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Vietnamese refugee boat TU DO

Date: 1975
Dimensions:
Overall: 18000 x 4500 x 1260 mm
Vessel Dimensions: 18.25 m × 4.5 m × 1.26 m, 23 tonnes (59.88 ft × 14.76 ft × 4.13 ft, 22.63 tons)
Medium: Wood, metal, paint
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Object Name: Vessel
Object No: 00009427
Place Manufactured:Viet Nam
Related Place:Viet Nam,

User Terms

    Description
    TU DO [Freedom] is a Vietnamese refugee boat built in 1975 by businessman Tan Thanh Lu, specifically to escape Communist Vietnam following the fall of Saigon. It was built to the design of a traditional dragnet fishing boat typical of the Phu Quoc Island region in South Vietnam. TU DO is a flush decked timber vessel with a raked stem and counter stern, with mainmast forward, wheelhouse aft and cabin.

    SignificanceTU DO is typical of the craft used in the Phu Quoc Island region in the 1970s and its building techniques demonstrate the partial transition between ethnic Vietnamese 'cottage' boatbuilding traditions and the appropriation of Western design and construction. While TU DO was built to the design of a regional fishing boat from southwestern Vietnam, its fit out and external configuration clearly earmark it as an escape vessel. TU DO can be used to explore the experiences of people who have taken great risks to escape oppression, in particular those who embarked on perilous sea voyages as boat people in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. TU DO represents a particularly Australian perspective on the global story of displaced people, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers - a story that continues to capture international attention today.
    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: TU DO

    Web title: Vietnamese refugee boat TU DO

    Assigned title: Vietnamesisches Flüchtlingsboot TU DO

    Assigned title: Vietnamese vluchtelingen boot TU DO

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