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7 June 2010 ·

Journey to Freedom

Saturday was the official opening of the “Journey to Freedom” Exhibition, celebrating 35 years of Vietnamese immigration to Australia. I was honoured to be invited and very touched to see my Across the Dark Sea, beautifully illustrated by Donna Rawlins, exhibited with the first person memoirs, artifacts from the refugee camps, and wonderful photos.

Although I heard and read many stories while writing the book, hearing the speeches of the people who had endured the trip as children or young teenagers, and watching a PBS documentary, was still harrowing. And of course that’s the point of exhibitions like this: to keep history fresh, so that we can not only commemorate the trauma of the boat people’s experience, the tragedy of the more than 2000 deaths on route, but also celebrate the courage that brought them here, and the determination that has led them to fit in and contribute to their new country.

The exhibition is at the Springvale & District Heritage Centre, 7 Hillcrest Grove, Springvale, VIC 3171,
and is open Thursdays to Sunday, 12:00 to 5:000, till 27th June.

(And afterwards you can go shopping at the wonderful Vietnamese shopping centre, with more fresh & live seafood than I’ve ever seen in one place, cheerful spruikers, and vegetables I don’t know the name of but was given instructions on how to cook by a fellow shopper.)

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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio