Boat people say ‘thanks, Australia’

• Carol Lowry’s sculpture thanking Australia for welcoming Vietnamese boat people near the corner of William and Brisbane Street. Photos by Jeremy Dixon

• Carol Lowry’s sculpture thanking Australia for welcoming Vietnamese boat people near the corner of William and Brisbane Street. Photos by Jeremy Dixon

The Vietnamese boat people monument of gratitude was opened Sunday at Wade Street Reserve in Perth.

The tale of the work’s progress is eerily similar to that faced by today’s asylum seekers: Its first two attempts to land, at Weld Square and then Robertson Park, were both rejected before Wade Street Reserve was finally deemed acceptable. It’s been a five-year journey for the sculpture, paid for by the Vietnamese community (with Vincent council contributing by sprucing up its new park home).

Australia’s Vietnamese community president Anh Nguyen says the monument thanks Australia for welcoming Vietnamese refugees from the Vietnam War. He says it, “will stand against time as a testimony of our gratitude towards multicultural Australia for welcoming us into this great nation”. The striking 5.5m sculpture by Coral Lowry is “inspired by the bravery of those who embarked on such a highly dangerous and uncertain journey of desperation”.

“The wave plinth carries a stylised boat precariously balancing at the top edge, creating a sense of tension and precariousness within the two elements of the sculpture.”

The sculpture was initially planned for Weld Square but indigenous groups with a history with the site “overwhelmingly objected” to it according to a Vincent council report. Robertson Park was then suggested but deemed too busy and already filled with memorials and features.

Dr Nguyen told the council the piece’s Wade Street home was, “a bright, well-exposed area and is frequented by locals, the general public and tourists.

“It is indeed a perfect and prominent location.”

by DAVID BELL

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