In 1990, my six-person family emigrated and resettled in Canberra. We had to donate our highly valued house (worth an estimated $900,000 AUD now) in Vietnam, in exchange for our passports.
It’s an important Asian tradition to own, says the proverb, “A house to live and a grave to die.”
Arriving in Australia with our bare hands, I decided to go back to study at the age of 57. After two hard-studying years in Library Studies at CIT, I graduated with an Associated Diploma and worked at the National Library of Australia with an ASO2 salary.
For three years, we rented a four-bedroom house to accommodate seven adults. I dreamed of my own house.
A wonder came to materialise my dream. A financial agreement between the ACT Government and the Commonwealth Bank allowed the low-income families who wanted to buy houses to sign home loan contracts with the Housing Office.
Before making an appointment with the Housing Office, I visited several houses open for inspection to get some market-price ideas.
At the appointment, the officer advised me that with my salary he could support my home loan for a three-bedroom house, but I needed a four-bedroom one.
I went home disappointed. A few days later, the officer rang to tell me about an initiative that meant I could co-own the house with my children, and their Austudy benefits be added in as applicants’ income.
I was so grateful for the kind action of the housing officer!
With money saved in Vietnam and Australia, we made a deposit on a four-bedroom house which was just half-built, and we moved into it in October 1993, one month later.
I used all my available time after work to landscape my front and back gardens, paving the driveways, planting trees, building gate posts. This helped me save a lot of money.
In order to pay off the loan quicker, I registered for overtime work at my office whenever it was needed, 5pm-9pm weeknights or full-Saturdays or half-Sundays, in the National Library Main Reading Room to help readers, or at the Stacks to retrieve books.
One month before I reached retirement age of 65 in 1998, Prime Minister John Howard promulgated a new law allowing retirement-age public servants to stay working longer on the condition that the workplace accepted them.
I was approved to work for as long as I wanted. Moreover, one article in the new law stated that a Pension Bonus Scheme would be offered to anyone working after retirement age for five consecutive years.
In 2006, after thirteen years working as an Australian public servant, I retired at the age of 73. With a part of my Superannuation and my Pension Bonus Scheme money, I paid off my mortgage after just thirteen years of a 23 year home loan contract.
Many thanks to Australia and to the ACT Government.
I cried while smiling when I emigrated
Leaving my old beloved house full of family history.
Now I tearfully smile at my works that are carefully crafted
Around the new house I own with my family.