My family resettled in Canberra in November 1990 under the sponsorship of our daughter hiMe, who worked at the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
I was 57 years old then. I needed a job to support my family. I was a graduate Electronics Communications Engineer at the US Army Signal School, so I applied with Telstra.
Telstra accepted my application but I didn’t hear from them for a long time.
I then decided to study for an Australian qualification.
I used to be a night-time high school English and Math teacher in Vietnam in my second job. Therefore I gained high marks from the oral and written admission tests for the University of Canberra, but my age was a barrier to university entrance.
I then applied to the Canberra Institute of Technology and was offered two courses: Computing and Library.
Had I chosen the Computing course, I’d need one preparation year plus two regular years. I only needed two years for the Library course. I preferred Computing but decided to do the Library course so I could support my family sooner.
It was two hard-working years: late nights and no TV. Term holidays were spent doing assignments or research. The final semester, I took nine subjects so I could graduate right after two years.
Finally I graduated and immediately applied for a job at the National Library. Two hundred applications for five places, fifty applicants to be interviewed and I was one of five selected.
At 60, I was proud of myself!
As part of orientation, on the first day at the National Library, our group was guided by a senior staff member to visit all sections. On the first floor, we were told by the Guide Staff that most of us would work there. She called it the most important division of the Library, the ‘behind the scenes’, where we receive new books, magazines, newspapers and our jobs were processing, cataloging, paying invoices.
Everything was completely new and strange to me, from the main reading room to the stacks, from the maps to the microfilms.
In 1975, at Headquarters in Saigon, I was in charge of complex signal operations. Ten years in jail and two decades later, I was a librarian, panicked on the first day at the sight of bundles of items on the long tables as well as a mountain of boxes in the corner, all ready for staff’s daily work.
I was assigned to catalogue the old French books because I speak, write and read French fluently. Later, I was rotated to different areas such as ‘Processing’ coming items, and ‘Acquisition’ of new items, to gain different experiences.
I worked in the Library for thirteen years. I could’ve stayed longer but decided to retire at the age of 73.
Many thanks to Australia which gave me everything I lost in Vietnam: Freedom, Dignity, Safety and the Right to Work …
A Lieutenant Colonel
In charge of engineering telecommunication systems
For the Republic of Vietnam armed forces.
As a Librarian
Working in Overseas Serials Collection
Including acquisition, cataloguing, processing.