During any war, many civilians become displaced, dispossessed or economically disadvantaged. During the Vietnam War, widows and young girls quickly got caught up in the vacuum created by the needs of soldiers on leave. The promises of easy money to overcome poverty was tempting for many and so they became entrapped in the world of corruption, greed and lust.
Many of the prostitutes that frequented the bars and clubs of the major towns became pregnant to their anonymous paying customers and the resultant child was cast on the scrap heap of society. As they grew up they were frowned upon by their local community and were only able to eke out a meagre existence by begging, stealing or working in the most menial employment, such as garbage collectors and cyclo drivers or field hands. They have been basically regarded as non-citizens and are termed locally and collectively as .... ‘the children of the dust’.
The western governments involved in this war took no responsibility and have ignored the plight of these children for more than 40 years. This is their story.
“With the black cloud of Communist China hanging to the north, we must make sure that our
children do not end up pulling rickshaws with hammer and sickle signs on their sides.”
- Richard Casey, Minister for External Affairs, in The Age, 13th May, 1954.
“Sent as a present from Annam ... a red cockatoo,
Coloured like the peach tree blossom, speaking with the speech of men;
And they did with it, what is always done, to the learned and eloquent;
They took a cage with stout bars … and shut it up inside.”
- Po Chu-I 820 AD
'Children of the Dust'
Unwanted orphans, ‘children of the dust’,
Tragedy created from misplaced trust;
Soldiers’ discards, surviving, all alone.
Responsibility, never taken;
When first dumped and then forsaken;
We turned our backs, that’s hard to now condone.
’Tis said that every war’s a test,
Bringing out the very best,
And yet also sometimes the worst in many men.
So many years have now come and gone,
Since scores of illegitimates were born;
Our neglect is something hard to comprehend.
And for this burden, we all should bear,
Guilt discarded, yet still should share;
As a nation, ’tis our collective shame.
Because each young helpless boy and girl,
Left all alone in that foreign world,
Is now an adult, without a father’s name.
With blue eyes, brown hair and pale skin,
Made to feel unwelcome and don’t fit in,
This poor country which can’t afford welfare.
It should have been our primary role,
To give them this and more our goal,
Yet it seems that we were blind, or didn’t care.
And in that unrelenting Asian heat,
Where beggars beg upon the street,
Often that’s a place where these folk too reside.
Employment limits, for selection,
Perhaps garbage refuse, for collection,
Work as field-hands, or on cyclos which they ride.
And as such, there, they form the ‘dung’,
On society’s bottom rung;
Tolerated, though treated as nothing more.
They constitute the total sum,
Of Indochina’s floating scum;
Flotsam baggage from the wreckage of that war.
If we could just rewind the years,
For this hapless country left in arrears,
Way back prior to that French colonial time,
We’d see little children’s smiling faces,
Amongst a wide variety of Asian races;
Such culture change ’twas nothing but a crime.
Then those bar girls and many others,
Turned by vice to single mothers;
Victims of corruption, greed and military lust.
Now these abandoned Amerasians,
And those conceived from some Australians,
Are labelled simply as ... ‘children of the dust’.
'Children of the Dust'
'Children of the Dust' - Hanoi Museum