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9 May 2008

Seda Douglas


Seda Douglas: I left Cambodia in 1979, not by choice. We had no option. After Pol Pot regime was toppled by Vietnamese liberation in 1979, my mum, myself, my younger brother and my younger sister basically decided that we didn't want to live in the same home town where we lost most of our family members. I lost my dad and my seven siblings. They're all younger than me. They die of starvation. There was nothing for us to stay in Cambodia.

Bernadette Nunn: You OK?

Seda Douglas: We just lost so many of them. We didn't want this memory to haunt us. We trekked through the jungle. On the way there, I lost my younger sister. She die of dysentery. We had to drink dirty water, muddy water, where we saw corpses floating, but because the hot, sultry condition, we had to survive, we had to drink. We end up staying at Khao-I-Dang camp, right on the border. The United Nations distributed plastic fabric to build the tent. We built a very nice home, actually. And time just goes by without getting anything anywhere. I was working in the hospital, and one of my superiors actually has very good friend work for Australian Embassy. And she said, "Why don't you apply to go to Australia?" and I said, "Where is Australia?" My first impression was, "My goodness! Australia so beautiful!" The building looked so clean, the smell was so sweet. Just the perfect place. You can imagine that just heaven. This feeling lasted for a few months, and then I was really down in the dump. I couldn't speak English. My English was OK in the camp, you know - when I work in the hospital - but when you got to Australia, people speak so fast. And then I miss eight year of schooling, because under Pol Pot period, there was no schooling, and in the camp there was no proper schooling. So now I was in Australia at the age of 23. I couldn't go back to high school, so the only hope to obtain education is to go to uni. So I enrolled this special English course for tertiary education. I've got my qualification as social welfare worker, and I worked in the social welfare sector for seven year before I became a radio journalist with ABC. Being, you know, 15 years in the job as a radio journalist with Radio Australia, I think it's very important, because I have the opportunity to serve both countries. And it's such a privilege, you know, to be able to do that.

So very excited, and I get her name signed here to prove that I really meet her.

Seda Douglas: Four years after my arrival, I became Australian citizen. It's such a pride to Cambodian people. Not just to me - to my family. And to all the refugees, maybe. I was married in 1987, and I've got a son who is now 20 years old. I'm in Cambodia for work, and it's nice to see my family, so here I am with my family at the moment and my adopted daughter. She's with my cousin here, and my daughter actually is having two mummies, 'cause my cousin also loves her as much as I do, so we're kind of sharing this parenting.

Cricket.

I want her to be in Cambodia until she finish her education here. I want her to read and write and basically understand Cambodian culture before she come and stay with me in Australia. I still love Cambodia, because it is my birthplace, and I love Australia, because Australia has given me a lot of opportunity to restart my life, and I'm very happy there, so...