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Words and images by Phuong Nguyen Le

On January 15th 2022, I Moved To Sunshine, An Inner-Western Suburb Of Melbourne, Where I Rented Out A Bedroom In Mrs. Hoang Anh’s Home. Sunshine Is Known For Its Vibrant Vietnamese Community, The Best Bang-For-Buck Banh Mi In Melbourne And, Based On The Criminal Activity Here, Nicknames Like “Scumshine” Or “Stabshine”.

More often than not, Vietnamese diasporas in Australia live under a state of loss. After the American War ended, the Vietnamese Communist Party won against the South and reunified the nation. In opposition to this regime, millions of Vietnamese fled the country to America, Canada or Australia most commonly through boats. With the influx of Vietnamese immigrants to Sunshine in the late 1970s, the suburb is now superimposed by the Vietnamese community to resemble a faux representation of their home nation, one they could not return to. Their lives on this foreign land are relived through scenic photographs of Vietnam hung in dimly lit restaurants and burning incense as they pray to their ancestors for a better fortune.

Without direct relation to the immigrant experience, I look at Sunshine and its surrounding areas through a dual-outsider perspective. I am neither an Australian nor a post-American war immigrant. Yet, this has proven to be two sides of the same coin, as the effect of Australia’s colonialist history coincides with the aftermath of the American War. With reconciliation deemed unlikely in the near future, this has further driven the distance with their home nation among the first generation Vietnamese-Australians, as well as the loss in transition many second generation immigrants suffer from.

Through browsing the local news, internet archives and word-of-mouth, I discovered deconstructed stories without a beginning nor an end. Unlike its name, Sunshine slowly unravels its issues: The inter-generational division of cultures, races and religions. I use photography not only to document Sunshine, but also confront my outsider status in Australia. I am constantly reminded that I am 7000 km away from my home in Vietnam, in a suburb that disguises itself as home.

Phuong Nguyen Le

Phuong Nguyen Le (b. 2002) is a Vietnamese photographer studying in Naarm (Melbourne). He focuses on the question of what it is like to be young in this strange world. Constantly dealing with themes of ancestry, ethnicity and sexuality, Phuong uses photography to cater to his inner curiosity and reflect on his sense of self.

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