The launch was held in conjunction with the International Day of Non-Violence, with the organisation bringing together a network of student associations and specialists to provide tangible support to international students who have been victims of crime and have not received adequate support through other systems.
Adrian De Luca, We Are Australia’s founder, took attendees through the story of Minh Duong, a Vietnamese international student who was a victim of a racial hate crime, which had eventually led to the founding of the organisation.
“Minh had been done grave injustice. We had to right the wrong”
De Luca described the brutal attack of the Vietnamese student by a Neo-Nazi duo in Melbourne in 2012 – with a brick broken into two on his head and his teeth bashed out. The two attackers were imprisoned.
After learning about the attack which nearly killed the international student, De Luca, a professional music teacher, approached Minh and offered him free music lessons, in order to help him recover from the trauma.
De Luca also encouraged Minh to finish his university degree, and Minh re-enrolled into Swinburne University.
Immigration lawyer David Bongiorno helped Minh get a new student visa after his visa had expired and was told not to return to Australia by border control officers. Bongiorno liaised tirelessly with the Department of Immigration to get Minh another visa.
“[Minh] had been done grave injustice,” Bongiorno said at the launch. “We had to right the wrong and there was no way I could right that wrong for a fee… In my heart, that had to be done.”
After a country-wide signature campaign organised by De Luca, nearly 90,000 people put their force behind Minh’s case. The then immigration minister, and current prime minister, Scott Morrison took note of the matter and Minh was issued a new student visa on March 1, 2014.
Speaking at the Launch, Thomson Ch’ng, NSW convenor of the Asian Australian Alliance said that Minh’s “story has inspired many”.
“The processes for international student victims of crime in getting the right support from the right people are much more complicated than we can ever imagine,” he told The PIE.
“We Are Australia is a unique initiative that brings together professionals and experts such as lawyers, medical specialists, and dedicated police officers to ensure that international student victims of crime are well supported.”
The one-stop centre will offer “access to experienced experts and help them recover from their awful experience, if it ever happens” to future international student victims, Ch’ng continued.
“International students have advocated for themselves for a long time. It is about time that local Australians stand up and stick up for international students, like Mr. De Luca has.”
In order to spread awareness about racism and to share Minh’s story, De Luca also set up a musical production called We are Australia – The Minh Story. Over 20 shows of the production helped raise funds for Minh’s medical treatment.
“It is about time that local Australians stand up and stick up for international students, like Mr. De Luca has”
Following the attack, Minh lost confidence, he detailed at the event.
“I just feel like everyone is dangerous. But after the first lesson with Adrian, with music I feel there is some way to find trust. And, that’s the way I have got the trust [back]. That’s the journey of music – leading me to find peace, happiness, and trust for everyone in the world.”
Talking of the support that he received from De Luca, and in order to inspire others, Minh said “we still have angels [in the world]. Maybe they are around you, you don’t know, but just keep trust, keep hope, and say no to racism.”
Minh Duong received his Australian citizenship this year.
We Are Australia aims to build a better understanding of what it means to be Australian and how diversity of culture, ethnicity, and views, shapes the country for the better — while helping international student victims of crime get support that makes a difference.