Seeking survival: lessons from history on the Cultural Day to Cabramatta

I found the GLP Cultural Day Series to Cabramatta last Session insightful and it inspired me to write a poem on the importance of learning from history. I was particularly interested in the history of Cabramatta, including the history of South East Asian migration from countries like Vietnam and China, and how Cabramatta has changed from a drug, gang and crime driven suburb into the thriving multicultural centre it is today. In addition, it was a great opportunity to meet fellow GLP students and make new friends.

The highlight of the day for me was the personal account of Jenny Tiew’s incredible journey against all odds from Cambodia to Australia, following Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge Communist regime from 1975 to 1979. Jenny emphasised that education and knowledge of the English language were key to her survival and success. I believe, it was through her honesty and determination that she became a successful entrepreneur, founding and running two businesses, one of which was a cosmetics and beautician store.


Jenny Tiew sharing her story with GLP students on the Cultural Day to Cabramatta. Jenny’s story is one of many important and highly relevant historical insights on the Cultural Day to Cabramatta.

Seeking Survival

Pol Pot,
Was no leader,
He committed genocide,
As a communist preacher.

Try imagining a life,
Where you ran from your own home,
Trying to find some place safe,
When no hope was shown.

Holding your baby,
Close to your heart,
Hoping to God,
That you don’t split apart.

Torturous killings
Inhumane treatment,
Never did we,
Sign up to this agreement.

Looking all around,
Seeing dead people on the streets,
Tell me how would you feel,
If a bomb landed near your feet?

Corrupt governments,
Caused civilians to lose hope,
Trying to protect their families,
Forced them to elope.

I was among thousands,
Who took on the dangerous trip,
There was hardly any food,
Or water to sip.

“Boat people”,
It’s what they call us,
But they don’t understand,
That the trip was a must.

We had no other way,
Of reaching safety,
Yet people are looking,
Down on us lately.

We’re just human beings,
We’re not bad people,
We don’t mean any harm,
Or to cause trouble.

All we really want,
Is harmony and peace,
Could you let me know,
When we’ll be released?

That society was for no man,
And now we’ve ended up here,
Some call it a foreign country,
But others say we need no longer fear.


Pai Lau Gate, Freedom Plaza, Cabramatta

Written by Vivian Yemenian, GLPer and third year Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Arts student. 

The Cultural Day Series is an opportunity to develop your communication and leadership skills in Sydney’s multicultural hubs through briefings with local organisations and residents, a walking tour and a “Scavenger hunt” with other GLP delegates. The GLP runs two Cultural Days a Session. Applications for the Cultural Day to Cabramatta are currently open – keep an eye out on our Facebook group and your student email for more information. 


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