limited set of questions (Bouma, 2000). Instead, qualitative methods were used to produce findings about people’ lives, stories, behaviours, organisational functioning, social movements and interactional relationships (Marshall, 1998).

Sarantakos (1998) notes some distinguishing features of qualitative interviews and recommends using open-ended questions only; using a question structure that is not fixed or rigid, and interviewers having more freedom in presenting the questions, changing wording and order; adding new questions and adjusting the interview to meet the goals of the study. In addition, qualitative approaches are suitable for studying racial and ethnic sub-populations and exploring their diversities in cultural and personal beliefs, values, ideals and experiences, as qualitative method promotes the search for research participants’ own points of view (Bouma, 2000; Sarantakos, 1998). Given the above-mentioned advantages, the present research is therefore based predominantly on qualitative methods and approaches.

This study uses qualitative methods and has been conducted through two categories of interviews: in-depth and focus group interviews. The in-depth interview endeavours to discover true and adequate answers that were not obtained in the focus group interview, as EVIM sometimes decline to disclose their own feelings publicly. As the researcher needed to be free to be an attentive and thoughtful listener, and as the analysis of the basic data of the study was to be based on the transcripts, a tape recorder was used in both focus groups and indepth interviews to store the qualitative data. In conjunction with tape-recording, note taking was used. It enabled the researcher to record observations about the facial and physical expressions and feelings of the participants (Bouma, 2000, p. 183). 56

In-Depth Interviews
These involve the researcher in a series of individual interviews on a one-to-one basis. Bouma (2000) asserts that the qualitative technique of in-depth interviews will give participants a chance to freely tell interviewers their own stories, their perceptions and feelings. This method gives the researcher more opportunities to explore ‘the details of human experiences, feelings, thoughts, reactions to various issues and situations’ (ibid., p. 180). It also gives the participants a chance to tell their stories, or to express their own views or feelings with greater freedom (Võ, 1999). It is much easier for individuals to express themselves freely, as the in-depth interview, according to Punch (2001), ‘has many characteristics of a prolonged and intimate conversation’ (p. 178). Sarantakos (1998) stresses the benefits of the in-depth interview by calling it an 'intensive interview', and his definition summarises other writers’ approaches. So the intensive interview is a valuable technique in the social sciences, allowing researchers to … Conduct the access to individual participants in a relaxed manner, with less chance of misunderstanding between parties, more opportunity of checking inconsistencies and obtaining accurate responses, more flexibility and continuity of thoughts, ‘more freedom to probe, and possible access to all aspects’ of participants’ opinions (Sarantakos, 1998, p. 264).

Focus Group Interviews
Focus group interviews are considered as an alternative or supplementary approach to indepth interviews. The focus groups interview approach focuses on a specific topic about which all participants will be asked to express their own point of view (Sarantakos, 1998). The focus group interview is used increasingly as a way of learning about public opinion on a variety of specific issues (Bouma, 2000). It has become popular in social research (Punch, 2001), and is used extensively in the fields of social welfare and social work. It involves persons specially selected owing to their particular interests or values (Sarantakos, 1998). The group setting may generate some interesting approaches that may not occur at individual interviews, due to creative discussions of the group members (Kellehear, 1993). Focus groups are also looking for “group effect”, and result in lively taped and transcribed whole conversations, with participants responding to each other and less to the researcher. Some writers also describe the Focus Group Interview as non-standardized or unstructured. For example, Fielding (1996) notes that interviewers are free to phrase open-ended questions as they find suitable, and may initiate topics which they want participants to talk about. 57

Newell (1996) remarks that open questions allow participants to develop answers as fullly as possible. Punch (2001) stresses the advantages of the group situation that stimulates participants to make explicit their visions, conceptions, motives and reasons. Punch says: ‘They are inexpensive, data-rich, flexible, stimulating, recall-aiding, cumulative and elaborative’ (p. 177). The researcher’s role in the focus group interviews is very important. The researcher knows in advance what specific aspects of an experience he or she wishes to have the participants cover in the discussion (Judd et al., 1991), but when the group is in play, he or she only takes the role of facilitator and remains quiet after initially introducing the topic question and other associated questions (Wadsworth, 1997). Sarantakos (1998) emphasises that the researcher is a ‘leader or facilitator’, who occupies a central position in the context of group discussion. As facilitator, the researcher plays a role of guiding rather than controlling the discussion. Their role (Bouma, 2000) is to facilitate discussions, and help the group stay on the topic. However, it is important for the interviewer not to express his/her own views on the topic, as it may lead to biased expressions from participants. Sarantakos says: …They [the interviewers] employ a readiness to change, to correct and adjust the course of study … [They] are expected to engage in an open discussion with the respondent, and to maintain a passive and stimulating, but not dominating role (p. 256). The discussion in this interviewing method is free and open, and the researcher takes the role of guiding rather than dominating and forcing participants. This means the interviewer always has to avoid bias before, during, and after the interviewing situations, as it may otherwise falsify the results of the study (Newman, 1997). In the current research project, data from the first focus group meeting that was collected, transcribed, analysed and focused gave the researcher an indication of what to avoid and what to improve or change for the next three group interviews. This process helped the researcher to revise the research topic and to refine procedures (Bouma, 2000, p. 182). Due to respect for family honour and privacy, it was decided that any ‘negative’ personal experiences and feelings that arose in focus interviews would be amplified in in-depth interviews.

Data Analysis
For Võ (1999), the constructive feature of data analysis is organising data into theory by identifying common themes, which connect issues together in accordance with participants’ feelings and expressions of ideas. According to Minichiello et al. (1995), data need to be 58

transcribed, coded and filed. It is considered helpful if a tape recorder is used in conjunction with note taking as a means of capturing the full dimension of the interview. The stages of data analysis in this study are as follows:

SUMMARISING AND TRANSCRIBING DATA All raw data (that is questions and responses) were recorded on audiocassette and then put on paper. As participants were speaking Vietnamese, the researcher later summarized the main essential ideas of each answer in English. However, some particularly significant and important responses were translated and transcribed in full. Some of these were used as quotes in the final report.

GROUPING REPONSES ACCORDING TO THEMES Data from in-depth interviews was analysed separately from that from focus groups. The analysis began with a detailed examination of one in-depth participant, from which a code system and hypotheses were developed, and then these insights were applied to the remainder of other in-depth interviewees. The same procedure was used for focus group interviews. The researcher categorized raw data by grouping participants’ responses according to conceptual themes or relevant topics, which either emerged from the data, or were suggested by the research literature. Themes and topics were further organised into major themes and subthemes in order to search for ideas relevant to the research problem.

INTERPRETATION AND PRESENTATION OF DATA Finally the concise and systematic results of answers obtained from all participants had to be presented in a final report. The interpretation of data aimed to relate findings to the research objective. Any comments of the researcher on the answers of participants, including general ideas and conceptual issues were included at this point. A final picture of participants’ feelings was presented in a systematic and logical order, including direct quotes where necessary to emphasise participants’ feelings and ideas. Võ (1999, p. 47) confirms in his work that this type of process assists the researcher in organising and reflecting on the information and strategies used. As a transcript file may be large and complex, its data must be condensed into key issue-based summaries. The researcher is to make connections among the participant’s narratives, which illustrate themes


and patterns, giving shape to research data. This thematically organised information is an aid to identifying key issues, concepts and opinions of the participants (Bouma, 2000, p. 186).

Participants in this study were recruited from within communities of the elderly Vietnamese living in Metropolitan Melbourne. Most EVIM in Melbourne live in four municipalities and their surrounding areas: Richmond, Footscray, North Melbourne and Springvale. There are 11 associations of Vietnamese elderly migrants in Victoria. The researcher divided these into 15 small groups named after 15 big cities / towns cities of Vietnam and selected four groups randomly. This arrangement was designed to give all groups an equal opportunity to participate in the study (Bouma, 2000; Newman, 1997). The four community leaders of groups drawn first received an invitation to participate in the study. If any of them did not join the research, the leader of the next group in the list was invited and so on, until the research had the desired number of four groups. An invitation letter (see the Appendices) to the gatekeepers of the selected Vietnamese communities allowed the researcher to contact the study population. After having received approval from community leaders or administrators of the four chosen associations for the elderly to contact their members, a list of each group’s members was established, including only those who were 60 years of age or older, and a random sampling from each was carried out. The focus group interview involved working in a group format in which, discussions among small groups of people occurred. Various writers suggest similar numbers of group members: Bessant and Watts (2002), between 6 to 8 persons; Wadsworth (1997), under 10 people; Bouma (2000), between 6 and 12; Sarantakos (1998), between 5 and 12, not larger than 20, and the ideal number is 10 persons. In this study, 12 participants per group were selected, as the researcher anticipated that some of them might withdraw before the interviewing session or may not turn up on the day of the group gatherings. It was decided that when the gathering actually took place, it would be satisfactory if the number of participants was between 8 and 12. If the number was under 8, another arrangement would need to be considered and the gathering organised again. Within 60

this group size (8-12 participants), individuals have good opportunities to speak up, as the greater number of people, the less time for each group member to speak. In addition, it is likely that a large group may generate chosen or self-chosen spokesmen (Wadsworth, 1997). Once the four groups had been finalised, each group suggested two candidates for in-depth interviews, and then one of them was selected by the researcher to represent different backgrounds as much as possible. This is to make sure their stories might reflect as much as possible of the research population’s views. The outcome of this selection was: one merchant, one public servant, one teacher and one military officer. The interview was conducted at a comfortable place that was also convenient for the researcher and each in-depth interview participant. To ensure confidentiality, all 39 participants were given a pseudonym and accordingly nobody could be identified in the final report.

As the research population was from a Language Other Than English (LOTE) background, and most of the participants spoke only Vietnamese, any written materials such as consent forms, correspondence with gatekeepers or Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of Vietnamese Elderly Associations, the invitation to participation and all interview questions had to be developed in two languages (Bouma, 2000, p. 197). (See Appendices A-H for Vietnamese translation and English versions).

It is evident that participants should not be harmed in their contribution to the sum of human knowledge. Thus the researcher must avoid creating anything that might hurt the study population. On this issue, Judd et al. (1991, p. 7) state: ‘we are not in the business of committing lesser evils for the sake of greater goods’. ouma (2000, p. 191) states that any of our dealings with human beings and their personal lives involve issues of loyalty, honesty, integrity and so on, and researchers should give these issues their full attention. Wadsworth (1997) suggests at least three conventionally common ethical principles, with which all researchers in the social sciences must be concerned with:
  

The research should not harm the participants in any respect The participants should give informed consent in writing; and Confidentiality should be offered and guaranteed in the invitation letter.


This study attempted to uphold these ethical principles and others. In addition, there were some specific issues addressed in this study. Firstly, a bilingual letter of introduction (English and Vietnamese) was designed to enable better communication with the research population, and at the same time to make sure that the study did not bring about any harm to individuals (Roberson, 1987). Secondly, as it is essential to ensure informed consent (Bouma, 2000), the introduction letter not only obtained the participants’ permission, but also informed them that they would be studied (Robertson, 1987). Nobody should be the subject of a research study without his or her knowledge, people expressed consent to act as a subject (Grosof and Sardy, 1985). An application for Ethics Approval was obtained from the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) at the Australian Catholic University. Bouma, (2000, p. 194) suggests that the Course Coordinator should advise other strategies such as an ethics audit, and legal disposal of files on the due date. The application form for ethical clearance reminds one that ‘contact with participants and/or access to their records/files/specimens must not commence until written ethics approval has been received from HREC.’ Following contacts with the group leaders, a bi-lingual consent form, in the Vietnamese and English languages, was sent to individuals to inform them of the study purpose. Participants signed the form before both the group and individual interview.

We have discussed methodology of the study. The next chapter will present its findings.


This chapter presents the results from both the in-depth and focus group interviews. There were 39 participants, including 35 focus group interviews participants (FPT) and 4 in-depth interview participants (IPT). The presentation of data follows the schedule of semi-structured questions used for both types of interview. The presentation of IPT’ data is presented first and then is followed by FPT’ ones, as the former might gives more accurate and detailed answer than the latter’ due to the more extended time of the interview and personal and open environments. Elderly Vietnamese immigrants (EVIM) arrived in Australia either under humanitarian programs from refugee camps or under Orderly Departure Program directly from Vietnam. They left their homeland for various reasons. As many of their expectations have not met as a result of their contact with the host society due to cultural differences, they have fallen into a state of alienation.

Four in-depth and four focus group interviews were conducted for this research. The following Table (Table 5-1) shows the gender and age groups of both interviewing categories. The table shows separately the combined figures for refugees and for migrants under Orderly Departure or Family Reunion Programs. TABLE 5-1: AGE AND GENDER OF INDEPTH- INTERVIEW AND FOCUS GROUP PARTICIPANTS Age Group 60-69 70-79 80-89 90+

In-depth interview Focus Group Interview In-depth & Focus Participants Participants Group Participants Male Female Total Male Female Total Male Female Total 0 2 1 0 3 0 1 0 0 1 0 3 1 0 4 1 11 3 0 15 63 5 13 1 1 20 6 24 4 1 35 1 13 4 0 18 5 14 1 1 21 6 27 5 1 39

Twenty-seven out of 39 participants were in the 70-79 age group. This is the majority of the study population. Six participants were in their 60s, five in their 80s, and only one in her 90s.

The table shows that gender representation is relatively balanced, with 18 males and 21 females in the whole research population. Table 5.2 (below) shows participants’ years of residence in Australia. TABLE 5.2: PARTICIPANTS' YEARS OF RESIDENCE IN AUSTRALIA Year of Residence 05-09 yrs 10-14 yrs 15-19 yrs 20 years + TOTAL Male 2 11 3 1 17 Female 1 15 4 2 22 Total 3 26 7 3 39

Three participants have lived in Australia for between 5 and 9 years; 26 participants for between 10 and 14 years; 7 participants for between 15 and 19 years; and another 3 for 20 years. This period of residence is long enough for all participants to have had the opportunity to experience the impact of Australian culture on their lives.

When attending the interviews, both in-depth interview participants (IPT) and focus group interview participants (FPT) eagerly disclosed their reasons for leaving Vietnam to go overseas. As mentioned in ‘limitations’ in the previous chapter, all participants came from South Vietnam and the main reason for leaving the country was to flee communism. Motives mentioned by participants for leaving Vietnam were:
 Fleeing communism  Joining other family members  Preferring Capitalism to Communism  Taking care of children and grandchildren

Fleeing Communism
The motives for leaving Vietnam were various between the four IPT, and one common motive motivating all four participants to leave Vietnam was to flee communism. All four concluded 64

that the communist party had complete control over the whole country and over people’s activities including politics, economics, welfare and religion. All four participants in the indepth interviews stated that communist policies and regulations were tough on people (See Box 5.1). There was no essential freedom. Mr. Nghiem warned of the loss of freedom of speech: ‘There is only one way to comment on communist members’, he said, ‘and that is to praise them whether they are wrong or not. Communist governments at all levels teach you what to say, what to read and hear, no more no less’. Mr. Nghiem continued: … How could you live in a country where you may not express your own ideas but only what pleases the regime? This always made me lie to them. If I told the truth, I provided another reason to send me to prison again. Mr. Nghiem complained that the communist party also controlled religious activities. All plans and activities of churches were subject to governmental permit; otherwise they were not allowed to organize anything. Mr. Nghiem quoted a communist party declaration about freedom of religion as follows: ‘Your are free to observe any religion, and at the same time, you are also free in not observing any religion. And nobody had the right to invite others to participate in any religion’. This meant that you could not show you are of any religion, but must keep secretly it in your heart. Nor did you have the right to talk to others about your religion. Mr. Xuyen, a Catholic teacher, noted his own dilemma when assigned to teach Communism in a high school. This dilemma led him to escape overseas in order to be free to practice his beliefs: … After the fall of Saigon, I served a period of three months in a Re-education Camp on Marxism and Leninism, and then came back to the School where I had taught before. During schooling time, I had to face a two-fold life: anticommunist in mind, and living with communists in real life. I was alienated from myself. The Communist Party imposed its dictatorial rules on North Vietnam from 1954 when Vietnam was divided into zones under the Geneva Accords (Nationals occupied the Southern zone, and communists the Northern zone). Communist rule was imposed over the whole country in 1975, when Saigon fell to the Communists. Some nationals had to flee communism twice: first from the North to the South after 1954, and second after 1975. ox 5.1 below sets out a summary of Mr. Nghiem’s description of Communism. It gives a picture of communist rule in Vietnam, and suggests reasons for the exodus of Vietnamese people to free countries over the past three decades. 65

BOX 5-1: MR. NGHIEM’S COMMENTS ON COMMUNISM  Dictatorship: nation ruled by only one party [communist].  Marxist and Leninist doctrines are standards against which all thoughts and concepts are measured.  No freedom of religion, of information, of association, of speech, etc.  No system of protecting human rights for citizens.  Ill-treatment for prisoners: hard physical labour for prisoners, including POWs.  Imprisonment without trial.  You can’t tell the truth but must tell lie in accordance with propaganda  Points of view other than communist policy attract arrest.  Communist Party revenges itself on any persons for their political dissidence.  Feeling no security; only fear in life: don’t know when one will be arrested.  Discrimination: non-communist family members ineligible or limited in their access to universities and jobs in governmental bodies.  Commerce and trade controlled and run by Government: no private enterprise.

Preferring Capitalism to Communism
Three out of four participants said that they would rather live in a capitalist society than communist society (See Box 5.1 above). Mr. Xuyen commented that communist countries in history have not been successful in bringing happiness to people and meeting civil rights, as they only give priority to their political goal, their party and the state. This was one reason why Mr. Xuyen left Vietnam and wanted to live in a capitalist country. Mr. Nghiem said that if you believe or think differently from communist policies, you must keep it to yourself, otherwise you’d be classified as a dissident against the communist regime. Communists do not treat you as capitalists do. From his own experience in Re-education Camps, Mr. Vuong confirmed Mr. Nghiem’s ideas and gave more details: … I could not live under the same roof with communists. I could not benefit in any way from Communism: not from communist politics as I am a nationalist soldier; not from communist economy, as it does not give you business liberty, not from communist culture. In a word, I would rather live with the capitalist world that gives and protects freedom, and observes and protects human rights. Mr. Nghiem quoted a saying by Mr. Nguyeãn Vaên Thieäu, former president of the Republic of Vietnam: ‘Don’t believe what communists say, but see what they do’. However, one of the four participants, Ms Tinh, disagreed with the three others, saying: ‘Vietnamese Communists are on the way to build up the society, as they have united the whole country in a short time. Time will tell.’ For her, social changes do not take place in a day, a month or a year, but it takes possibly decades or more. 66

Joining other Family Members
Family reunion was also a main motive leading all four participants in the in-depth Interviews to leave Vietnam and come to Australia. One reason for wanting to be with family members was in order to be taken care of by children and grandchildren. The EVIM unanimously held that the aged must be taken care of by their offspring, in accordance with traditional filial piety. Traditionally the Vietnamese aged live together with their adult children, as they had brought up the children from birth to maturity, and now in their turn, adult children should have to take care of parents on retirement. Mr. Nghiem said: … What I decided to do was to change our lonely conditions of life by leaving Vietnam, where there is a communist regime, which does not care for the elderly. I decided to join my children and grandchildren in Australia to be taken care of by them, as we were old already.

Concern for Children and/or Grandchildren
Another factor influencing EVIM to want to come to Australia was their desire to look after their children and grandchildren. This motive is quite realistic in the Australian economic environment. One breadwinner may not feed fully and adequately the whole family, so the mother most often needs to support the family budget by working full time or part time. When fathers, mothers, or single parents work outside family, they have to rely on alternative help for their domestic duties. Under these circumstances, the best solution is to have parents or grandparents living around and giving some hand. All four IPT concede that they have been helping their married children with some domestic duties: babysitting, accompanying grandchildren to school and vice versa, cooking lunch, etc. Apart from practical domestic duties, participants also state that they also support their children and/or grandchildren by motivating and counselling them to study and plan their future. Three of four IPT confirmed that they had children grandchildren to look after. Ms Tinh said: ‘Vietnamese retirees would not be relying on their children and grandchildren for everything. What they could do in return was to help children by doing some domestic tasks’. She also explained the need to follow three types of obedience obliged to a Vietnamese widow, saying: ‘As their mother, after my husband died, I have to follow my children. It is our traditi onal teachings: Phu Töû Toøng Töû [married woman follows her son when husband pass away].’ In relation to motives for leaving Vietnam, all 35 FPT shared the feelings of the four IPT, and maintained that they had wanted to flee communism. Twenty-three of them described 67

themselves as communist victims. Eighteen claimed that the causal factors leading them to leave Vietnam were both to join their family members in Australia and to flee Communism. Fifteen were concerned about their children’s future. Only 5 of them preferred Capitalism to Communism. Ms Chin’s words in the focus group interview provided further insights into motives for leaving Vietnam: …Communism is leading Vietnam and its citizens to a slavery condition: no freedom, people starving, and no private business. All social and commercial activities are under the control of the communist government. So my expectation is: fleeing Communism, seeking freedom, and earning income in the capitalist way.

Apart from motives for leaving Vietnam, EVIM had expectations at the status quo (the time before leaving Vietnam) that they would see carried out in the status quem (the time of impacting with Anglo-Australian culture). These expectation include:        Enjoying freedom Fighting for freedom and democracy in Vietnam Getting good jobs Helping children to create a good future Leading retired life beside children and/or grandchildren Preserving Vietnamese culture Leading a better life.

Enjoying Freedom
All four IPT described Australia as a country of freedom, where every citizen can enjoy this freedom fully and totally. All citizens are treated with dignity, liberty and independence (says Mr. Vuong). More specifically, Mr. Xuyen was very convinced that freedom is a key for him to build up a new and happy life: … Freedom and freedom! I would have freedom to liberate myself from communism. At the time of escaping, I had no idea where to seek asylum. What I did expect was to get out of Vietnamese communism safely and to live in a free country…. I do not regret being in Australia at all. It’s a lovely and free country. Its citizens are friendly, caring people. 68

All four IPT wanted to live in a country like Australia without communist rules. Mr. Nghiem commented on freedom as God’s gift: … Freedom is the air needed for your life. It must be free, as it is a natural gift given to humanity by God. Nobody is allowed to deprive anyone of essential rights. However, this substantial right is intentionally not observed under the communist regime. All 35 FPT confirm that they found true freedom in Australia. Freedom is an important and precious issue more than anything. They reminded each other that in Vietnam all factories, manufacturing and industrial enterprises were nationalised and controlled by the State, giving people in choice on planning their own lives. Ms Khanh said: ‘when arriving in A ustralia, I thought, here is Heaven, as all human rights are observed’. EVIM’s life at the status quem (since the time of impacting with the Anglo -Australian society) is no doubt better in relation to freedom than their life at the status quo (the time before leaving Vietnam). Moving from Vietnam and having limited freedom to Australia and having a higher level of freedom, EVIM may only the see positive aspects of freedom in the host society, ignoring other negative aspects. Offences against human rights still occur in Australia as well as in any other country of the world. For instance, a human rights Amnesty International Australia (2001), outlines the following facts:  In 2000-2001, 1103 children were detained in Immigration Detention in Australia. This number is out of a total 8401 detainees overall;    As of 27th June 2001, there were 520 children in detention centres around Australia; There is no limit on the length of their detention; Young children have witnessed their parents abused and maltreated. This only makes the children’s trauma more critical.

Fighting for Freedom and Democracy in Vietnam
Although having escaped communism, many EVIM hoped one day to go back to their homeland, and they wanted to fight in Australia for freedom and democracy in Vietnam. All four IPT for this research had this idea in common. To them, freedom was a most essential and important human right that enables people to live their own life and develop it in various ways. Participants would have like to participate in movements fighting for freedom in Vietnam. As Mr. Vuong said: 69

… I hope one-day Vietnam will be liberated and changed to a free country like the South before 1975. I did hope that Australia is in a good position to support liberation movements for Vietnam in the battle for freedom on diplomatic and financial issues. I would participate in such movements. Participants were confident that their expectation of eventual freedom for Vietnam would come true, based on the history of the Israeli nation. Israelis lost their land nearly 2000 years ago. The Jewish nationalist movement, Zionism has had as their goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews. Their national consciousness led them to declare independence on 14th May 1948 following the United Nations partition of Palestine. EVIM thought that it would be an easier and shorter process for Vietnamese nationalists to reclaim independence and democracy as their land already exists as a political entity and all they have to do is to get rid of the communist party. They also believed that other free countries like Australia would help nationalists and fight for Vietnam freedom and democracy. If that happened, EVIM believed the communist government would stand down and be replaced by a republican regime like South Vietnam before 1975. Mr. Nghiem believed that the historical vehicle would turn to Vietnam one day and Vietnamese people would soon enjoy freedom and democracy: … Jews, after having lost their nation and scattered in many other countries like us for a very long time, recovered their nation in May 1948. Russian and European communist countries changed in the 1980s. Therefore, I do believe that one day Vietnam will be enjoying real freedom and democracy without communist rules any more. While all the IPT hoped that Vietnam would be able to regain its freedom from Communism, only 3 out of 35 FPT expected it to happen and were ready to join movements to work towards freedom. The large majority of FPT believed that such change was impossible, as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam under Communist rule has been recognised by the United Nations and most other countries in the world. Other reasons leading FPT to doubt that change are discussed below. Firstly, Australia would be unlikely to interfere in Vietnam’ independent affairs. Secondly, the Australian Government may not support Vietnamese nationalists to overthrow the communist regime in Vietnam, as there may be nothing for Australia to gain by such action. Thirdly, the current Vietnamese communist government had established commercial and diplomatic relationships with the Australian Government, so there would be no point in Australia supporting any movements to oppose the Vietnam government. This might make Vietnamese nationalists unhappy. 70

FPT were aware that sometimes the Australian Government had raised its concerns about human rights violations in Vietnam, but this was not being related to opposing Communism but only to support human rights. Mr. Vuong was disappointed at the reality and he had expected too much in thinking that Vietnam would get positive assistance from Australia: …Australia, an allied country ever fighting beside Vietnamese soldiers in Vietnam, would help and support us, soldiers fighting for freedom. Our loss must be their loss: Australians and Vietnamese people are in same boat…I really hoped that Australia was in a good position to support liberation movements for Vietnam in the battle for freedom. I would participate in such movements. To the Australian point of view, the Vietnamese Communist Party may be dictatorial but it is a legal party and accordingly it can set up government based on its constitution. There is no point for Australia or any other country in the world to oppose the current regime.

Getting Good Jobs
Many EVIM had not thought much about the type of work they would do in Australia, as most of them were already near retirement age or had been so. One satisfaction noted by EVIM was the equal employment opportunity policy (EEO) in Australia. Jobs are open to anyone who has the appropriate ability and qualification without discrimination on the basis of religion, gender, ethnicity, race, political views, age, etc. All four IPT were convinced that the EEO is a great policy in helping disadvantaged people like the aged, women, migrants, and Aborigines to obtain suitable jobs. Mr. Vuong was very satisfied with having obtained jobs in his first years in Australia, as he came to Australia alone, leaving his wife and children behind in Vietnam. He was successful in getting jobs to earn money to take care not only of himself in Australia but also his wife and children remaining in Vietnam at that time. He said: …I accepted any job offer to get money. All the jobs I did were in factories…. I sometimes did two jobs a day, from 8 to 12 hours, and even Saturdays and Sundays. Any time, anywhere and any jobs available, I took them, as it meant I should have money to support my wife and children in Vietnam. Mr. Xuyen was the most satisfied of the four IPT, as what he had expected before leaving Vietnam came true in Australia. He said: … I am satisfied because I’ve got jobs, and have an income to live on and some to save to help my parents and relatives in Vietnam. Another satisfied expectation of mine is that I’ve got freedom in writing and teaching what I want to. I can earn my living from any company that offers me a job. I can 71

go overseas on holidays if I want to. I succeeded in fleeing communism, and now live in a capitalist system. I am able to be totally faithful to my beliefs. Mr. Xuyen was facing a difficult life in Vietnam. He was teaching in a high school. His principal, a Communist Party member, directed him to teach communist philosophy and doctrine. This was against Mr. Xuyen’s Catholic beliefs. In the interview, he said that before he left Vietnam he felt unable to keep going with a compulsory job that he felt was forcing him to act against his beliefs, that is, teaching Communism while he was a Catholic. What he wanted was to work in a situation that was not against his Catholic belief: … If I lost my teaching job, it would be very difficult for me, but going on with the job allocated by communist government would also create a dilemma for me. In other words, I was in struggle between two roles inside me: as good teacher, I had to digest the content of lessons before giving lessons; as a good Catholic, I had to get rid of it. My expectations were that in Australia I would be able to be faithful both to my religion and preferred jobs. However, despite Mr. Xuyen’s feelings of satisfaction in regards to getting good jobs, other participants admitted that the Australian labour force was difficult to access for various reasons including: language difficulty, out of date knowledge and skills, age, lack of education, inability to adapt to new technology, lack of suitable jobs, difficulty of transport to and from the work place, etc. Mr. Vuong explained: … I am sorry to say that: I have no energy to start a new life. How can I do it? I can’t speak English, so how can I keep pace with Australian lifestyle and activities? I had been a soldier nearly all my life. Many jobs are not suitable to me. Any job needs new skills and experience. I did not have the necessary skills, and experience. I felt humiliated by living on pension payments. Some of these difficulties experienced by EVIM are part of a larger trend, which also affects the non-immigrant population. The Australia of today is different from Australia of the past. Between 1945 and 1975, Australia enjoyed a long period of economic boom and full employment. During that period, Australia was described as ‘The Lucky Country’ and appeared ‘an affluent society’ ( essant, 2002). All the ‘men’ who wanted a full time job could get one. Since the mid-1970s Australia has changed completely, as economic growth has been uneven, and unemployment has increased. Official definitions (ASB, 1997; 2001) reported an average of I million people, or around 9% of the labour force, were unemployed each year, and unemployment was at its lowest point in a decade, resting nationally at around from 6% to 7% in the financial year of 2000-2001. This is partly because unemployment is part of a larger process of change, and globalisation has become a key word describing the 72

process of change and some of the accompanying sense of crisis. Globalisation is the process whereby political, social, economic and cultural relations increasingly take on a global scale, and which has profound consequences for individuals’ local experiences and every day life (Bilton et al. 1987) It is obvious that globalisation has affected the employment market in Australia (Wiseman 2002). For instance, many workers have lost their jobs in Brunswick or Bankstown Company, because the company has been bought out by the Australian subsidiary of a Dallas-based transitional company. The latter decided to relocate its production of T-shirts to Mexico because of cheaper wage costs and lower health and safety standards. Some of those workers who lost their jobs may have found new jobs in Brisbane under new employment contracts that lower their wages and conditions. Other issues such as retrenchment, trade alliances, global warning, currency devaluation, etc. are often explained and considered as unavoidable consequences of globalisation (Wiseman 1999). The companies in terms of the need to be competitive justify these conditions. The new conditions are claimed to be essential in order to compete with production costs in third world countries. These circumstances have affected EVIM’s expectations of obtaining good jobs, as even skilled, qualified and English speaking workers find it difficult to obtain or keep jobs.

Helping Children to Create a Good Future
Two of the IPT stated that they were concerned about their children’s future, and expected them to be educated well in Australia. Mr. Vuong wanted to come to Australia in order to instruct his children to put study before work. He believed his children and grandchildren ‘should be obtaining good education and then getting good jobs’. Ms Tinh held that her children would be well educated in Australia but that they would not be given that opportunity in a communist country like Vietnam, where their father had been a high ranking officer of the former government. She said: … They [her children] would not have had a good education in a communist country, as their father had close connections with a former government. After completing year 12, those students whose parents or family members worked for a former regime [as civil or military officers] were not allowed to enrol in Universities. I expected them to be well educated in Australia, as here there is no discrimination. Fifteen of 35 FPT were also concerned about their children and grandchildren’s future. To them, a good future means that a good education is necessary. Knowledge, qualifications as well as professional skills were really seen as helping people get good jobs and earn good 73

income. The better education performance you obtain, the more prosperous future will be. Mr. Cong affirmed the importance of education: … I hold that one is only successful in business if one achieves a high level of education as earlier as possible. An old saying says ‘100-year-old plan is nothing better than educating people’ (Baùch Nieân Chi Keá Maïc Ö Thuï Nhaân). With knowledge, you may be successful in many different ways. Education is the most important and essential element of family investment. EVIM hoped to support their children and grandchildren’s progress by playing a number of roles within family such as: babysitter, advisor, mentor, spiritual supporter, and financial provider In Vietnam, EVIM were playing all these roles, as they were the head of their extended families with all authority transmitted to them from generation to generation. However, in Australia it is unlikely that they would be able to carry out these traditional roles. EVIM could not provide their children with financial support, as they had left all they have behind in Vietnam, as Mr. Nhan said: … The assets obtained throughout our previous working life were left in Vietnam and we came over here empty-handed. We had nothing with us: no home, no jobs, no income upon which to rebuild up our assets. The education system in Australia is quite different from the one in Vietnam. Vietnamese children in Australia rarely ask their parents for help, because their parents do not know what children are learning at school, and what the parents know from their own education system is not taught in Australian schools. So, it is unlikely that EVIM can support their children and/or grandchildren like they did in Vietnam. It only remains for EVIM to support their children and/or grandchildren that is the babysitting jobs.

Leading Retired Life beside Children and/or Grandchildren
Traditionally, retired elderly Vietnamese live together with their children or grandchildren (as discussed in Chapter 1). There is a popular saying that all Vietnamese know by heart that: ‘When young, one relies on their father; when old, one relies on their chidren’ (Treû caäy cha, giaø caäy con). All four IPT had the same expectation - that of joining their children and grandchildren, to live together with them, to be taken care of by them, and to be given filial piety for the rest of their life. Mrs. Tinh said: … I expect my children and grandchildren to look after me. I looked after them when they were young. Now it is their turn to look after me, especially when I 74

am old; I have to rely on them. They have duties to feed, look after, and pay filial piety, to their mother. I have nobody but my children and grandchildren. Above all, the most important expectation that young should not forget the Vietnamese traditional values: filial piety towards parents, maintaining the spirit of family, mutual assistance, and especially to pay last filial duties to their parents in the last stages of their lives. Mr. Vuong said: … I planned to live among my children and grandchildren, especially at this last stage of my life. I would be dying surrounded by all my children and grandchildren. They would arrange funeral and mourning rituals properly. My soul would rest in peace if given appropriate reverence whilst dying and after death. Ms Chan described what it was like in her homeland with family members gathering around the daily dinner table, and expected to experience that again: … I expected to have a peaceful life beside my children and grandchildren. I imagine my happy family in the evenings when we sit around the dining table and had dinner together. We used to talk to each other: grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren all together. EVIM expected this ‘filial piety’ to be realised when they arrive to join their children in Australia. Three out of the four IPT and 30 of the 35 FPT were not satisfied with their children’s non-traditional treatment of them. Mr. Vuong appeared upset when his children refused to invite him to live together with them. He was upset when disclosing his feeling about this: … I am not happy with living alone. What should I have done and do now? None of my children or grandchildren would take me into their home. I eventually discussed the issue of living together with them. They responded that they had to take care of their children, having no time to take care of me. The main reason for children not living together with parents is that the Australian lifestyle encourages young couples to be independent. The daily activities of life are so busy that they have no time to run their own family and at the same time take care of parents. Mrs Tinh said: … What I want is to live together with my children and grandchildren, but My children said to me that now that I am in Australia. I must follow the Australian lifestyle, and have to live separately from my children. Children have their own life, and parents have theirs. So, I resigned myself to my fate. Now I live isolated in a flat rent from Housing Commission, just to keep my children happy. Another ground for Vietnamese adult children not letting their parents live under the same roof is due to the Australian norm of the nuclear family. There is a big difference between 75

Australian and Vietnamese family structure. Australian society encourages living in nuclear families, while Vietnamese society is based on extended families. Mr. Minh recognised this dìference when he said: ‘The nuclear family consists of parents and children. Married children move out and live independently separate from parents.’ Moreover, some Australian children leave parents before marriage to be independent earlier and build their own futures earlier. Australian society allows this to happen and supports it financially through government allowances. This is unlikely to be acceptable to EVIM. The extended family in Vietnam is a basic and important unit due to its vital role in establishing and maintaining economic, social, moral and educational support for all family members (Ngoâ 1997). Within an extended family, the elder members are highly respected, not only because of their age, but also because of the important role they play in managing every aspect of family affairs. Children are not allowed to leave home without their parent’s permission even they are married, and have to get advice or instructions regarding how to best manage their lives.

Preserving Vietnamese Culture
Immigrating to Australia, EVIM brought with them long-term traditions, habits and beliefs (see chapter 1). They expected these values to be carried out and practiced by the Vietnamese younger generations. All four IPT held that they and their children and grandchildren in Australia should maintain Vietnamese culture: filial piety to elder family members; respecting parents and grandparents as mentors and advisors who have authority in family affairs such as marriage arrangement; taking care of parents in the children’s home, and worshipping ancestors properly. Participants would practice ancestor worship in Australia for twofold reasons: first to observe filial piety to ancestors hy themselves; second to instruct the younger generations how to worship their ancestors and their parents when they pass away. Mr. Vuong said: … I expected to have the opportunity to pass on to them our Vietnamese culture and traditional values. You know, Vietnamese culture is wonderful; if nobody tells you about it, how do you know it and put it into practice. I knew my children and grandchildren would listen to me and follow my instructions. I was proud of them. All IPT affirmed that they come to Australia in order to be taken care of by their children and at the same time to pass on these traditional values to the younger generation. They were 76

concerned that such traditional values might fade away if not maintained and practiced in daily life. Out of 35 FPT, 27 participants confirmed that they had the expectation of preserving Vietnamese culture among the Vietnamese younger generations, but they also admitted their expectation had not been satisfied. When he was still living in Vietnam Mr. Dong wrote to his children and reminded them not to forget anniversaries of his extended family to organise family gatherings on the occasion of obits, and to burn incense and offer fruits at the ancestors’ altar. Joining them in Australia, he felt sad when he found that they did not follow his instructions. He said: ‘I am very unhappy, because they neglect such things here in Australia, where they are free to practice their own beliefs.’

Mr. Tien expected the traditional role of parent to be played by him, and that his children would respect him and observe filial piety towards him. He said: … I wish the Vietnamese younger generation would respect the aged: pay filial piety to them; respect their traditional roles in the family as mentor, mediator, teacher, monitor and advisor. The elderly like us are hurt when feeling left out even in the family. We were really saddened to hear of unsatisfactory episodes before we arrived into Australia. However, Vietnamese children do not know these values, and so cannot practise and observe them. Parental guidance is based on traditional values, but children do not observe them, as the Australian schools don’t teach them about it. Children’s behaviour is based on norms learnt by children at school, but parents are left without guidance. What parents have known from their own education is not taught now to children, and parents do not know what children learn at Australian schools (Leâ 1998).

EVIM feel powerless in helping their children and grandchildren preserve Vietnamese culture and traditional values. Mr. Vuong said: ‘My children and grandchildren would not listen to me any longer. They no longer need my advice or guidance.’ Another factor that may make the Vietnamese younger generation living in Australia not to preserve much of their own culture is that social conditions and physical environments are different from those in Vietnam. Australia, a developed industrial country is quite different from Vietnam, a mainly agricultural country. Agricultural activities are only busy according to seasons and weather. Whereas daily living in a dynamic and highly technological country like Australia is so busy that people have to race against time throughout the year to achieve all the normal duties 77

required at work, at school and in the family. The younger generation lifestyle is much closer to that of the typical Australian lifestyle than the distant traditional practices of Vietnam, which do not seem realistic to the young.

Leading a Better Life
EVIM expected to lead a better life and live beside their children and/or grandchildren in Australia. As discussed above, the majority of IPT and FPT were satisfied with enjoying freedom in Australia. This section, however, discusses the complex factors, which influence EVIM’s feelings about their overall satisfaction with living in the host country. Impacting with Anglo-Australian culture, EVIM become aware that this society is quite different from their homeland due to cultural differences. These differences led to the situation where some of their expectation before leaving Vietnam, could not be fulfilled in Australia as discussed in previous sections. Australia gives people a better life in some aspects, but at the same time, from the point of view of EVIM, there are shortcomings, which make life less enjoyable, or even unpleasant, producing a state of alienation. From the indepth and focus group interviews, the following shortcomings can be identified: social isolation and loneliness, breakdown of community values, breakdown of family, individualism, and self-centredness.

SOCIAL ISOLATION AND LONELINESS The Anglo-Australian lifestyle promotes individual independence and encourages young people to leave home and live independently from parents at a much earlier age than the normal age of 21, and they are supported by the society to do so. Parents are accordingly left alone; often living in a house that is now too big for two and also that is filled with memories of their departed children. In Australia this phase of life is known the ‘empty-nest’ and it may incur feelings of loneliness, isolation, restlessness, disillusionment or dissatisfaction. Their children and/or grandchildren may come and visit them at home or in a residential care facility on special days during the year such as Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Fathers and Mothers Days, and birthdays. If they are English-speaking citizens, they would be able to participate in mainstream activities and services such as clubs and pubs, and HAAC, ADASS, RDNS provided specially to senior citizens. To reduce their loneliness and social isolation, they may extend their kinship to old or new friends, neighbours and retired fellow-workers (Gilding, 1999). They often remain living at home until the end of life, or until the time when 78

they have rely on instrumental support by entering a residential care facility due to health problems, family conflicts, or financial difficulties. For much of their ‘empty-nest’ stage, they experience loneliness and/or social isolation. In the case of EVIM, they find it much more difficult to adapt to this ‘empty-nest’ stage, their increased loneliness and social isolation, leading them to a worse situation than that experienced by their Australian counterparts. This is because they are unlikely able to access mainstream services without bilingual workers due to the language barrier. Nor are they able to extend their kinship among other ethnic groups in order to reduce their social isolation and loneliness due to cultural differences. Ms Linh, one of FPT, showed the ground for her isolation and loneliness: … How do we take part into Australian activities? We cannot speak English. We’ll be lost among those who speak English. Their social features are different due to their different culture and mentality. We don’t know the rules of the games, so we just don’t want to participate. We feel lonely and isolated from the host society. BREAKDOWN OF COMMUNITY VALUES The traditional spirit of community such as exists in Vietnam, has gradually disappeared in Australian society, especially in the cities. In the past, communities were characterised by close personal relationships, a unitary culture, strong faith in traditional institutions, values and sanctions, and strong attachment to place. Neighborliness is expressed as ‘who one feels one belongs with’ (Lynn, 1997). Current modernisation and consumer-oriented society in developed countries like Australia may be characterised as large scale and impersonal based on contractual arrangements rather than personal relationship, encouraging mobility and heterogeneity, challenging traditional authority and invoking rational legal authority (Gilding, 1999). In an agricultural country like Vietnam, the family and the village are regarded as the two most important social institutions of Vietnamese society (Ngoâ, 1997). In village life, peasants preserve their priority the traditional kinship ties and the obligation to assist each other as if the village were a large family. As in family, the elderly people are highly respected for their age, wisdom and experience, and in particular for the vital role they play in maintaining and transmitting culture. Within this spirit of community, villagers share happiness and sadness with each other: all of them attend the funeral service to make their farewells to a villager who passes away, and all are invited to join the wedding party for any villager who marries. The 79

spirit of neighborhood is sometimes more valuable than having relatives. If they are not living nearby, you can get help from your neighbours who are near you rather than from your relatives who are far away. There are several popular Vietnamese sayings that describe this spirit of community: Baùn anh em xa, mua laùng gieàng gaàn (Sell distant relatives, and buy close neighbours) Anh em xa chaúng qua laùng gieàng gaàn (A remote relative is less helpful than a close neighbour) Twenty of 35 FO-PARS valued the spirit of neighbourhood as one of their fondest memories. Nostalgia was expressed by EVIM for the loss of community spirit after their emigration from Vietnam. Ms Khan remarked that neighbourhood had been an important part of their lives: … We cared about each other. When we had any emergency, the first person to call was our neighbour. We exchanged information about what was going on in our locality, especially the older people who often found it difficult to travel. We invited each other into our homes for chatting, eating and drinking, all at the host's expense. We considered each other as relatives. FAMILY BREAKDOWN The nuclear family unit has been described as ‘natural’ and considered as the ‘basic unit of Western society’, and as the building block on which all else depends. It refers to a ‘universal human grouping’, that is, a unit consisting of husband, wife and their dependent children (Marshall 1998). Some social phenomena indicate an inferior variation of this arrangement is establishing itself. Lone-parent families are increasing due the growing number of separations and divorces. These single parent families are often called ‘broken families’. Other familylike arrangements include domestic partnership between two people, irrespective of gender, who are not married, but live together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis. These gay families are described as ‘unnatural’ in terms of the dominant heterosexual pattern (Lynn, 1997). Another configuration of relationship that may not be considered as an ideal nuclear family is the de facto relationship. This refers to a relationship between a man and woman who live together in a marriage-like relationship, but are not legally married.

The phenomenon of the increasing number of such households has influenced the integrity of the traditional nuclear family in Australia. Furthermore, Australian laws give some protection to the rights of parties in these configurations of relationship, particularly in regards to property settlement (Property Law Act 1958). Australian laws also set out easy conditions and 80

proceedings for obtaining a divorce; for instance, the only requirement for obtaining a divorce is the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage. The husband and wife having been separated for 12 months prove this requirement. Either spouse may apply for the divorce, which is generally finalised in 3 to 8 weeks, depending on individual circumstances (Family Law Act 1975). Facing such a situation, EVIM would be strongly shocked. The new concept of ‘de facto relationship’ or ‘domestic partnership’ protected by laws in Australia is unlikely to be acceptable to those who follow Confucian family ethics, as do Vietnamese elderly people. Their beliefs encourage them to expect their children to fall in love with someone who has a similar ethnic background, a shared religion and an equivalent socio-economic status. Confucian ethics do not permit informal co-habitation or living together before marriage. EVIM could not accept such things occurring in their extended family. Mr. Dau expressed his feelings when his son got married without his consent: … My son left home and lived with his girl friend. My wife blamed him for ignoring parental authority. He did not care. Nor did his girl friend. And then they organized their wedding ceremony and party without inviting us to attend. We swear not to consider them as our son and daughter in-law… After five years of marriage, they came to see us. My wife welcomed them. I was avoiding them, as I could not stand up by meeting them. My son has been against our traditions. I cannot tolerate it. INDIVIDUALISM AND SELF-CENTEREDNESS Individualism has a socio-political structure and philosophy that places high value on the freedom of the individual, and generally stresses the self-directed, self-contained, and comparatively unrestrained individual or ego. It tolerates a kind of moderate selfishness, disposing human beings to be concerned only with their own small circle of family and friends. The individual is an end in him/herself and is of supreme value, society being only a means to individual ends. All individuals are in some sense morally equal, this equality being best expressed by the proposition that no one should ever be treated solely as a means to the well being of another person.

Australia protects such individual freedoms: children leave home according to their own wishes and without parental consent; informal cohabitation before marriage is quite common with either opposite or same sex partners; children choose when to get married and how to plan their future; personal privacy, etc. It also implies a property system according to which each person or family enjoys the maximum of opportunity to acquire property and to manage 81

and dispose of it as he sees fit. Freedom of association extends to the right to join or to refuse to join any organization (Gilding 1999).

In Vietnamese culture and traditions, family and community prevail over individuals, and are ends for which individuals have to make sacrifices. The Vietnamese spirit of family and community dictates the observance of traditional habits and values, forming a contrast with the Western concept of individualism, in which the rights and interests of the individual are emphasized. EVIM had been expecting to be united with their children in Australia, to enjoy a better economic life and to continue playing a leading role in the family, assisting their children and grandchildren (Ngoâ 1997). After arriving in Australia, they realised that their traditional role in the family had been reversed, and many of them had to face intergenerational conflicts due to the considerable differences between them and their children, most of who had already settled in Australia before the arrival of their parents. It seemed to be a denial of their previous parental position and status. Ms Tinh said: … Life in Vietnam before 1975 was as it should be, as our beloved children and grandchildren listened to their parents, and traditional habits were observed by the younger generation. I’m disappointed with the lifestyle here: children do not listen to parents and they do whatever they like without obtaining parental guidance. Individualism sometimes leads to another shortcoming, that is, self-centeredness. This can be defined as an attitude or behaviour concerned solely with one’s own desires, needs or interests. Australian society is facing the phenomena of self-centredness within families as well as in society. For instance, after leaving home, a child minds their own business, and parents theirs; neighbours may not know what is happening in other families or even their names. The implicit rule seems to be to ‘mind your own business’. This means, ‘I do not wish to intrude in your business and don’t intrude in mine’.

Vietnamese traditions would not tolerate self-centeredness within the family or community. Any person who does not care about neighbours and other community members but only about their own interests may be excluded from the community and from benefits and duties provided to its members. A Vietnamese saying confirms that individuals concern about the other rather themselves: ‘Moät con ngöïa ñau, caû taøu khoâng aên coû’ (When a horse is sick, the whole herd in the stable would not eat grass). Ms Khan, one of FPT, told that all members of a village in Vietnam consider themselves belonging to a large family, keen to look after each other. She said: 82

… We care about each other. When we have any case of emergency, the immediate person to call is our neighbour. We exchange information of what is going on in our locality, especially older people who may find difficult to travel. We invite each other into home for chatting, eating and drinking at the inviting household’s expensive. We consider each other like relatives.

The cultural characteristics discussed above result in specific social problems such as poverty, homelessness, drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and depression. Bessant and Wats (2002, pp. 336-341) discuss these social problems in their book Sociology Australia. They report that in the 20 years from 1975 to 1996 the incidence of households living in poverty, including those below the ‘poverty line’ or those just above or in borderline poverty, rose from 20.6% to 30.7%. Homelessness affects a significant number Australian women and youth in particular. They have no choice but to call for assistance at emergency accommodation providers such as the Women’s Refuge Service, youth refuges, halfway houses and other community-based accommodation providers. When they are not being a ‘problem’ to others, they may become ‘victims’, young people are said to be engaging more frequently in self-destructive behaviours such as anorexia, drug/alcohol abuse and suicide. Furthermore, violence, including sexual assault and incest, bullying and family violence are increasing. Bessant and Watts note that the social stigma of suffering these consequences may cause victims to falling into a psychosocial state of depression that is marked by sadness, inactivity, and a reduced ability to enjoy life. From the EVIM’s point of view, these modern problems exist because both western and eastern society have lost the traditional moral code that helped people feel confident about themselves and their place in the world. Mr. Nghiem, one of the IPT, commented on his children’s behaviour: …I felt my heart broken when I found that my children would not observe traditional values, they do what they want without taking my advice. I tried to understand and forgive them for their behaviour. I only wish they would put themselves in my shoes and understand my feelings. Thus, Australia does not seem to be the ‘heaven’ Ms Tinh had thought when she first arrived in the country of her second home. The majority of the research participants did not consider that Australia had brought them a better life. Out of 35 FPT, 29 were not satisfied with Australia because of homesickness; 30 because of having no opportunity to live together with their children; 21 because children do not respect parents on traditional matters; 32 because of lack of English skills; and 27 because Vietnamese traditions are neglected by the young. Ms Thinh reflected the idea of almost of the participants. She said: 83

… We had quite a lot of expectations before arriving in Australia: owning a house; living together with our children and grandchildren; having a job; having adequate respects from children and grand-children; being able to give instructions to other family members, and so on. However when we came here, we found that most of our expectations were not met: owning no home, obtaining no job, family members not listening to us, and having to live separate from children. We felt we would rather go back to our homeland. EVIM did not foresee that what was expected by them before leaving Vietnam might not be observed in Australia. They thought those expectations would have been satisfied in the homeland if Communism had not taken control over Vietnam. Australia not under communist rules but it is a capitalist country so why would their expectations not be fulfilled? They thought that with freedom everything was possible, until they were confronted with the reality. Mr. Vuong realised this and commented: … Freedom is the air for your life. When you’ve got the air to breath in, other good things will follow. Before leaving Vietnam, I put freedom as priority number one. When priority number one is met, there are other important concerns to be put on the table: authority on children, social life, family life, money, accommodation, assets, and properties.

EVIM found that the major differences between Vietnamese and Australian cultures resulted from their religion-based philosophy. The Vietnamese culture originated from the four main religions: Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Christianity. Australian culture, although influenced by Christianity is very secular society.. The former emphasises the spirit of family and filial piety, whereas the latter highlights the independence of individuals, resulting in children making their own decisions to live separate from parents when they find it suitable. This is the key feature of culture shock for EVIM, who would rather their children follow Vietnamese cultural traditions than those of the Australian lifestyle. This cultural conflict may push EVIM into a state of alienation from both cultures: their traditional value system and the current Australian value system. Box 5-2 (below) outlines EVIM’s evaluation of their past value system (in Vietnam) compared to the current value system (in Australia) after the experience of culture shock impacts on their life. 84

BOX 5-2: EVALUATION OF THE PAST AND CURRENT VALUE SYSTEMS BY PARTICIPANTS (BOTH IPT & FPT) Description of the past value-system (Vietnamese culture)            Filial piety towards parents, grandchildren, and ancestors Parents’ deference to marriage arrangement Children’s dependence on parents Parents’ role in family: leader; advisor; mentor; decision-maker Family rights prior to individuals Staying overnight outside family restricted for unmarried girls Woman dependent on her father when unmarried, her husband when married, and her son when widowed Main role of women mainly dealing with domestic duties Parents taken care of by children at home Old parents living together with children and grandchildren Neighbours caring about each other like relatives.

Evaluation of the current value- system (Australian culture) Aspects approved:     Better welfare system in taking care of elderly than in Vietnam. Citizens have the opportunity to complain about human rights violation. Better health care system for citizens, especially for the aged than in Vietnam. Ombudsman overseeing Equal Opportunity regulation and complaints.

Aspects disapproved:        Individualism: children leaving home any time; marriage self-arranged by children; society supporting the young to be independent from parents. Unmarried girls living independently from parents. Individual family member’s rights prevail over rights of family as a whole. Easy conditions for divorce: twelve-month separation, one party’s consent. Woman’s role lesser in family, but more involved in outside activities/work. Materialism: utility and commodity seem to prevail over other values Spirit of community no valued.

For most of their lives, EVIM had relied on the Vietnamese value system to guide their lives. This close cohesion was so intensive that it became part of their lives and nothing could replace it. The traditional values were ethical norms to which they referred for guidance in the activities of daily living. When the Australian value system impacted on their lives, EVIM felt confused, as the past and current systems clashed. In this situation, they had to compare and consider carefully before making decisions. However, sometimes they could not control the situation. In other words, they had no choice but to stand aside and let matters be ‘gone with the winds’ as they would. Some of the main points from the ox 5-2 are developed further in the following section.


Evaluation of the Past Value-System (Vietnamese)
Most participants wished to maintain the Vietnamese culture that had been built up during a long history of nearly 4000 years. EVIM considered this cultural treasure as their most valuable possession transmitted from their ancestors to them. They knew that it was in their interest to pass it on to their children and grandchildren living inside or outside Vietnam. However, the new physical environment and lifestyle in the host society seemed not to match their expectations. All the four IPT unanimously agreed on the need to maintain traditional values. Mr. Nghiem emphasised the need to observe the practice of ancestor worship and filial piety, and to be buried beside ancestors when passed away. He was not happy when he found that his children seemed to neglect his instructions: …I am an eldest son of my extended family. So, my duties are to worship my parents and ancestors more than all my brothers and sisters and their children. In arriving to Australia, I feel missing my filial piety to those who gave me life…. My ancestors’ tombs are not here. Here is not my home. My home is in Vietnam, where I may lie beside my parents and ancestors when I pass away. I can’t stay here [Australia] for good. Mr. Vuong maintained that filial piety was an essential virtue and that children should never ignore it. Included in this virtue was to respect the parental role as co-ordinator, teacher, advisor and mediator for all extended family members: … I’d rather follow Vietnamese culture, as mutual support and respect among family members are very important and essentially valued. We elderly cannot stand it, and feel self-pity when abandoned by our children. This is beyond our expectations: the elderly should be central advisors of the family, pass on family traditions to the next generations, make the most important decisions on family affairs, and be the representatives of the extended family who deal with society or other families. Ms Tinh considered parents and children should live together under the same roof, because it was a good opportunity for children to carry out their filial piety to parents. She thought this was an obvious virtue all family members should not forget. Ms Tinh was disappointed with her children when they would not let her live at their home. She said: … What I want is to live together with my children and grandchildren, but my children said to me that I am in Australia now. I must follow the Australian lifestyle, and have to live separately from my children. Children have their own life, and parents have theirs, they say. I am frustrated, as none of my nine children would let me reside at their home. One welcomes me on condition that I have to take the job of babysitting. I’d rather decline. So I resign myself to my own fate. Now I live isolated in a Housing Commission flat in order to please them. 86

Mr. Xuyen remarked on the clash between the Vietnamese value system and Australian value system. He recognised that the young people were influenced by Western individualism and had forgotten their traditional spirit of family: … In Australia, the Vietnamese spirit of family is reduced and replaced by individualism, and the Vietnamese young people almost forget their filial piety towards their parents and grandparents. What a pity for EVIM who have had close cohesion with their traditions. All 35 FPT commented on the importance of children’s respect to their elders (parents and elder family members). Thirty-four participants appreciated the spirit of family prevailing over the rights of individuals, believing that filial piety should not to be ignored; 27 regretted the loss of neighbours in Vietnam; 26 wanted to see Vietnamese traditional values being observed by the young in Australia; and 21 stressed the value of having extended family members living under the same roof. Ms Thoi emphasised the role of Vietnamese women in the family. For her, women were predestined to undertake domestic duties rather than other jobs outside family. She remarked: … We still appreciate the traditional female role within the family: the woman is to take care of domestic duties, and bear and rear children. She should not go out to work, as nobody could replace her at home properly. Our families have been happy and harmonious in the past. Our children have grown up under their tender mothers’ good care. EVIM feel alienated when they cannot maintain their cultural values in Australia, and at the same time, their children hardly observe them in daily life. Mr. Vuong made a strong assertion that he could not assimilate to the Australian life style, as he had not enough time to integrate and adapt into a new and strange system of values. He commented: … To assimilate into a culture, it does not take only one day, one month or one year to learn to be familiar with it and practice it. It may take you a long trip to go through. It is obvious that you have to leave this one to take another, following a systematic education period. EVIM anticipated that their children and grandchildren might assimilate the Anglo-Australian culture. However, it was always wished that the young should not forget their own identity that has developed through their traditional value system over 4000 years.

Evaluation of the Current Value-System (Australian)
Apart from the shortcomings identified in Australia and discussed previously, this section will detail some issues that impact on the EVIM in relation to adapting to the Australian lifestyle. 87

Both IPT and FPT evaluated some aspects of the Australian lifestyle as civilized development. At the same time, they found that some aspects were too liberal but were still been followed by Vietnamese young persons.

POSITIVE ASPECTS Participants in the study appreciated that freedom and welfare are considered as individual human rights in Australia. Governments take good care of all citizens without discrimination. Comparing it with the communist regime, EVIM described Australian society as much more concerned about its citizens’ wellbeing. Mr. Nghiem stated that essential freedoms and human rights are really observed in Australia. He said: … Here in Australia there are all the freedoms. Governments and the Australian people treat migrants with dignity. Our human rights are respected. There is no discrimination against ethnicity, sex and religion whatsoever. All citizens are equal in duties as well as rights. Ms Tinh focused on the benefits of the Home and Community Care (HACC) scheme, which include services such as home help, library services, meals on wheels, Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS), home maintenance service and the podiatry service for the elderly at home as well as in a residential care facility: … Some time ago, a Vietnamese social welfare worker introduced me to another social worker of the City Council of St Albans for accessing HACC services provided to aged people in their catchment’s area. I used some of these services. I used Home Help twice. They helped me go shopping, as my children were busy. I appreciate the governments for taking good care of us. Mr. Vuong appreciated services and social security benefits, allowances and concession rebates provided to the elderly community, including EVIM, to such an extent that he felt guilty in receiving them. He disclosed the following: … I didn’t contribute enough to the host society. So, I feel that I do not deserve it if compared with my Australian counterparts. This country has been created by their own sweating labour throughout their lives. I found myself contributing too little to this society, so I am ashamed to enjoy the same benefits as them. NEGATIVE ASPECTS Participants felt that there was a variety of negative points about life in Australia when compared with traditional Vietnamese lifestyle. They would not accept these aspects in their 88

culture. They felt disappointed when their children did not observe traditional beliefs but followed the Australian style. Mr. Nghiem emphasised the arrangement of children’s marriages, which was quite different from what occurred in Vietnamese culture: … In Vietnam, marriage is a parental business; children may have a say but don’t make final decisions. Another thing is that in Australia young couples live separately from their parents as soon as possible after the wedding. It may lead to a situation where parents will be living alone in their old age. It’s different from Vietnamese culture, which directs that married children should live together with their parents or bring the latter home, in order to look after those who gave them birth and care. Ms Tinh disagreed with the liberal relationships permitted in Australia between young males and females before their marriage. She commented: … Here boys and girls are too liberal in their contacts with the opposite sex. They have sexual relationships before the wedding. It seems not good to our moral point of view. Moreover, they themselves arrange their marriages without parental guidance. It’s really against our Vietnamese traditions. Mr. Vuong complained about the social support provided to youth. At any time, youth can access financial support from social security. Mr. Vuong felt that this encouraged the young to leave home earlier than usual, and motivated them not to come back home or consider parents as mentors or advisers any longer: …The negative point of Australian culture is that it makes Vietnamese youth become distant from the spirit of Vietnamese family. Society supports them when they leave home, even before turning 21 years old. I find a lot of young Vietnamese are spoiled due to lack of family control. It is significant that many of the attitudes and feelings expressed by the four IPT were confirmed and developed by focus group participants. Box 5-2 above is a summary of the description of the past (Vietnamese) and current (Australian) value systems by FPT as well as IPT. In relation to satisfaction with Australia, all FPT agreed on a good welfare system existing in Australia, and 32 agreed that the right to freedom is respected by Australia Governments. Most FPT were also concerned about the maintenance Vietnamese traditions. Out of 35 FPT, 35 valued respect for the aged by children; 34 required filial piety and the maintenance of spirit family; 26 were concerned about the younger generation maintaining Vietnamese traditions; 21 wished to keep the extended family together in one residence and 20 wished to maintain parental arrangement of children’s marriages. Thirty of them were not satisfied that children arrange marriages instead of parents and 22 would not accept children leaving home any time they want. 89

In relation to the satisfaction with the current values system (Australian culture), all 35 FPT were confident that Australian citizens enjoy real freedom and that human rights were protected. Thirty-four of 35 FPT appreciated the climate of anti-discrimination. Ms Dan stated: … One Australian cultural aspect which impresses me most is that all people have equal opportunity in society: public services are accessible by all citizens without any discrimination of sex, religion, belief, social background, race, and ethnicity. Another good aspect of Australian culture is that it aims to take special care of disadvantaged people such as those with disabilities, women, migrants and Aborigines. All of them also confirmed that the Australian welfare system was good; 23 noted that the elderly were well cared for in Australia, and 21 emphasised the usefulness of HACC services. However, participants also pointed out some difficulties in accessing these freedoms and benefits (see Box 5-2). All 35 participants confirmed that mainstream services were good but not able to be accessed adequately by EVIM due to language barriers. Both IPT and FPT stated that there were negative and positive points relevant to the two value-systems. Standing at the crossroad of Vietnamese and Anglo-Australian societies at their retirement age, EVIM did not know what to do. On the one hand, they had brought along from the homeland their cultural luggage, but they found that it was impractical for them to carry out their traditional cultural practices in Australia. On the other hand, they found it difficult to integrate into Australian culture. This situation resulted in the psychological alienation that is discussed in the next section.

Apart from general problems shared by EVIM with other aged counterparts, there are a few particular stressors affecting the psychological well being of EVIM in Australia. Stressors identified by Thomas (1993) include inversion of kinship relations, financial dependence, difficulties of language acquisition and homesickness. They could not foresee these major sources of stress before their immigration to Australia. These stressors result from the culture shock endured by them when they impacted with Anglo-Australian culture. The above stressors impact on EVIM’s life in the host society. They found there was a big gap between their expectations before leaving Vietnam and their satisfactions in Australia. 90

This affected their ability to harmoniously adjust to their more varied life options during their retirement in their second home. There are five issues related to adjustment that must be addressed in their old age in this strange country (Turner and Helms, 1979). Firstly, loss of finances: EVIM rely on social security payments, as their assets were left behind in Vietnam. They struggle to live on incomes which barely meet necessities. Secondly, loss of self-esteem: EVIM find it difficult to regain a sense of self worth, as they are unable to adapt to mainstream activities provided for elderly people. Thirdly, loss of work-oriented social contacts: EVIM left their friends behind in Vietnam, and they have no new friends in Australia due to cultural conflict and language barriers. Fourthly, loss of meaningful tasks: They left their jobs in their homeland and are unlikely to have work in Australia. Fifthly, loss of reference: this affects their self-image, as individuals perceived themselves not only as citizens but also as members of the business or professional community. Retired people need to reassess their identity. EVIM feel as if they are Vietnamese citizens rather than Australian citizens, and their self-images are related to their past careers. EVIM feel estranged in Australia under such circumstances, EVIM experience a sense of alienation, as they do not have the spiritual and physical environments to live their traditions, and at the same time, they cannot integrate into the host society. Tran et al. (1987) investigated social factors that caused Indochinese refugees in United States of America to fall into a state of psychological alienation, following their experience of cultural shock. These factors were developed into questions put to participants of the current research project in order to study their experiences of alienation. Box 5.3 below summarises the feelings of alienation experienced by participants in both in-depth interviews and focus group interviews. The categories are based on the social factors identified as central contributions to the experience of alienation. BOX 5-3: FACTORS PRODUCING FEELINGS ALIENATION IN PARTICIPANTS  Separation & loss Unable to bring along properties and assets from Vietnam to Australia Separation from relatives and close friends No feeling of belonging in Australia Living with the past in dreams. Not owning a home of one’s own No assets and properties in Australia to give away as inheritance to children. No jobs to earn income Poverty preventing maximum achievements.

 Lack of belongings


 Lack of (English) communication -

Distant from English speaking persons Unable to chat easily with neighbours Can’t understand information in the electronic and paper media in English Can’t read and understand public notes in the media.

  Lack of social interaction 

Australians do not encourage elderly Vietnamese immigrants to interact Vietnamese shy away from interaction due to English barriers. EVIM feel withdrawn into their own ghetto (Vietnamese group).

 Lack of participation Don’t know how to become involved in most activities. Unfamiliar traditions making elderly Vietnamese migrants embarrassed among English-speaking counterparts. - Social activities in host society not suitable to elderly Vietnamese migrants. 

 Social isolation 

Little contact with the host society due to lack of communication skills Little contact from the host society due to lack of sense of belonging No transport available at hand: hard to use public transport due to strange environment and availability of information in English Not living together with children and grandchildren as in Vietnam where three or four generations reside under one roof.

 Powerlessness - No authority over children and grandchildren in areas of + No ideas on family affairs + Marriage arrangement not carried out by parents, but by children.

 Diminished self-identity Feeling self divided into parts: one of the past, the other of present life. Can’t live as Australian citizens in Australian society Feeling always as Vietnamese, but unable to live with Vietnamese traditions No norms for conducting daily life: unable to observe Vietnamese cultural values, as not suitable in Australia. Unable to implement Australian culture, as it is strange and unknown - Feelings of nihilism.

The state of alienation experienced by EVIM increase gradually with each stage of their experience of migration and resettlement. Stage 1: leaving their homeland, they had a sense of separating from it and losing it. Stage 2: living in a strange country empty-handed, they had no feeling of belonging. Stages 3, 4, 5 and 6: unable to speak the new language, they lack social interaction and participation, and become socially isolated. Stages 7, 8: the feelings of the previous stages develop into powerlessness and diminished self-identity. 92

Feelings of Separation and Loss
Alienation arises when one experiences feelings of loss and separation. What used to be yours is lost, far away or does not exist any more. However, you still keep the lost persons and objects in mind. At the same time, you are not interested in your current life due to the loss of or separation from things belonging to you (Ngoâ 1997). EVIM encountered these feelings when they left their loved relatives and properties behind in Vietnam. Living in Australia, they feel the loss is painful. Mr. Xuyen was alone in Australia. He felt alienated and missed his relatives in Vietnam. He identified his loss as follows: … What I mean is that my mind lives with souvenirs and past events rather than in Australia. It’s because most of my extended family members, including my parents and brothers and two other sisters, are living in Vietnam; only myself and one of my sisters are living in Australia, so I don’t have a sense of belonging here, but in Vietnam. Mr. Nghiem, on the other hand, lost the atmosphere of family because his children and grandchildren did not follow the Vietnamese tradition of filial piety: living with parents, taking care of them, coming to them as advisor. On the contrary, they are living separately and only visit him occasionally. He explained the situation: … My loss results from the cultural impact. Australian schools teach them [children and grandchildren] to be independent from parents, independent in accommodation, independent in making their own decisions, and in having consultations with advisors other than family members. Ms Tinh felt a sense of loss and separation on occasions of family anniversaries organised without the presence of the close relatives still remaining in Vietnam. At that time, she was “homesick, and felt that she belonged to somewhere else, in Vietnam”. Out of 35 participants in the focus group interviews, 28 did not feel at home in Australia; 25 said they felt that they had lost their traditional role in family; 24 confirmed they didn’t have a sense of belonging here in Australia; 23 missed very much the old traditions usually implemented in Vietnam, and 15 of them shared a feeling of living in dreams of the past. Ms Lai shared this feeling: … Yes, I have had a feeling of losing my homeland, as I had to leave all my belongings, my village and familiar environments behind to come over here. Living separate from my homeland, I have missed it a lot. In the dream, I found myself being there with them: eating, chatting and working together. Those activities are in my mind all the time, especially at night during my sleep. 93

Lack of Belongings, Home Ownership and Savings
EVIM left all their properties and assets in their homeland, and arrived empty-handed in old age to live in a new and strange country. Ownership is an issue that is central in human life. The more substantial the assets are, the more powerful the owner feels. The owner regrets or misses what they had, and finds it difficult to adapt to the current empty-handed situation (Leâ, 1998, p. 27). Lack of assets may make people feel a sense of homelessness and loss.

Three IPT had this sense when they found that they did not own a home of their own and did not have enough income to enjoy life. According to Ms Tinh, life was only stable when you had your own home, but arriving in Australia, she lacked the income and savings needed to buy a home. Mr. Vuong stated that he did not have a sense of belonging and ownership when he was residing in a flat rented from the Housing Commission, and Mr. Xuyen declared that he felt that he had only a temporary home in Australia. The words of participants now follow: Ms Tinh: ‘I arrived in Australia in old age, having no income and no savings to buy a home of my own. I found I was homeless and proletariat in this strange country. I have no sense of belonging here.’

Mr. Vuong: ‘I really am alienated due to my loss of previous belongings. I am alienated due to separation from the host culture, as I have nothing to call my own in Australia.’ Mr. Xuyen: ‘I think my accommodation rented from the Housing Commission is really only a boarding house away from home. My real home is not here but in Vietnam.’ For FPT also, loss of assets was a significant disadvantage. Out of 35 FPT, 33 did not have a home of their own and resided in a rented accommodation; 27 had no assets or properties. Twenty-five had no sense of belonging and considered Australia as a ‘boarding home’; 30 wished to live in their own ‘central home’ where children and grandchildren could gather on anniversary days in order to celebrate ancestors worship together. Twenty-two regretted the lack of assets to give away as inheritance to children and grandchildren, as they would like to see some part of their lives re-incarnated in children and grandchildren. Mr. Binh articulated ed his feelings about his lack of home ownership in the following way … In regards to properties and assets, we have nothing and more nothing. We are alienated from properties and assets we had in Vietnam and now we have lost them or left them behind to come over here. There is a saying: ‘no money no talk’. We can't do anything for ourselves or anybody else, even our beloved ones, without money.


In relation to income or money earned from work, all 35 FPT declared that any pension/benefit or allowance payment was really a charity, and 14 of them felt guilty in receiving what they had not worked to obtain. However, 30 conceded that the social security payment was needed for EVIM to live on. Ms Luat expressed her sense of financial disadvantage as follows: … We had worked hard to build up our fortune to take care of the family and for retirement. Each of us could be satisfied with what we had done. However, all our possessions and benefits of the past are useless to us now, as we could not bring them along with us to Australia. We left them behind with the expectation that we should have replacements here. We can’t use our past possessions and we don’t have any replacements. Our reality is homelessness and proletarianism.

Difficulty of Communication
Lack of English proficiency is a considerable factor in the development of feelings of alienation among EVIM (see Box 5.3). According to all IPT, the language barrier prevented them from participation in such activities as attending social activities, using mainstream services, being in contact with governmental bodies or private agencies, and chatting with non-Vietnamese speaking neighbours. Under such circumstances, they feel alienated from the host society.

Mr. Nghiem reported that he could not talk to Australians or do things together with them, and that he rarely used mainstream services: … In respect of mainstream services provided to aged people, I rarely use or take part in such activities or services, due to my language. For instance, I don’t use the home help services frequently, as I prefer to wait till the weekend; my children and grandchildren come and help me. I don’t go to Community Health Centre for check ups but go and see a Vietnamese GP. Ms Tinh felt alienated from the host society due to her lack of English ability, as she felt ill at ease when using an interpreter, even sometimes when her grandchildren were interpreting for her. She pointed out: … I ask my children and grandchildren or an interpreter to help me to communicate. But I am not happy, because I have to be dependent on others in communication. I am restricted to essential issues only. They of course don’t interpret for me to chat about normal, idle things like I used to with my fellow Vietnamese. 95

Mr. Vuong described an episode when his sister’s inability in English led her to an embarrassing situation when she went on a rare outing to go shopping at a supermarket. Mr. Vuong said: … She wanted to go to the toilet, but did not know where it was. Her husband used sign language to ask a sales assistant. When they located the toilets, she could not tell which one was for females or males. On the toilet door, there was no picture but just the word “Female” or “Male”. Therefore, my sister took a guess and unfortunately, for her, she guessed the wrong one. You may guess what was happening. Mr. Xuyen felt alienated from the Vietnamese language while speaking English, as English pronunciation is quite different from Vietnamese: a letter in English may have various different pronunciations. The Vietnamese language was romanized and so more easily pronounced, and letters have the same pronunciation in all words. That is the reason Vietnamese elderly immigrants find it difficult to pronounce English. Mr. Xuyen explained that: … The “a” is pronounced differently in different English words such as “am”; “arm”; “arise”; “salient”; “small”; “team”; “van”, while the Vietnamese “a” in any word has the same pronunciation. When speaking a language other than your own, one needs to forget theirs at least at the time of speaking it, and think what to say in that language. When doing so, you are alienated from your own language. All 35 participants of focus group interviews conceded that their English command was limited; pronunciation was very hard for them in understanding people talking. This led them to face the daily difficulty of communication. Twenty-four of the participants concluded that language problems prevented them from having social interaction and from participation in the social activities of the host society. Ms Dung shared her disappointment: … I am alienated from English-speaking people, because I cannot understand English at all. Their knowledge, feelings and thought are encoded and sent to me, but I can’t receive these messages adequately or don't know how to decode and interpret those messages. I feel without hope, and totally alienated. Mr. Dau said other problems arise due to the English problem: ‘I have faced serious difficulties such as isolation from friends and neighbours, and difficulty in making new friends.’


Lack of Social Interaction and Participation
Due to their poor proficiency of English, all participants of in-depth interviews contended that EVIM rarely interact with the host society. Mr. Nghiem felt totally estranged from Australians, while Ms Tinh was withdrawn from the host society, and Mr. Vuong and Mr. Xuyen felt as if they were not controlling their lives, but were forced to be passive participants in unwanted activities. They said: Mr. Nghiem: ‘I go mute and deaf on the streets. Australian people talk, I don’t understand, as they do not speak my mother tongue. When I talk, they don’t listen to me, as I speak Vietnamese.’ Ms Tinh: ‘No Vietnamese activities are available in my area, and I am unable to take part in mainstream services. What can I do but live withdrawn in my old ghetto with only the daily boring activities of life.’ ‘It was terrible. Having a different culture and language problems make us not want to participate in Australian activities. These become strange to us. We are really alienated from them.’ ‘I feel alienated from Australia when I have to face the reality of life as a passive participant due to my disability in English, whether talking to Australians, discussing issues of practical life, working for earnings or in the activities of daily living.’

Mr. Vuong:

Mr. Xuyen:

The fact that lack of English skills results in no participation and no social interaction in the host society was admitted by a large number of FPT. Thirty-three of them stated the cause of this lack of interaction was that they do not speak English; 20 did not want to communicate or hesitated to communicate with English-speaking persons, and 13 said that they don’t have the need for communication. Ms Dan identified a reason for lack of interaction other than the language problem: knowledge and mentality different between EVIM and ESB people. She argued: … We don’t have a common language to talk to our children and grandchildren as well as the host society. The term ‘common language’ used here means we don’t have the same cultural knowledge and mentality to enable us to interact with each other… In our family, we find that there is a big difference between our generation educated under the Vietnamese culture and education system, and our children's generation educated under the Australian cultural system. They don’t know what we have learnt in Vietnam. Nor do we know what they learn at Australian schools. That is why the generations don’t have the ‘same language’ to understand each other. In regards to lack of participation, all 35 FPT stated that it is due to the language problem. Further, 16 pointed out that they felt embarrassed in communication with those who did not speak the same language as theirs; 19 felt lost among the Australian group and 9 participants described their occasional participation as passive. Ms Toi also claimed that a reason for not 97

having participation was because of both the cultural difference and the English problem. She found that: … To participate to any activities or functions of another culture, we need to have some adequate information or knowledge of them; at least we need to speak the same language as our counterparts do. In Australia, we don’t know about Australian culture or have adequate information about it, and in particular, we don’t speak English, so it’s very hard for us to participate in Australian activities.

Sense of Social Isolation
The alienated person is unfamiliar with present environments, experiencing a sense of loneliness or exclusion in social relations (Leâ 1998; Zablocki 1980). For Mr. Nghiem, there was no communication and interaction with the host society due to the language barrier, and he was very embarrassed when meeting with English-speaking people. These are his words regarding his way of dealing with social isolation: … I look for a suburb where there is a large Vietnamese presence. I feel more at ease and comfortable with my country-folks, as we are in the same boat. I now have some Vietnamese neighbours and relatives around here. I can communicate in the Vietnamese language in many Vietnamese or Chinese shops and services. This has enabled me to be less dependent on my children and grandchildren or on interpreters. I feel a little bit more at home. I can identify myself when I live among my own race. Participants of focus group interviews said they felt isolated in a number of ways. Twenty-six out of 35 participants agreed with Mr. Nghiem’s preference to live near Vietnamese people; 20 felt lost and lonely among Australians; 23 felt isolated, as they did not want contact with Australians or these rarely come over to see them; and 25 rarely talked to their neighbours. Ms Mung stated that she felt isolated even among her relatives. She said: … We feel sometimes isolated even among our family members. Our grandchildren mostly speak English at home. They very often disregard our presence beside them. They speak English to each other. We feel left out. We don’t know whether they want us to understand what was discussed between them. In reality, we don’t know what they were talking about. This happens daily at home, when they are home. We are much more isolated when my children are at work and my grandchildren at school.

State of Powerlessness
Having power, one builds up human dignity and personality, and the capacity to influence social situations (Mitchell, 1979). When arriving in Australia, elderly Vietnamese immigrants do not feel powerful any longer. Three of the IPT (Mr. Nghiem, Ms Tinh and Mr. Vuong) identified themselves as powerless when they lacked authority over their children and 98

grandchildren, and the children did not observe their filial piety. Each of them felt alienated from their children and grandchildren. Mr. Nghiem felt alienated, as he never knew what his children were planning. They did not speak to him in Vietnamese, but instead spoke English among themselves: … Something else was beyond my knowledge before arriving in Australia. What I mean here is the experience of culture shock. I discovered that my children and grandchildren did not belong to me any more. They don’t listen to me like in Vietnam. They sometimes speak English among themselves so that we don’t understand what they are talking about. We are impotent to do anything to correct them. I feel powerless in my family affairs. Ms Tinh was alienated from her children when she felt that she was treated as just another guest on the day of her children’s wedding party, as she did not play her parental role. She was angry when her children challenged the parental power: … When my children and grandchildren get married, they do not discuss the issue to get parental advice from parents. They consider us, their parents, as their wedding guests by sending an invitation card like they do to other guests. Mr. Vuong lost his last hope in his children following his arrival in Australia. His children would not be responsive to his expectations: … When the Republic of Vietnam was lost and ruled by the Communist Party, I felt as if I was losing a part of myself. Everything was gone. There was nothing that I could do. I hoped to get consolation from my children. But now I also have no authority over my children and grandchildren. I am alienated from them, as they don’t listen to me any longer. I have lost hope. In regard to feeling powerless, 33 out of 35 participants of focus group interviews felt sad at having nothing as an inheritance for their children. They said this was a form of powerlessness, as money can create some kind of power. Twenty-eight said they had lost authority over their children and grandchildren, and 22 felt that they had lost their role and power in family affairs. These feelings of powerlessness are suggested in Ms Khanh’s confirmation: … We came to Australia already aged, and we have never worked in Australia. We all rely on social security payments for accommodation and food, leaving us nothing else to save for other issues such as buying a house of our own or saving for overseas holidays. Given such a situation, we are really proletariats in the sense that we don’t work to earn any income for ourselves, and we are homeless in the sense that we have no home of our own built up from our personal income. Our ancestors said: “soáng coù caùi nhaø, thaùc coù caùi moà” (It is important to have a home when alive, and a tomb when passed away). 99

Sense of Diminished Self-Identity
Petrovic (1967) described alienation as a feeling of being internally divided into parts that are conflicting and alien to each other, and feeling strange to oneself. All four participants in the in-depth interviews noted that their sense of self-identity had been diminished due to culture shock. This resulted from their lack of participation in, interaction with, and social isolation from, the host society. Mr. Nghiem felt himself to be divided: … I felt that inside me there is someone else who is not ‘I’. It means I am divided into parts of myself: one is myself now, faithful to myself, reflecting my belief and my true knowledge; another part is not myself who lives with my past life in Vietnam, regretting what’s past. In other words, I've got two egos that create a struggle inside me, leading me into some contradictor psychological state. Ms Tinh felt without hope like in a state of nihilism, as her children, living with her before, now turned away from her: … I am nothing. I left behind all I had in Vietnam for nothing here. I am disappointed with my children and grandchildren who don’t show any concern about me, a mother sacrificing so much for them, but they don’t return what I have done. I feel as if I am not mother to my children, or grandmother to my grandchildren. Mr. Vuong wanted to turn back into himself at the status quo (time before leaving Vietnam) as he would not be a hypocrite who behaves different from what he is: … I really feel guilty about doing nothing in Australia. I would like to be myself, living my own life, enjoying my life, and not being a hypocrite by pretending to like something or enjoy it, while really I don’t. I would like to enjoy myself doing what I like. Mr. Xuyen doubted whether his self-identity was the same. He thought he had become someone else: … I am not what I used to be any more. I feel alien even to myself. I sometimes don’t know who and what I am, because I am living in a world I don’t know, and which I didn't make. All 35 participants of focus group interviews still felt themselves always to be Vietnamese, even if they had been naturalised for years, and even though they could not live with their Vietnamese culture and traditions. In addition, all 35 also claim that they did not feel as if they were themselves sometimes and that they had lost their parenthood. Seventeen of them felt as if they were someone else. Ms Chin identified the causes of her diminished selfidentity: 100

… My self-identity is diminished due to various reasons: our social and family position is not recognized here; our experience is useless here; our knowledge is not applied to anything here; our properties are not transported from Vietnam to here. We have nothing with us: no jobs, no income, no social position, and no authority in the family. Under these circumstances, we feel alienated from even our self-identity. Mr. Khung claimed that he felt two egos inside him: one living with the present environment in Australia, forcing him to deal with the current life; another ego existing in his mind, which was sometimes was stronger than the first one, mostly at night in his dreams about the past in Vietnam. His two egos sometimes struggled against each other. Each of them presented him with different ideas, leading him to be self-contradictory. He argued: … I don’t know exactly what I am. Vietnamese? I have no opportunity to practice my traditional values passed on to me from my ancestors. Australian? I can’t get used to Australian culture. I don’t know how to adapt to it, and how to put it into practice. I am alienated from both cultures. All participants had a common expectation before arriving in Australia, that Vietnamese culture and traditions should carry on among their children and grandchildren, especially the tradition of filial piety. Culture shock took place as the result of the gap between expectations and reality, and the sense of loss thus experienced by EVIM produced feelings of alienation. EVIM felt that they had few avenues through which to participate in the host society, and at the same time, there was no way for them to practice their own traditional values in Australia. Separation from the past and lack of participation in the present resulted in EVIM experiencing feelings of alienation related to social isolation, diminished power and selfidentity, lack of home ownership and financial disadvantage. Participants considered the present study to be a resource for their country fellows and the host society. They also hoped it would help both EVIM and their children and grandchildren to understand each other. Hence they were sincerely disclosing their stories and feelings, as well as suggestions and expectations. One of them said: …This is also one message and wish from the EVIM to their children and grandchildren that is, the younger generation of Vietnam-born immigrants in Australia: don’t forget your own cultural values. In the next chapter, the experiences of EVIM presented above are distilled into findings, and recommendations are suggested for the alleviation of the alienation experienced by the study participants. 101

Arriving in Australia as refugees under humanitarian programs or as migrants under the Family Reunion Program, EVIM have faced cultural shock, leading them to socio-cultural alienation. Common initial problems undergone by EVIM are: grief, guilt, anxiety, and feelings of loss, homesickness, lack of confidence and uncertainty about the future. As they are unable to change these situations, EVIM have no choice but to accept their present circumstances. They are alienated accordingly. In the light of the literature review, the conceptualization of alienation and the analysis of data in previous chapters it is possible to draw a number of conclusions about the nature and causes of this experience of alienation, and to propose strategies and recommendations to enhance the lives of EVIM.

For simplicity and clarity, feelings of alienation experienced by research participants are grouped into the following three categories of findings:

Alienation Due to the Language Barrier
 Difficulty in communication in English affects the dignity, personality and independence of EVIM, as it renders them limited in their ability to access full information on the appropriate rights and services that they are entitled to.  Difficulty in communication in English puts EVIM in a state of social isolation and lack of participation in two ways: they are unlikely to have access to mainstream services, and mainstream service providers do not contact them. They are alienated from the host society.  Language problems give EVIM little opportunity to enjoy social facilities currently available in the host society. The Vietnamese language is used only among a small ethnic group, leading them to be separate or alienated from the whole community. 102

Due to lack of Vietnamese counseling specialists, EVIM are particularly alienated, as their stress and emotions are hard to convey to English-speaking professionals using interpreters.

The language barrier leads EVIM to be dependent on the availability of others in contact with the host society, and this dependence is demeaning to EVIM due to traditional family hierarchies.

Alienation Due to Changed Family Relationships
 The conflict between the two groups (Vietnamese elderly and younger generation) is due to the fact that the older generation has not learned the same things the younger generation learns at school, and the schools now do not teach what the older generation learnt in years before, so these two generations are alienated from each other.  The EVIM feel strongly that the younger generation does not understand them. The former are put into a dilemma: the old lifestyle (with its responsibilities and privileges based on position within the family) no longer exists and the new lifestyle is unfamiliar to them, so they are not clear about where to go next. The younger generations would prefer to ignore traditional Vietnamese values and adapt to the new life.

Alienation Due to Changed Social Relationships
 There is considerable misunderstanding among EVIM regarding residential care facilities. They negatively consider Hostels / Nursing Homes as places of charity. Some think wrongly that they will be left out and neglected there, and that these institutional facilities are last resorts to use when there are no alternatives.  Many EVIM are very unhappy that when they die, their remains (bones/ashes) will not be laid beside their parents and/or ancestors, since they had had a time of living together, and now they wish to rest in peace beside each other. They fear that a proper tomb cannot be built as required by Vietnamese practices, to be their permanent home. This causes them to feel that their alienation will continue even after death.


 Neighborhood relationships, as they used to have in Vietnam, are a critical relationship of life for EVIM. In Australia, they have tried to live together in the same region or high-rise building in order to create a neighborhood of the same culture and language.

Alienation Due to Loss of Norms and Ethics

 The EVIM sometimes fall in nihilism, as they have no norms for their direction in life. The past traditional norms are not practiced in Australia, and the Australian norms are unfamiliar to them. They feel that their lives therefore are meaningless..

 A big problem arising from the daily life of EVIM is that they can not live with their past traditions in Australia, as the physical environments in Vietnam are missing, and they can not adapt to the new lifestyle under Anglo-Australian culture, as this culture belongs to other traditions unknown to them. Hence EVIM are alienated from both Vietnamese and Australian culture because there is not a spiritual and physical environment in which to practice Vietnamese traditions in Australia. At the same time they have not been prepared to adapt to Australian norms.  The Australia naming systems different from Vietnam cause misunderstandings for EVIM, as the order of Vietnamese full names is quite different from the Australian way. They may not recognise their names if written in the Australian way. When called, they may think someone else is being called. This adds to the sense of loss of identity.

RECOMMENDATIONS Supporting Those with Language Problems
 EVIM should be provided with English classes prepared and conducted by bilingual teachers. These should emphasise practical and basic skills of communication, helping EVIM to be confident in contact with English-speaking people.

English Classes provided for EVIM should be conducted separately and specifically for this age group, not mixed up with other age groups. This will not put them in an 104

embarrassing situation, but in a comfortable atmosphere, where they will feel confident. They may be at ease in English classes among their country-folks, as they all are in the same boat.  Basic TESOL (Teaching English for Students of Other Languages) program should be taught by bilingual teachers, and should be conducted separately for this target group, as they have different demands and linguistic features.  Increased allocation of bilingual welfare and community workers is needed for servicing the target group. It may be that the second-generation ethnic migrants will not need this service, as they learn to speak English fluently during their adolescence in Australian schools..  Social service information and public notes should be available in the Vietnamese language, as most EVIM cannot read, write or speak English. If this does not occur they may be in an embarrassing situation when they have to get information from younger people.  Bilingual mediators should introduce EVIM to Australian activities such as senior citizens clubs, mainstream outings, entertainments and functions.  Bilingual clubs or/and activities centres for Australian and Vietnamese elderly should be set up jointly. Such venues are bridging occasions for the elderly of two cultures to learn from, exchange feelings, each other.

Supporting the Development and Maintenance of Family and Social Relationships
REGARDING POLICY-MAKING  Politicians and policy-makers need to conduct consultations with EVIM and/or the Vietnamese Community when they wish to plan any projects and/or services for this target group. Culture-based strategies and plans are of great performance in helping EVIM enhance their quality of life at a new and strange country like Australia.


 .Residential care being provided to EVIM needs to be organised in relation to the norms of Vietnamese culture whether at home or in residential care facilities. In other words, care workers need to be aware of, and help implement, traditional habits and beliefs of care recipients  To enhance the life of EVIM, the Housing Commission should allocate them housing which enables them to reside near each other in order that they may support each other, as they speak the same language and have the same culture. They need some country-folks to share life with and to help one another to work out daily problems

REGARDING SOCIAL WELFARE  Social welfare workers should have an understanding and appreciation of the way of life and attitudinal differences of EVIM.  Counseling services should be available to EVIM to help them deal with problems such as lost relatives, low social status, lost fortune, past memories, and bad feelings about living on pensions.  An introduction to Australian culture, including essential contacts and the basics of daily communication, needs to be organised on a practical and long-term basis, giving EVIM more opportunities of understanding and integrating into Australian activities at a higher level.  A practical program of cross-cultural communication and orientation should be organised for recently arrived EVIM, ranging from housekeeping to how to introduce oneself to one’s neighbours; from shopping and banking culture, to using other public services such as public transport and phone booths; and from reading ‘how to vote’ cards to attending social activities, etc.  Prospective EVIM should be helped to become aware of the new culturally- changed life in Australia and be advised to be ready to change their lifestyle. Immigration delegations in Vietnam may implement this via conducting orientation sessions. Alternatives may be Information Brochures in Vietnamese. When informed of the different cultural values and environment between oriental and occidental societies, 106

EVIM will then be in a position to make the right decision on whether or not to emigrate from Vietnam to Australia.  EVIM should be helped to adapt traditional family roles and tie them to the new environment. Bridging opportunities should be devised so that they can leave their old habits and adapt to the new features of daily life.

 Those who help EVIM fill in any forms should be clear about the maiden names of married women being retained after marriage. In addition the order of writing names in the Australian way should be explained to EVIM, avoiding other

misunderstandings.  Social consultants should be recruited from within the Vietnamese community, as they may know both cultures and may bring out suitable ways of servicing the community of EVIM.  A common channel should be set up by Vietnamese community leaders for the generations (old and younger) to listen to each other and share their concerns about Vietnamese customs and traditional values.

 More research is needed into socio-cultural emancipation among the younger generation of Vietnam-born migrants in Australia, as this is a major factor adding to feelings of alienation among EVIM.  It needs to be determined by further research how the host society can help EVIM to integrate into Australian culture and live happily within a multicultural society.  Further investigation is needed of, was of developing practical programs for the helping EVIM to integrate into the host country.  More work is needed on addressing the dilemma of the Vietnamese middle generation who have some traditions common with their parents (EVIM), and at the same time share some new cultural norms with their children. 107

 Research is needed into factors that will bridge the gap between the first Vietnam-born generation (EVIM) and the younger generation (children and grandchildren of the first generation) as this gap leads the former to alienation due to changed family relationships. This further research may help the Vietnamese elderly build up their intergenerational relationships in a way that is compatible with a new modern life.  A study needs to be done to determine what information should be given to EVIM before they arrive in Australia in order to reduce socio-cultural shock and alienation.  EVIM beliefs. should be helped by Vietnamese community leaders to maintain their own

Old age is truly seen as a time of gradually reducing activity, of increasing ill health, and of diminishing income. Another phenomenon of age is that elderly persons eventually decrease the number and frequency of their social contacts. All aged people are facing such disadvantages because of their old age. Nevertheless, EVIM have other experiences, which make them much more disadvantaged than their Australian counterparts due to their sociocultural alienation. A significant number of elderly Vietnamese people are living in Australia both as refugees under humanitarian programs, or as migrants under the Orderly Departure Program. An exodus of Vietnamese people followed the fall of the Saigon on 30 April 1975 from their country. Common motives for leaving were: fleeing communism and concern about family reunion and children’s future. When arriving in Australia, EVIM bring along their own long-term traditions and cultural values that do not exist in Anglo-Australian culture and are not observed among Vietnamese ethnic groups, causing cultural shock. EVIM in such circumstances feel really alienated. On the one hand, having close cohesion with their own culture in the past, they unconsciously live with all their previous belongings in Vietnam: physical environments, properties and assets, beloved relatives, friends and neighbours, as well as traditional practices. On the other hand, they rarely participate actively in the new life and daily activities of the host society. 108

They have a sense of separation from what they lost, and have no social interaction with the mainstream community because of a number of factors resulting from the English language barrier and the different culture. In some cases, they feel alienated even among their family members due to intergenerational relationship problems. Most participants interviewed for this study would choose to go back to Vietnam. In their opinion, Australia is a “boarding home away from home.” The findings and recommendations of the study may contribute some useful information for those who are concerned about this ethnic group and who want to reduce their feelings of alienation and help them integrate into their second land and last home in Australia. It may also be helpful for the participants and for Vietnamese immigrants generally, helping them to identify their own circumstances, feelings and suggesting possible preventions or remedies accordingly.

Following are Appendices & References 109

Ngaøy 19 thaùng 6 naêm 2002 Kính Gôûi OÂng Vuõ Ngoïc Hoaøi, Ñaïi Dieän Coäng Ñoaøn Cao Nieân Thaùnh Toma Thieän 3 Eagle Street, Keybourough, Vic., 3174 Thöa OÂng, Toâi laø sinh vieân cuûa Ñaïi Hoïc Coâng Giaùo UÙc Chaâu, ñang nghieân cöùu veà ngöôøi cao nieân di daân Vieät Nam sinh soáng taïi UÙc. Cuoäc nghieân cöùu naøy laø moät phaàn Chöông Trình Cao Hoïc Khoa Hoïc Xaõ Hoäi cuûa toâi. Toâi laáy laøm bieát ôn neáu ñöôïc oâng chaáp thuaän cho toâi ñöôïc tieáp xuùc vôùi quí hoäi vieân ñeå môøi hoï tham gia vaøo buoåi phoûng vaán nhoùm / hoaëc caù nhaân. Cuoäc khaûo cöùu goàm vieäc phoûng vaán toaøn nhoùm chöøng 2 giôø vaø seõ dieãn ra taïi ñòa ñieåm sinh hoaït thöôøøng xuyeân cuûa quí Hoäi. Nhöõng caâu hoûi ñaët ra vôí ngöôøi tham döï nhaèm tìm hieåu caûm nghó cuûa hoï veà aûnh höôûng cuûa neàn vaên hoùa Taây Phöông khi hoï ñeán UÙc Chaâu. Tham döï vieân coù quyeàn traû lôøi hay khoâng traû lôøi caâu hoûi ñöôïc ñaët ra. Hôn nöõa tham dö vieân cuõng coù theå ruùt lui khoûi cuoäc phoûng vaán baát cöù luùc naøo. Ñeå cuoäc phoûng vaán dieãn ra toát ñeïp, xin OÂng vui long phoå bieán laù thô naøy cho quí hoäi vieân trong laàn sinh hoaït tôùi ñeå hoï bieát ñeán cuoäc khaûo cöùu. Toâi xin ñöôïc tham döï vaøo moät cuoäc hoïp ñònh kyø haøng tuaàn cuûa Quí Hoäi ñeå coù dòp caét nghóa vaø keâu goïïi quí hoäi vieân tham gia. Tröôùc khi phoûng vaán, toâi cuõng seõ yeâu caàu moãi ngöôøi kyù teân xaùc nhaän vieäc chaáp thuaän tham gia, vaø cho pheùp toâi ñöôïc thu baêng cuoäc phoûng vaán naøy. Ñoàng thôøi toâi cuõng caét nghóa veàø vieäc söû duïng caùc baêng cassette nhö theáù naøo trong tieán trình khaûo cöùu cuûa toâi, cuõng nhö quyeàn lôïi cuûa caùc tham dö vieân ñoái vôùi caùc taøi lieäu trong caùc cuoán baêng naøy. Chi tieát do caùc tham dö vieân tieát loä seõ ñöôïc giöõ baûo maät vaø ñöôïc baûo veä ñeå teân tuoåi vaø nôi choán cuûa moïi ngöôøi khoâng ai nhaän dieän ra ñöôïc trong phaàn phaân tích döõ kieân vaø baûn baùo caùo chung cuoäc cuûa döï aùn. Khi hoaøn taát cuoäc khaûo cöùu naøy, toâi seõ gôûi ñeán quí Hoäi baûn toùm löôïc keát quaû cuoäc khaûo cöùu. Keát quûa naøy cuõng coù theå ñöôïc xuaát baûn nhaèøm phuïc vuï ích chung cho coäng ñoàng. Neáu ai coù baét cöù thaéc maéc gì veà dö aùn naøy, xin lieân laïc vôùi sinh vieân khaûo cöùu laø Dominic Nguyeân hoaëc ngöôøi giaùm saùt cuoäc khaûo cöùu laø Tieán Só Klaus Serr ñieän thoaïi soá (03) 9953 3214. Trong tröôøng hôïp quí tham döï vieân coù ñieàu gì khieáu naïi hay quan taâm ñeán caùch thöùc ñoáùi söû trong cuoäc khaûo cöùu, hoaëïc nhöõng thaéc maéc naøo vò giaùm saùt hay sinh vieân khoâng giaûi ñaùp thoûa maõn ñöôïc, quí tham döï vieân coù theå lieân laïc vôùi Chuû Tòch cuûa UyÛ Ban Ñaëc Traùch veà Khaûo Cöùu Nhaân Sinh sau ñaây: Chair, HREC C/o Research Service: Australian Catholic University Locked Bag 4115 FITZROY VIC 3065 Tel: 03 9953 3157 Fax: 03 9953 3315 (ACU Heading)

Kính Chaøo OÂng, (Ñaõ kyù)
Tieán Só Klaus SERR (Giaùm Saùt)

Dominic Nguyen (Sinh Vieân)

(Vietnamese Version


June 19, 2002 To Mr. Vu Ngoc Hoai, Chairperon St John Thomas Elderly Community 223 Hutrton Road Keybourough, Vic., 3174 Dear Mr. Chair, I am a student of the Australian Catholic University, conducting a research study regarding Vietnamese elderly migrants living in Australia. This is part of my studies toward a Master of Social Science. I would appreciate if you could allow me to contact your members and invite them to participate in a focus group / an individual interview. The research will involve an approximately two-hour focus group interview, which I will conduct at your normal activity place. The interview will involve questions related to participant’s feelings on the impact of Australian culture when arriving to Australia. The interview will be taped. Participant will be free not to answer any questions raised to him / her. In addition, a participant may terminate the interview, and leave the meeting place at any time. To facilitate this, please read this letter at your next meeting of your elderly group for their information. I will attend one of their weekly group meetings to explain the research and look for interest of participants. Before the interview starts, I will ask each participant to sign a consent form to allow me to tape record the interview. I also explain what will be happening to the tapes during the course of my research. At the same time, I will discuss participant’s rights to the material on the tapes. Participant’s information is considered strictly confidential and protected by our procedures in which no real names or identifiable places may be included in data analysis and research reports. When I have finished the research, I will send to your group a summary copy of the results of the research. And this may be published for the community interest. Any questions regarding this project should be directed to Student Researcher, Mr. Dominic Nguyen or Research Supervisor, Dr Klaus Serr on (03) 9953 3214. In the event that you have any complaint or concern about the way you have been treated during the study, or if you have any query that the Investigator or Supervisor and Student Researcher has not been able to satisfy, you may contact the Chair of the Human Research Ethics Committee: Chair, HREC C/o Research Services Australian Catholic University Locked Bag 4115 FITZROY VIC 3065 Tel: 03 9953 3157 Fax: 03 9953 3315 Sincerely yours, (ACU Heading)

Dr Klaus SERR (Supervisor) Dominic Nguyen (Student) (English version)


Ngaøy 19 thaùng 6 naêm 2002 Kính Gôûi OÂng Phaïm Minh Chaâu, Ñaïi Dieän Coäng Ñoaøn Cao Nieân Thaùnh Gioan Hoan 21 Henry Street, Ringwood, Vic., 3134 Thöa OÂng, Toâi laø sinh vieân cuûa Ñaïi Hoïc Coâng Giaùo UÙc Chaâu, ñang nghieân cöùu veà ngöôøi cao nieân di daân Vieät Nam sinh soáng taïi UÙc. Cuoäc nghieân cöùu naøy laø moät phaàn Chöông Trình Cao Hoïc Khoa Hoïc Xaõ Hoäi cuûa toâi. Toâi laáy laøm bieát ôn neáu ñöôïc oâng chaáp thuaän cho toâi ñöôïc tieáp xuùc vôùi quí hoäi vieân ñeå môøi hoï tham gia vaøo buoåi phoûng vaán nhoùm / hoaëc caù nhaân. Cuoäc khaûo cöùu goàm vieäc phoûng vaán toaøn nhoùm chöøng 2 giôø vaø seõ dieãn ra taïi ñòa ñieåm sinh hoaït thöôøøng xuyeân cuûa quí Hoäi. Nhöõng caâu hoûi ñaët ra vôí ngöôøi tham döï nhaèm tìm hieåu caûm nghó cuûa hoï veà aûnh höôûng cuûa neàn vaên hoùa Taây Phöông khi hoï ñeán UÙc Chaâu. Tham döï vieân coù quyeàn traû lôøi hay khoâng traû lôøi caâu hoûi ñöôïc ñaët ra. Hôn nöõa tham dö vieân cuõng coù theå ruùt lui khoûi cuoäc phoûng vaán baát cöù luùc naøo. Ñeå cuoäc phoûng vaán dieãn ra toát ñeïp, xin OÂng vui long phoå bieá n laù thô naøy cho quí hoäi vieân trong laàn sinh hoaït tôùi ñeå hoï bieát ñeán cuoäc khaûo cöùu. Toâi xin ñöôïc tham döï vaøo moät cuoäc hoïp ñònh kyø haøng tuaàn cuûa Quí Hoäi ñeå coù dòp caét nghóa vaø keâu goïïi quí hoäi vieân tham gia. Tröôùc khi phoû ng vaán, toâi cuõng seõ yeâu caàu moãi ngöôøi kyù teân xaùc nhaän vieäc chaáp thuaän tham gia, vaø cho pheùp toâi ñöôïc thu baêng cuoäc phoûng vaán naøy. Ñoàng thôøi toâi cuõng caét nghóa veàø vieäc söû duïng caùc baêng cassette nhö theáù naøo trong tieán trình khaûo cöùu cuûa toâi, cuõng nhö quyeàn lôïi cuûa caùc tham dö vieân ñoái vôùi caùc taøi lieäu trong caùc cuoán baêng naøy. Chi tieát do caùc tham dö vieân tieát loä seõ ñöôïc giöõ baûo maät vaø ñöôïc baûo veä ñeå teân tuoåi vaø nôi choán cuûa moïi ngöôøi khoâng ai nhaän dieän ra ñöôïc trong phaàn phaân tích döõ kieân vaø baûn baùo caùo chung cuoäc cuûa döï aùn. Khi hoaøn taát cuoäc khaûo cöùu naøy, toâi seõ gôûi ñeán quí Hoäi baûn toùm löôïc keát quaû cuoäc khaûo cöùu. Keát quûa naøy cuõng coù theå ñöôïc xuaát baûn nhaèøm phuïc vuï ích chung cho coäng ñoàng. Neáu ai coù baét cöù thaéc maéc gì veà dö aùn naøy, xin lieân laïc vôùi sinh vieân khaûo cöùu laø Dominic Nguyeân hoaëc ngöôøi giaùm saùt cuoäc khaûo cöùu laø Tieán Só Klaus Serr ñieän thoaïi soá (03) 9953 3214. Trong tröôøng hôïp quí tham döï vieân coù ñieàu gì khieáu naïi hay quan taâm ñeán caùch thöùc ñoáùi söû trong cuoäc khaûo cöùu, hoaëïc nhöõng thaéc maéc naøo vò giaùm saùt hay sinh vieân khoâng giaûi ñaùp thoûa maõn ñöôïc, quí tham döï vieân coù theå lieân laïc vôùi Chuû Tòch cuûa UyÛ Ban Ñaëc Traùch veà Khaûo Cöùu Nhaân Sinh sau ñaây: Chair, HREC C/o Research Service: Australian Catholic University Locked Bag 4115 FITZROY VIC 3065
Tel: 03 9953 3157 Fax: 03 9953 3315

(ACU Heading)

Kính Chaøo OÂng,

(Ñaõ kyù)
Tieán Só Klaus SERR (Giaùm Saùt)

Dominic Nguyen (Sinh Vieân)

(Vietnamese Version) 112


June 19, 2002 To Mr. Pham Minh Chau Chairperon St John Elderly Community 21 Henry St Ringwood, Vic., 3134 Dear Mr. Chair,

(ACU Heading)

I am a student of the Australian Catholic University, conducting a research study regarding Vietnamese elderly migrants living in Australia. This is part of my studies toward a Master of Social Science. I would appreciate if you could allow me to contact your members and invite them to participate in a focus group / an individual interview. The research will involve an approximately two-hour focus group interview, which I will conduct at your normal activity place. The interview will involve questions related to participant’s feelings on the impact of Australian culture when arriving to Australia. The interview will be taped. Participant will be free not to answer any questions raised to him / her. In addition, a participant may terminate the interview, and leave the meeting place at any time. To facilitate this, please read this letter at your next meeting of your elderly group for their information. I will attend one of their weekly group meetings to explain the research and look for interest of participants. Before the interview starts, I will ask each participant to sign a consent form to allow me to tape record the interview. I also explain what will be happening to the tapes during the course of my research. At the same time, I will discuss participant’s rights to the material on the tapes. Participant’s information is considered strictly confidential and protected by our procedures in which no real names or identifiable places may be included in data analysis and research reports. When I have finished the research, I will send to your group a summary copy of the results of the research. And this may be published for the community interest. Any questions regarding this project should be directed to Student Researcher, Mr. Dominic Nguyen or Research Supervisor, Dr Klaus Serr on (03) 9953 3214. In the event that you have any complaint or concern about the way you have been treated during the study, or if you have any query that the Investigator or Supervisor and Student Researcher has not been able to satisfy, you may contact the Chair of the Human Research Ethics Committee: Chair, HREC C/o Research Services Australian Catholic University Locked Bag 4115 FITZROY VIC 3065 Tel: 03 9953 3157 Fax: 03 9953 3315 Sincerely yours,

Dr Klaus SERR (Supervisor)

Dominic Nguyen (Student) 113

(English version)

Ngaøy 19 thaùng 6 naêm 2002 Kính Gôûi Baø Tröông Kim Lang, Quyeân Hoäi Tröôûng ICERA-VIC Hoäi Cao Nieân Tî Naïn Ñoâng Döông Victoria (ICERA-VIC) Ground Floor, Suite B, 108 Elizabeth Street North Richmond, Vic., 3121 Thöa Baø Hoäi Tröôûng ICERA-VIC , Toâi laø sinh vieân cuûa Ñaïi Hoïc Coâng Giaùo Uùc Chaâu, ñang nghieân cöùu veà ngöôøi cao nieân di daân Vieät Nam sinh soáng taïi UÙc. Cuoäc nghieân cöùu naøy chieùm moät phaàn Chöông Trình Cao Hoïc Khoa Hoïc Xaõ Hoäi cuûa toâi. Toâi laáy laøm caûm kích neáu ñöôïc baø chaáp thuaän cho toâi ñöôïc tieáp xuùc vôùi quí hoäi vieân ñeå môøi hoï tham gia vaøo buoåi phoûng vaán nhoùm / hoaëc caù nhaân. Hai chi hoäi cuûa Hoäi ñaõ ñöôïc choïn löa ñeå môøi tham gia cuoäc khaûo cöùu laø: Chi Hoâi Kensington vaø Chi Hoäi Richmond. Cuoäc khaûo cöùu goàm vieäc phoûng vaán toaøn nhoùm 2 giôø seõ dieãn ra taïi ñòa dieåm sinh hoaït thöoøng xuyeân cuûa caùc Chi Hoäi treân. Nhöõng caâu hoûi ñaët ra lieân quan ñeán caûm nghó cuûa ngöôøi tham döï veà aûnh höôûng cuûa neàn vaên hoùa UÙc Chaâu khi hoï ñeán UÙc Chaâu. Tham döï vieân coù quyeàn traû lôøi hay khoâng traû lôøi nhöõng caâu hoûi ñöôïc ñaët ra. Hôn nöõa tham dö vieân coù theå ruùt khoûi cuoäc phoûng vaán vaø rôøi phoøng hoïp baát cöù luùc naøo. Ñeå cuoäc phoûng vaán dieãn ra toát ñeïp, xin baø vui loøng chuyeån laù thô naøy ñeán caùc Chi Hoäi Tröôûng ñeå hoï bieát ñeán cuoäc khaûo cöùu naøy. Toâi seõ tham döï cuoäc hoïp ñònh kyø haøng tuaàn cuûa Chi Hoäi ñeå coù dòp caét nghóa vaø keâu goïïi quí hoäi vieân tham gia. Tröôùc khi phoûng vaán, toâi cuõng seõ yeâu caàu moãi ngöôøi kyù teân chaáp thuaän tham gia vaø cho pheùp toâi ñöôïc thu baêng cuoäc phoûng vaán naøy. Ñoàng thôøi toâi cuõng caét nghóa veàø vieäc söû duïng caéc baêng cassette nhö theá naøo trong tieán trình khaûo cöùu cuûa toâi, cuõng nhö quyeàn lôïi cuûa tham dö vieân ñoái vôùi caùc döõ kieân trong caùc cuoán baêng naøy. Chi tieát ñöôïc tieát loä cuûa caùc tham dö vieân seõ ñöôïc giöõ baûo maät vaø ñöôïc baûo veä toái ña ñeå teân tuoåi vaø nôi choán khoâng theå nhaän dieän ra ñöôïc trong phaàn phaân tích döõ kieân vaø baùo caùo chung cuoäc cuûa döï aùn. Khi hoaøn taát cuoäc khaûo cöùu naøy, toâi seõ gôûi ñeán quí Hoäi baûn toùm löôïc keát quaû cuoäc khaûo cöùu. Keát quûa naøy cuõng coù theå ñöôïc xuaát baûn nhaèm phuïc vuï ích chung cho coäng ñoàng. Neáu ai coù baét cö thaéc maéc gì veà dö aùn naøy, xin lieân laïc vôùi ngöôøi giaùm saùt döï aùn laø Tieán Só Klaus Serr ñieän thoaïi soá (03) 9953 3214, sinh vieân khaûo cöùu laø Dominic Nguyen qua soá on 0403 329 824. Tröôøng hôïp quí tham döï vieân coù ñieàu khieáu naïi hay quan taâm ñeán caùch thöùc ñoái söû trong cuoäc khaûo cöùu, hoaïc vò giaùm saùt hay sinh vieân khoâng thoûa maõn ñöôïc nhöõng thaéc maéc, quí tham ñuï vieân coù theå lieân laïc vôùi Chuû Tòch cuûa UyÛ Ban Ñaëc Traùch veà Khaûo Cöùu Nhaân Baûn sau ñaây Chair, HREC C/o Research Service: Australian Catholic University Locked Bag 4115 FITZROY VIC 3065 Tel: 03 9953 3157 Fax: 03 9953 3315 Kính Chaøo Baø, (ACU Heading)

(Ñaõ kyù)

Tieán Só Klaus SERR (Giaùm Saùt)

Dominic Nguyen (Sinh Vieân)

(Vietnamese Version) 114


June 19, 2002 To Ms Truong Kim Lang, Acting President Indo-Chinese Elderly Refugees Association Victoria (ICERA-VIC) Ground Floor, Suite B, 108 Elizabeth Street North Richmond, Vic., 3121 Dear Ms President,

(ACU Heading)

I am a student of the Australian Catholic University, conducting a research study regarding Vietnamese elderly migrants living in Australia. This is part of my studies toward a Master of Social Science. I would appreciate if you could allow me to contact your members and invite them to participate in a focus group / an individual interview. Two branches of your organisation are selected and invited to participate this study: Kensington and Richmond. The research will involve an approximately two-hour focus group interview, which I will conduct in the normal activity place of the related branches. The interview will involve questions related to participant’s feelings on the impact of Australian culture when arriving to Australia. The interview will be taped. Participant will be free not to answer any questions raised to him / her. In addition, a participant may terminate the interview, and leave the meeting place at any time. To facilitate this, please pass on this letter to above named Branch leaders for their information. I will attend one of their weekly group meetings to explain the research and look for interest of participants. Before the interview starts, I will ask each participant to sign a consent form to allow me to tape record the interview. I also explain what will be happening to the tapes during the course of my research. At the same time, I will discuss participant’s rights to the material on the tapes. Participant’s information is considered strictly confidential and protected by our procedures in which no real names or identifiable places may be included in data analysis and research reports. When I have finished the research, I will send to your group a summary copy of the results of the research. And this may be published for the community interest. Any questions regarding this project should be directed to Student Researcher, Mr. Dominic Nguyen or Research Supervisor, Dr Klaus Serr on (03) 9953 3214. In the event that you have any complaint or concern about the way you have been treated during the study, or if you have any query that the Investigator or Supervisor and Student Researcher has not been able to satisfy, you may contact the Chair of the Human Research Ethics Committee: Chair, HREC C/o Research Services Australian Catholic University Locked Bag 4115 FITZROY VIC 3065 Tel: 03 9953 3157 Fax: 03 9953 3315

Sincerely yours, (Signed)
Dr Klaus SERR (Supervisor)

Dominic Nguyen (Student) 115

(English Version)


Ñaïi Hoïc Coâng Giaùo UÙc Chaâu
Giaáy Chaáùp Thuaän





Toâi teân laø .................................................. ñaõ ñoïc (hoaëc ñaõ nghe ñoïc cho toâi )vaø hieûu nhöõng chi tieát ñöôïc cung caáp trong laù thô gôûi cho caùc tham dö vieân. Moïi caâu hoûi cuûa toâi ñaõ ñöôïc traû lôøi thoûa ñaùng. Toâi ñoàng yù tham gia vaøo sinh hoaït naøy, vôùi yù thöùc raèng toâi coù theå ruùt lui khoûi sinh hoaït naøy baát cöù luùc naøo toâi muoán. Toâi cuõng ñoàng yù nhöõng döõ kieän thu thaäp chung trong cuoäc khaûo cöùu naøy coù theå ñöôïc phaùt haønh hoaëc cung caáp cho nhöõng ngöôøi khaûo cöùu khaùc trong hình thöùc maø khoâng ai coù theå nhaän ra laø cuûa toâi döôùi baát cöù hình thöùc naøo TEÂN NGÖÔØI THAM DÖÏ:

(XIN VIEÁT CHÖÕ HOA) NGAØY.........……….............................

CHÖÕ KYÙ ....................................………………………..............

CHÖÕ KYÙ NGÖÔØI KHAÛO CÖÙU CHÍNH HOAËC NGÖÔØI GIAÙM SAÙT: .................................................................... NGAØY.........………...........................

[vaø neáu thích hôïp]

CHÖÕ KYÙ NGÖÔØI KHAÛO CÖÙU: ...................................................................................................................................................... NGAØY.........………...........................


Australian Catholic University





I ................................................... (the participant) have read (or, where appropriate, have had read to me) and understood the information provided in the Letter to Participants. Any questions I have asked have been answered to my satisfaction. I agree to participate in this activity, realising that I can withdraw at any time (or stipulate the deadline by when the participant may withdraw). I agree that research data collected for the study may be published or may be provided to other researchers in a form that does not identify me in any way. NAME OF PARTICIPANT: .................................................................................................... (block letters) SIGNATURE ........................................................ DATE .......................................

SIGNATURE OF PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR or SUPERVISOR: .......................................... DATE…………………………… [and, if applicable] SIGNATURE OF STUDENT RESEARCHER: .......................................................................... DATE:...................................… (English)


Table 1 - In-depth interview data analysis
PRESENTING ISSUE MOTIVES FOR LEAVING VIETNAM Fleeing Communism Victim of Communism No human rights No freedom Re-education Hardship Fear of Communism Loss of everything Religion Having no say openly Government not telling the truth Revenge Capitalism better than Communism Family reunion No good future for children Bad experience of Communism Choosing Australia for settlement EXPECTATIONS Joining family Fighting for Vietnam Being cared by children and grandchildren Running business Good future for children Maintaining culture by children For freedom Getting good jobs SATISFACTION IN AUSTRALIA Australia has freedom Good Welfare Homesick Far away from ancestor’s tomb Joking family Australia good asylum Dissatisfaction re children and grandchildren Unhappy as not resident with children Unhappy as children not well educated Unable to speak English Obtaining jobs No choice but accept Not traditional norm observed


(1) Nghiem X X X X X X X X X X X X X

(2) Tinh X X

(3) Vuong X X X

(4) Xuyen X

X X X X X X X X X Tinh Vuong X X X

Nghiem X X


X X X X X Nghiem X X X X Tinh Vuong X

X X Xuyen

X X X X X X X X X (page 2)

In-depth interview data analysis

Here not home Far away ancestors tomb Missing home land Extended Family Life Using Vietnamese services Not traditional norm observed Family spirit Vietnamese culture to be maintained English barrier to mainstream service PERCEPTION OF AUSTRALIAN CULTURE Australia providing freedom & Human rights HACC good but English barrier to access New life new culture, good but not use, English barriers to access / participate into new life Less contribution so guilty taking benefits Dissatisfaction re free marriage Clubs good but English barrier
Unfamiliarised with Australian but Vietnamese culture 2nd generation will be ok with Australian culture

(1) Nghiem X X

(2) Tinh

(3) Vuong

(4) Xuyen



X X X X Nghiem X Tinh X X X X X X X X X Nghiem X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X (page 3) Tinh Vuong Xuyen Vuong Xuyen X

Australian Food not suitable to Vietnamese PARTICIPANTS ALIENATEDIN AUSTRALIA

a) Feeling of loss and separation
No authority on children Missing old culture as used No feeling of belonging here No feeling home in Australia Living in dreams with the past

b) Inability of English Command
Dependent on other in communication Not happy in speaking English Alienated from Australian, as no communication Trouble due to no English communication No participation due to no English skill English pron unction difficult Alienated from mother tongue

c) Lack of social interaction
Withdrawn due to no English skills

d) Lack of participation to Host Society
2nd generation will have it as fluent in English Alienated as going mute deaf No contribution to difficult in participation No participation due to English skills Alienated as passive participation

In-depth interview data analysis


1 Nghiem

2 Tinh X

3 Vuong

4 Xuyen

e) Sense of homeless and proletariat
No home in Australia no sense of belonging Pension good enough to elderly Vietnamese Pension is charity, feeling guilty. No ownership, proletariat Home away from home

X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X Nghiem X X Tinh Vuong X X Nghiem X X X X X X Tinh X Vuong X X X


f) Sense of social isolation
Loneliness among English-speaking people No communication with neighbours Only at ease being with country fellows

g) Status of powerless
Culture shock: no power on children Children marriage not advised by parents Ancestors worship not maintained Children and grandchildren not listening No choice but living alone No power as having nothing to give away Losing nation losing part of self

h) Sense of diminished self-identity
Feeling self as someone else ID not Australian but still Vietnamese Losing sense of parenthood Don’t feel to be self Not to be self anymore

Mainstream services more enough Difficult to access due to English communication Want know how to use Can’t use Vietnamese services, as far from home

X Xuyen

Enough finance Family authority Maintaining Vietnamese culture Young persons respect parents grandparents Transition period between cultures Vietnamese workers to enhance communication Special English class for Vietnamese elderly Orientation to second generation re both cultures “Aging in place” for Vietnamese elderly Governments consult with Vietnamese elderly Vietnamese Community do it with Governments Maintaining Vietnamese culture by younger persons Bilingual teachers Two generation listen and understand each other Won’t go back to Vietnam as nobody taking care of








Focus group interview data analysis

Group Group Group Group Total A B C D No. of participants 9 8 8 10 35 Communism victim 6 5 7 5 23 Motives Fleeing Communism 4 7 3 4 18 for leaving Capitalism is better 2 1 0 2 5 Vietnam Family re-union 5 4 2 7 18 Don't like Communism 9 8 8 10 35 Children's future 2 4 3 6 15 5 4 5 6 20 Expectation Joining family members Fighting for Vietnam 1 0 2 0 3 before Care about children 5 6 5 8 24 arriving to For freedom 3 2 6 4 15 Australia Having good jobs 0 1 0 1 2 8 8 7 9 32 Satisfaction Enjoying freedom Good welfare system 9 8 8 10 35 in Good asylum 3 5 2 7 17 Australia Good jobs 1 0 2 0 3 non Homesickness 8 6 7 8 29 satisfaction Not living with children 7 8 6 9 30 Not happy of children 4 7 4 6 21 Unable speaking English 9 8 7 8 32 Traditions neglected 7 6 5 9 27 9 8 8 9 34 Valuation Family spirit 9 8 8 10 35 of Respect to elder persons 6 5 3 7 21 Vietnamese Extended family 9 8 8 9 34 Culture Filial piety Marriage arrangements 5 3 6 6 20 Vietnamese neighbours 7 5 7 8 27 Traditions be observed 8 5 7 6 26 negative Missing homeland 9 8 8 10 35 points Children not observing traditions 5 5 4 7 21 Ancestors tomb far away 2 1 0 3 6 Having freedom & H rights 9 8 8 10 35 Valuation 4 7 5 5 21 of HACC services - good 6 6 4 7 23 Australian Good Care about elderly people 2 5 3 2 12 culture Second generation will be OK Welfare system - good 9 8 8 10 35 negative English barriers 9 8 8 10 35 points Marriage self-arrangement 8 6 7 9 30 Easy to leaving home 4 8 3 7 22 Food not suitable 6 3 1 2 12 Strange culture 8 7 4 6 25


Focus group interview data analysis

(page 2)



Alienated in Australia Loss & No authority on children separation Missing old culture ever used No feeling of belonging No feeling home in Australia Living with dreams in the past English Dependent on others Inability Not happy in speak English Restricted communication Trouble in daily life No participation Difficult pronunciation Restricted social interaction No social due to No English skills Interaction No communication No need No Passive participant participation English Inability Embarrassing in contact Feeling lost Feeling No owning home homeless No sense of belonging and Pension enough to surviving Proletariat No home for an extended family No heredity to next generation Living on charity (pension) Feeling guilty on pension No ownership of properties Boarding home away from home Sense of Lonely among Australians social No contact with Australians isolation Few people coming over Little communication with neighbours Country fellows far away Feeling No longer authority on children powerless No role on family affairs Not listened by children Having to live alone Losing part of self b/c lost nation No heritage to give away

Group Group Group Group Total A B C D Number of Participants 9 8 8 10 35 7 8 6 7 3 8 7 9 5 6 9 8 9 6 3 3 9 6 3 9 6 7 9 7 9 2 6 7 5 6 7 5 8 7 5 3 6 8 9 6 6 3 8 4 7 8 8 3 7 8 6 8 5 5 1 8 4 2 8 3 8 6 2 8 1 7 8 7 7 8 7 6 6 4 2 6 7 7 5 4 7 6 2 7 6 8 4 5 8 7 8 4 3 3 8 4 5 8 7 6 3 5 8 4 8 3 5 2 3 7 5 7 6 6 5 6 8 7 5 8 7 6 5 8 10 5 6 10 3 8 5 2 2 10 2 9 8 9 9 5 8 10 7 6 7 3 8 5 6 7 8 7 5 4 8 9 25 23 24 28 15 27 29 35 17 24 35 24 33 20 13 9 35 16 19 33 25 30 23 22 35 14 27 25 20 23 23 25 26 28 22 16 21 29 33


Focus group interview data analysis
Group A 9 3 9 5 2 9 5 7 9 9 9 4 8 9 9 7 9 4 3 6 2 3 9 9 Grou pB 8 5 8 6 1 8 4 4 8 8 8 2 5 6 8 6 8 5 1 7 1 2 8 8 Group C 8 3 8 4 4 8 2 6 8 8 8 5 4 7 8 5 8 3 2 3 3 2 8 8

(page 3)



Group D 10 6 10 7 3 8 6 8 10 10 8 6 6 10 10 8 10 6 4 2 1 4 10 10

Number of Participants Sense of Feeling self as someone else diminished Identified self always self-identity Vietnamese Losing parenthood No feeling be self sometimes Support Pension enough to live on needs met Mainstreams services good Good Care about the aged Senior Citizens Week Mainstream services - good Support Language barrier to access needs services not met More oriented to use services Services are not handy to access Ethnic services far away Wish and Having finance enough for life suggestions Maintaining family authority Maintaining Viet traditions Transition of cultures Aus +Viet
Special English class to Viet aged

Tota l 35 17 35 35 35 33 17 25 35 35 33 17 23 32 35 26 35 18 10 18 7 11 35 35

Youth orientation re both culture Ageing in place for Viet aged Consulted by Governments Bilingual workers Concerned by Viet groups


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