Everyone who comes to Australia has a unique story to tell. During this Migrant & Refugee Week (19 to 25 August), The Record shares the story of Tony Ta, the Information Technology Administrator of the largest Catholic secondary school in WA.
Fleeing from the Viet Cong, dodging bullets, getting separated from his relatives, haggling with pirates, watching his boat come close to being destroyed – Tony Ta had seen a lot before his 10th birthday.
It was 1979 when Tony was 8 or 9 and his family decided it was time to risk a sea voyage to escape the communist Viet Cong. Leaked information ensured that the Viet Cong got wind of their intentions and the family had to make a hurried break.
In the ensuing confusion, Tony and his brother managed to get on the boat, but his aunt and older sister got left behind. The hasty exit also ensured that they left without any food.
An encounter with pirates resulted in a trade of valuables for food, but a second boat brought pirates who were not so cooperative. Furious at not getting anything, these pirates set about destroying the boat.
Providence sent them the river police of a nearby country and they were saved, however, the only other help they got from the river police was the direction to take (and not land on their soil).
Inhabitants of islands they passed were even more hostile, some training their guns on the boatload and its cargo of pathetic passengers. Landfall was finally made at an island which had a refugee camp.
Days and months of uncertainty followed, during which time, the only food they received was a small serve of breakfast.
But also during this time, applications were made to several countries to take the refugees.
Tony does not know the answers to his “how, when, where, why and what”; but he remembers landing in Australia on 23 October 1981.
Since then, Tony completed high school, gained an Engineering degree, married, is a father of two, and is the Information Technology Administrator of Chisholm Catholic College, the largest Catholic secondary school in the state.
Now, Tony feels a sense of gratefulness and loyalty to the country that has adopted him. But equally, people around him are grateful to him for his contribution to the people of this country.
John Laurito, Deputy Principal of Chisholm Catholic College, speaks highly of Tony.
“Tony has made a significant contribution to the fabric of Chisholm Catholic College. His Information Technology skills have been instrumental in assisting teachers with their teaching through the College constructed Learning Management System,” John expressed.
“He enjoys positive relationships with all at the College. Tony is an asset at the College.”
For more information about the West Australian Catholic Migrant & Refugee Office and the service it provides, go to: www.wacmro.perthcatholic.org.au