Stakeholder spotlight: Thang Ngo, Associate Director of Communications and Marketing at Multicultural NSW

Published 30 June 2023

Headshot of man looking at camera smiling

Thang came to Australia in the late 70s with his family, who were among the first Vietnamese refugees to arrive in Australia. The challenges he faced as a newly arrived refugee have given him an understanding of the critical importance of multicultural communications to the lives of migrants.

Today, Thang is an Associate Director, Communications and Marketing at Multicultural NSW and a board member of CORE Community Services.

We really appreciated you speaking at our recent Refugee Week event. Can you tell us why Refugee Week is important to you? What does the theme Finding Freedom mean to you?

We will never know the exact number, but it’s estimated that between 200,000 and 400,000 Vietnamese refugees died on the seas in search of freedom. For our community, freedom is literally priceless. For me it’s the opportunity to be me, to live in a relationship for the past 33 years with the man I love. Refugee Week is a time to reflect on the struggles and success of all refugees. It's a week rather than a day because you'd need at least that long to do it justice.

To what extent do you think discrimination adds to the challenges faced by refugee communities, and do you think this needs to be more widely recognised and addressed?

When we first arrived, we didn’t speak a word of English. I wore my pyjamas down to the shops not realising that it wasn’t the thing to do. When it was daylight savings switchover, we were always an hour too early or an hour too late. Most of my clothes were second hand, they never fitted, they never matched, they weren’t the nice clothes in the shop windows.

But don't judge refugees through a deficit lens. These challenges make us stronger, more determined. The first few years, when I couldn't speak English, I learnt to communicate in other ways, from picking up body language to saying thanks by doing chores for the neighbours. Not having things made me want to study harder, make my parents proud, make my new homeland proud.

Refugees are by nature risk takers, go getters and entrepreneurial – I mean who else chooses to leave everything behind? We have a thirst for knowledge and an unstoppable desire to succeed.

When refugees succeed, everyone around them benefits and NSW benefits. I feel we need to see refugees through the lens of being determined, strong members of society, rather than a hopeless drain. That’s when we realise funding refugee support services is an investment in NSW, not a cost burden.

Can you tell us about your role with Multicultural NSW and how it promotes social cohesion and community harmony?

Our CEO, Joseph La Posta says that every week is Refugee Week. He’s right, our organisation runs programs, manages grants, provides translation and interpreting services to help the people of NSW including those from a refugee background. Helping everyone settle effectively regardless of background will build a more successful and harmonious society. I'm privileged to be able to communicate to communities about our services and also to highlight the contribution of migrants and refugees to the success of our state.

Last updated:

04 Jul 2023

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