On August 18 2016, thousands of Australians will line the streets of Canberra’s ANZAC Parade to remember the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. Among the gathered will be Westside Christian College student, Timmy Ha.
The Year 10 student was chosen to attend the event by the Honourable Michael Ronaldson, Minister for Veterans Affairs. Timmy will represent the electorate of Oxley after being awarded for his 1500 word essay in the Honouring Australian Vietnam Veterans competition. Instructional Dean of Humanities, Elaine Niesler is justifiably proud “The one-off competition only allowed for one entry per school. He submitted a 1500 word research essay. It’s a remarkable achievement to be selected.”
Witnesses to the realities of the War, Timmy’s parents fled Vietnam soon after the fall of Saigon. “The War is personal to me. My mum and dad escaped and snuck through a few countries looking for safety. They were barefoot the whole time” Timmy recalls. His parents were interred in a Thai refugee camp and later sent to Australia. “Now I understand the war from an Australian perspective, as well.” They escaped with the clothes on their backs and a wedding photo.
To better understand the Australian experience of the War, the usually shy student interviewed Vietnam veteran Darryl Wilson, who spent 298 days there as a soldier. Timmy reflected “I’d read about Australia’s involvement, but to hear it from an actual soldier really made me stop and think.”
As well as examining groups and individuals who served, Timmy’s essay reminds the reader of the importance of honouring their service and this part of Australia’s wartime history.
Ha will join winners and dignitaries in Canberra for the historic occasion. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs states “winning students will have the opportunity to meet with Vietnam Veterans, visit Australian Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial and other cultural institutions. The prize will include meals, accommodation, travel to and from the ACT and all itinerary events for the three days.”