Technologies of Sovereignty 4c - From the Kein Giang


From the Kein Giang to the present

In this illustration a black boat drifts across grey waters as rain pours from heavy, dark clouds above and lightning flickers across the sky.

[imagecaption] Screenshot from ‘The Boat‘ webcomic, SBS, 2015. Artist: Matt Huynh. [/imagecaption]

‘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.’ 

Lam Binh


Since the first group of people seeking asylum arrived by boat from Vietnam aboard the Kein Giang (KG 4435) on 26 April 1976, white panic has steadily increased. Carrying only five people – Lam Binh, his brother Lam Tac Tam and three friends – the boat ended up in Darwin Harbour in the ocean territories of the Larrakia people, despite little navigational experience or knowledge of Australia. Over the next five years, 2059 others arrived from Vietnam in similar circumstances and thousands more were resettled from refugee camps in neighbouring countries. 

The Kein Giang arrived in the years following the formal end of the White Australia policy. As Tuong Quang Luu notes, however: The White Australia Policy had been abolished. [But] The public opinion had not been turned around’. Opinion polls from the time indicate that generally people opposed allowing those who had arrived without authorisation to resettle in Australia. Yet strong political leadership by the two main parties managed to carry the day in allowing for the settlement of a modes number of refugees from Vietnam, around 60,000 people by 1982. 

In political and media discourse, a now familiar rhetoric began to emerge that was designed to undermine their asylum claims. Discussions of ‘genuine refugees’, ‘economic migrants’ and the need to enforce immigration laws created a divide between deserving and undeserving refugees, one which continues today. (Stevens, 2012).  



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