Australia in the 1980s

Growth of the Vietnamese community

The year 1975 saw the fall of Saigon and victory to the North Vietnamese. Many thousands of South Vietnamese fled from the Vietcong communist government as refugees. From 1976, after arriving in small crowded vessels at Darwin, these refugees became known as 'boat people'.

The Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser initiated a refugee program to speedily process and accept them, as Australia felt an obligation to assist with their resettlement. These people became the first large Asian community in Australia since the Chinese immigrants of the mid- to late 19th century.

In 1971, there were only 717 people in Australia of Vietnamese descent. By 1981, this had risen to 52,299 people, and by 1991 to 124,800.

Vietnamese-owned shops

A snapshot of 1988

  • January
    • The first Aboriginal television station, Imparja, began transmission in Alice Springs.
    • Australia's Bicentennial celebrations began and the First Fleet re-enactment vessels arrived at Botany Bay.
    • The new Parliament House on Capital Hill in Canberra was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

  • June
    • Kay Cottee became the first woman to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world.
    • The $2 coin went into circulation replacing the old $2 note.


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