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Dark brown wooden chopstick

Date: 1970s - 1990s
Dimensions:
Overall: 251 x 7 mm, 5 mm, 0.007 kg
Medium: Wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Chopstick
Object No: 00031212
Place Manufactured:Viet Nam

User Terms

    Description
    This chopstick is similar to one brought to Australia on the Vietnamese refugee boat TU DO in 1977. It is part of a collection of replica items that were purchased in Vietnam in 1998 with the help of TU DO's builder and navigator Tan Thanh Lu and his friend Hung Nguyen.
    SignificanceThe chopstick is a representative example of equipment taken onboard TU DO for the perilous voyage from Vietnam to Australia 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.
    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 keep them quiet 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 Lu's were transferred to Wacol Migrant Hostel in Brisbane. They were granted asylum after six months.

    The Australian National Maritime Museum acquired TU DO in 1990. Working from a passenger list compiled by customs officials, the museum used the Vietnamese media to locate Tan Lu and his family in Lismore, NSW. In 1995 the museum flew Tan and his son Mo to Sydney to inspect TU DO, advise on its configuration (which had changed little since the boat arrived), and piece together TU DO’s remarkable story. In 1998 museum staff travelled to Vietnam with Tan to locate and purchase replicas of bedding, crockery, toys, life jackets, food and clothing taken on TU DO in 1977.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Dark brown wooden chopstick

    Primary title: Dark brown wooden chopsticks for use on board TU DO

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