A Vietnamese boat in Darwin Harbour? They were a familiar sight 40 years ago. Refugee boats from war-torn Vietnam began arriving in Darwin from April 1976. When immigration officials came aboard the first vessel, marked "Kien Giang”, the 20-year-old captain simply said, "Welcome on my boat. My name is Lam Binh and these are my friends from South Vietnam and we would like permission to stay in Australia." Binh, who had travelled with his younger brother and friends, had little sailing experience, navigating with a page torn from a school atlas. It only extended as far as Timor and he sailed the remaining distance by dead reckoning. After Binh there were many others who undertook this journey, on vessels such as this one, pictured in 1977. Darwin locals have been sharing their recollections this week on Facebook for World Refugee Day, helping to track some of the refugees who made that dangerous trip.

Published: 25 June 2017


Image: Library & Archives NT. Vietnamese refugee boat, 1977, PictureNT, Northern Territory Government Photographer Collection, PH0107/0097

Forgotten Territory was a weekly photo column of historic images in the Northern Territory News which I curated from 2016 until 2019 supported by the collections of the Northern Territory Library and other cultural institutions around Australia, as well as local history Facebook groups. 

Click on the images to read the story behind the image.

Warning: May contain images of people who have died.

caddie brain 2021

These works were made on Arrernte, Larrakia, Gaddigal and Lenape land that was never ceded