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Tu Do – Vietnamese Refugee Boat

Australian National Maritime Museum - Joy of Museums - Tu Do - Vietnamese Refugee Boat

Tu Do – Vietnamese Refugee Boat

The Tu Do is a wooden fishing boat which was made in Vietnam in 1976, and it is historic because it was used as a Vietnamese Refugee Boat for a daring escape from Vietnam to Australia. Tu Do means “Freedom”, and in 1977, a group of 39 passengers made the dangerous journey from Vietnam to Darwin, navigated more than 6,000 kilometres using a map from a school atlas and a simple compass.

The passengers who made this voyage were called Vietnamese boat people. The term refers to refugees who fled Vietnam by boat and ship after the Vietnam War, especially during the late 1970s. The combination of economic sanctions, the destruction of the Vietnam War, Vietnamese government policies, and further conflicts with neighbouring countries caused an international humanitarian crisis.

35 Vietnamese boat people

Vietnamese refugees await rescue from their fishing boat

The number of boat people who successfully left Vietnam and arrived safely in another country totalled almost 800,000. Many of the refugees failed to survive the passage, facing danger and hardship from pirates, overcrowded boats, and storms. The boat people’s first destinations were the Southeast Asian countries of Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. A few Vietnamese Refugee Boats made it all the way to Australia and Tu Do was one of the early arrivals. Vietnamese Australians who arrived in Australia as refugees have gone on to make significant contributions to the cultural and economic success of Australia.

Tu Do – Vietnamese Refugee Boat

  • Exhibit:                     Tu Do – Vietnamese Refugee Boat
  • Date:                          1976
  • Origin:                       Vietnam
  • Length:                     18.25 m overall
  • Breadth:                    5.2 m
  • Draught:                   1.8 m
  • Displacement:         35.6 tonnes
  • Engine:                      3-cylinder Jinil diesel 33.56 kW
  • Museum:                   Australian National Maritime Museum

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“Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.”
– Omar N. Bradley

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Photo Credit: 1) GM 2) By Lt. Carl R. Begy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons