FOR Vietnamese student Minh Duong, studying in Australia has been challenging. He was attacked by Neo-Nazis, ran into visa issues and was not permitted to enter Australia for three years. Now, Minh is back in Melbourne and will start his final year at university. Diane Leow reports.
It’s a situation many international students never want to get caught in – overstaying your student visa as a result of an oversight and having your education privileges revoked.
For the past few months, Vietnamese student Minh Duong faced that very real possibility. After being viciously attacked by Neo-Nazis, Minh was unable to return to university to fulfil the attendance requirements for his student visa.
After a gruelling recovery process, Minh was on his way home to Vietnam this year during the summer holidays to see his family, only to be told at immigration that his visa had been cut back by a year. He was told to leave the country immediately and that he would not be allowed to enter Australia for the next three years.
For the Swinburne University final-year student, this was devastating news.
“I was scared… [My family] invest (sic) money for me to study overseas, but now I can’t finish graduation. It’s a waste of my family’s money,” said Minh.
“Secondly, about my future. I wasted time studying, and left with only one year, I can’t finish my degree and need to apply to study again, wasting time.”
However, the Swinburne University accounting student is now back in Australia after he received a new student visa.
This came after more than 89,000 people signed a petition on online petition platform, Change.org. It caught the media’s attention, leading to many good samaritans who lent a helping hand. Migration lawyer David Bongiorno, who heard about Minh’s plight, stepped in and offered his services pro bono as well.
Minh, and his music teacher and good friend Adrian De Luca, worked tirelessly to gather every document required to reapply for a new visa, and sent everything to Mr Bongiorno.
Mr Bongiorno in turn prepared the required paperwork and sent in an application for a new student visa on behalf of Minh.
A few days later, they heard back from the Department of Immigration that a new student visa had been granted and Minh was allowed to return to his studies.
To celebrate, Mr De Luca threw a party on Sunday, March 2 at Ruby’s Music Room, located at Melbourne’s iconic Bennett’s Lane.
“I feel very happy. Someone told me that when one door is closed, another door opens. The door that opens is the light in the dark,” Minh said.
He also expressed his gratitude towards many, including Mr De Luca, Mr Bongiorno, the Department of Immigration, as well as various media outlets which helped raise awareness about his plight.
Mr De Luca, who started the petition, believes that this positive result is a result of “the power of the people”.
“I think that Australia runs in three sections: You have your bad people that committed the crime; you have your politicians that are all about rules and regulations; and then you have your middle ground, which is the majority, which is based on humanity. And that’s what came through this time,” he said.
Mr De Luca added that getting the Department of Immigration to take action was challenging.
“The difficult part was when I was speaking to the people in charge at the immigration department. They basically said, ‘There’s nothing we can do,’” he said.
However, things started to take a turn after Minister for Immigration and Border Control Scott Morrison said the Australian Consulate in Vietnam was ready to offer any assistance.
In the meantime, Minh plans to complete his accounting degree in the next year and hopefully secure a job upon graduation.
“I’ve studied in Australia for a long time. I feel like Australia is just like my second home. I will feel very happy if I have a chance to stay in Australia,” he said with a smile.