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Frying pan brought to Australia by Tuyet Lu on TU DO

Date: c 1970s
Overall: 40 x 355 x 210 mm, 0.24 kg
Medium: Metal, plastic
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Tuyet Lu
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Frying pan
Object No: 00040052

User Terms

    This frying pan was brought to Australia by Tuyet Lu on the Vietnamese refugee boat TU DO in 1977. Compared to other refugee boats, TU DO was well-prepared. TU DO's builder and navigator Tan Thanh Lu had stocked provisions to last five months, including rice, noodles, coconuts and tinned and dried fish. Tuyet used the frying pan to cook eggs during the voyage on TU DO, and later to prepare family meals at Wacol Migrant Hostel in Brisbane.
    SignificanceTuyet Le's 'favourite fry pan' was one of the few personal possessions she brought to Australia from Vietnam. With limited space onboard TU DO, passengers could only pack the most utilitarian items. The frying pan hints at the importance Tuyet invested in her role as a mother and homemaker both onboard TU DO and later in Australia, when she used the frying pan to secretly prepare Vietnamese food as an alternative to the unpalatable hostel food at Wacol.
    HistoryThe Vietnam War ended on 30 April 1975 with the fall of Saigon to Communist forces and the reunification of North and South Vietnam. In the late 1970s thousands of Vietnamese fled the new Communist regime, escaping the country in small boats to places such as the USA, Canada and Australia.

    The first Vietnamese 'boat people' arrived in Darwin in 1976. By the end of 1979, 2,011 people had undertaken the perilous sea voyage from Vietnam to Australia. Many more died trying.

    The first wave of boat people arrived at a time of dramatic social upheaval in Australia, with spirited debate about our involvement in the Vietnam War, the new concept of multiculturalism, the breaking of many of Australia's traditional ties to Britain and the forging of new links with Asia. Despite some opposition from the wider community, the relaxation of immigration restrictions meant that most were allowed to stay.

    Store owner Tan Thanh Lu had fought with the South Vietnamese during the war and believed his family faced a bleak future under the new Communist regime. In 1975, he pooled resources with several friends from the island of Phu Quoc and built a boat - TU DO [Freedom]. To divert suspicion TU DO was constructed as a dragnet fishing boat typical of the region and plied its trade in the island's waters.

    Prior to departure in September 1977, Tan staged an engine breakdown to relax surveillance on the vessel. A powerful replacement engine was installed and the group of 39 passengers, including Tan's pregnant wife Tuyet and three children Dzung (6), Dao (4) and Mo (2) struggled across the tidal mud flats to the waiting boat. Tuyet had crushed sleeping pills into her children's food to quieten them and disaster almost struck when several hours out to sea, they realised Dzung had been left behind. Despite quarrels with his panicked passengers, Tan returned to find her, crying and mosquito bitten in the mangroves.

    TU DO outpaced pirates in the Gulf of Thailand and docked in Mersing, Malaysia where eight exhausted passengers disembarked. Tan had relatives in the United States, but after a month of unsuccessful approaches to US immigration, Tan opted to shift course to Australia. TU DO restocked with supplies in Jakarta and rescued another Vietnamese vessel near Flores. On 21 November 1977, TU DO finally made landfall in Darwin. Tan and his crew had navigated more than 6,000 kilometres using a map torn from the lid of a school desk and a simple compass.

    From Darwin, the Lus were transferred to Wacol Migrant Hostel in Brisbane. They were granted asylum after six months.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Frying pan used by Tuyet Lu for cooking eggs on her voyage on "Tu Do"

    Web title: Frying pan brought to Australia by Tuyet Lu on TU DO

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