Model fishing boat

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Date of creation: 
Circa 1980 to Circa 1985
Wood, varnish
Collection Name: 
ID/Accession No: 
HT 96.01

Handmade wooden model of contemporary Vietnamese fishing boat with deckhouse and propeller, typical of vessels used to transport South-East Asian refugees.  Stand of the same varnished but unpainted material as the boat.  Boat measures approx. 52.5 x 15.7 x 17cm. 


In the late 1970s and 1980s, many Vietnamese refugees arriving in Adelaide were temporarily housed in the former Pennington Migrant hostel, and they attended English lessons at the nearby Pennington Primary School.  Ms Rose Ashton taught some of these lessons between 1980 and 1984, and was presented with this model boat as a gift of gratitude from her students in 1984.  Rose also taught knitting in these lessons, as many of the parents wanted to knit warmer clothing for their children.

 According to testimony from Ms Ashton’s students, the fishing boats used to bring refugees were always crowded, with people sitting knee to chest, out in the open in all weathers, and very vulnerable to pirates.  It has been estimated that up to half the boats that departed were lost at sea, meaning that many Vietnamese people in Australia still mourn lost family and friends.  

The maker of the boat requested to remain anonymous, and his model remains a poignant and vivid reminder of the Vietnamese refugee experience. 


This model represents a period of time significant to Australia's immigration history and the experiences of refugees from South-East Asia. Although most refugees who came to Australia came by plane, fishing boats have become an iconic symbol of refugee arrivals. As a gift, the model is also illustrative of a relationship between a refugee and an Australian who offered support and assistance in starting a new life, and as a hand-made item it is particularly personal to the refugee who made it.

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