LAKE STREET resident Mai Nguyen is the first candidate to put her hand up for the by-election to replace outgoing Vincent councillor Laine McDonald.
Ms Nguyen has the backing of former mayor Alannah MacTiernan, though she’s not a Labor party member. The two crossed paths when Ms Nguyen was in the Vietnamese Community Association and working on a monument to refugees on the Wade Street reserve.
Ms Nyugen grew up in Saigon, but the Vietnamese government branded her parents anti-communist and in 1982 the six year old was bundled into a boat as the family fled the country.
“They left so I would have a future,” she says.
After leaving Saigon, the family became lost at sea and had to get directions from oil rig workers who pointed them to Malaysia. There they stayed in a refugee camp until their refugee status was approved a couple of months later and they were flown to Perth, arriving on Valentines Day.
“We got off the plane, got into the airport, and young people were greeting us with flowers and chocolates. These were Australian people, greeting us refugee boat people,” Ms Nguyen recalls.
Ms MacTiernan says Ms Nguyen’s “exactly the kind of person that has both business and community experience” and she’d bring good problem solving and diversity to council.
Ms Nguyen says helping small business is a big focus for her if she gets elected. She has a law degree and works for a migration and education consultancy but in the past has owned the restaurant Nahm Thai on Bulwer Street.
Her mother had also started a restaurant after raising the funds selling spring rolls at her school.
Ms Nguyen joined the operation as a youngster: “When I was 11 years old, waitressing all through high school and university. I was working until 10pm and doing my TEE the next day, so I know the hardships involved in operating a small business”.
by DAVID BELL