Lin: A child’s story

I came to Sydney from Vietnam with my mother when I was 15.

My Mum didn’t talk to me a lot about what she was going through with my stepdad here in Australia. She is a very proud person. She tried to keep it in herself, you know? But I saw all the things. I didn’t talk with her about it, I couldn’t talk with her about it but I saw everything.

Every weekend my stepdad would drink and that’s why the violence happened I think. I couldn’t do anything to help my Mum and stepdad stop fighting. He was stressed about financial and other things. He tried to drink the troubles and that made him forget everything else. There was a lot of violence. My Mum could protect herself very well. It happened all the time so she learnt how to protect herself.

But I was just a young girl and I couldn’t do anything. I was so scared. I had to stay in the house to protect my little sister. I would go into my bedroom and take her with me and you know, shut the door and start praying. My sister was only 3 or 4 months old then. I was afraid my stepdad may be harmful to her and I wouldn’t be able to stop it.

I didn’t have enough English to talk to anyone about it. Not my teachers or other people. And you know, in our culture, we are not really able to talk with other persons about family violence stuff. We were on our own. We have no family here to help us. I would try to calm Mum down and cheer her up. She was really stressed and could be very depressed. I tried to do lots of cooking, going to the market or the shops for her and taking my little sister out. And finally, even though we didn’t talk very much about what was happening, we would pray together. There was nothing else we could do. Sometimes I was crying. My heart was a broken heart.

Then one day we left that house, away from my stepdad and some people they told us we could go to Bonnie’s service. We stayed at the refuge and there was a lot of activity with a lot of people. Bonnie’s connected us so we communicate and get help. We had a lot of support for housing and understanding the contracts. The ladies from Bonnie’s they always come and check up on us: how is it? How are we going? They tried to give Mum a lot of information about her health problems and they recommended she go to the family doctor and a specialist doctor. We found out she was very sick with cancer. That was very serious. She was sick for a long time and I looked after her.

My Mum is really good now and my little sister is 4 years old. Bonnie’s subsidised my little sister’s child care so Mum could go to English school. She can listen and understand well and she practises speaking and pronunciation a lot.

I needed help to learn more too and Bonnie’s helped me get a scholarship when I was at school. That was really helpful to me. I needed a lot of tutorials to get entry to uni: it was really hard to understand all the things. I am 20 years old this year and I studying my Bachelor of Nursing. Before my Mum got sick, I never wanted to be a nurse- I was scared of the hospital. Not now. I decided I study for my career in nursing so I can take care of my Mum and other families.

We live together in our own house and we are good. We are feeling alright.