The Last Australian

Fresh from watching one of the most harrowing miniseries I’ve seen in a long time I am deeply affected and I have a lot to say.

‘Better Man’ is an Australian series based on real events; the trial and execution of Van Tuong Nguyen. Van was 23 years old when he tried to smuggle 396.2g of heroine from Pnom Penh to Melbourne via Singapore. While in transit he set off a metal detector and was found to have one package strapped to his body, and he admitted to having another in his luggage.

This had been his first criminal offence.

The reason Van gave for choosing to get involved in this operation was to pay back $25k debt he had accumulated in paying for his brother’s legal team when he was charged with assault and drug offences (he was a former heroine addict). While struggling to make repayments he met a man named Tan who advised him he would repay his debts in exchange for his assistance in transporting a package from Cambodia to Australia via Singapore. Van was aware that the packages contained heroine.

The amount he was carrying was over 26 times the amount that mandates a death sentence in Singapore. Although Australia was the intended destination, he was arrested, charged and sentenced to death.

Despite a solid appeal and attempt at clemency, addressing the media and politicians (including John Howard, our Prime Minister at the time) directly and many public appeals, Van was hanged 2nd December 2005.

At the time he was the last Australian to be executed for drug trafficking. Since then two members of the Bali Nine were killed by firing squad in August last year, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Fresh to Australia I don’t remember hearing about this case. My first knowledge of this type of story was that of the Bali Nine and Schapelle Corby.

I’m going to start my analysis with a very clear statement. I strongly oppose the death penalty. In the case of drug charges I find it abhorrent. Drugs are a choice, and though they ruin and end lives we will never be able to destroy them completely and there will always be more traffickers and users. I have seen people ruin their lives with the frequent use of marajuana but I don’t blame the dealer for that. We all make a choice.

In the case of rape, murder and molestation, the victims don’t get a choice. I’m all for the prolonged torture and life long misery of those monsters, but drugs are on a completely different playing field.

As someone who really would do anything for her family if they needed her, my heart ached for Van. I am sure he was no angel just like the rest of us but he was in debt because he protected his brother. He ruined his own chances of getting ahead because he was needed. Making the choice to traffic to repay those debts was so naive, but could we not all end up in a desperate place and make a bad decision when we see no other way out?

He was 23 when he made that choice.

I sit here, 25 years old, the same age he was when he was killed. I’m thankful for my well paying job and my family’s support, knowing fine well that I would probably do stupid things for my family too. They are my universe.

I think what kills me most about the state of this case, the state of the Australian mindset these days, is the 48% of Aussie’s who thought he deserved to die; the hundreds and thousands of people who sit behind their keyboards and preach hate and intolerance on a daily basis. I think this ties in to another issue that I have felt boiling up inside me for years now.

Van’s mother arrived a pregnant refugee from Vietnam. He and his brother were born here.

In 1996 Pauline Hanson, a recently re-elected politician, made the statement that Australia was being ‘swamped by Asians’. So could it have anything to do with his Vietnamese name or appearance than Van didn’t receive the same national affection like that of pretty, white Schapelle? Perhaps if he had had the same appeal he’d still be here today.

So darling Pauline now believes the Muslims are taking over.

I don’t hate people, but by God I wouldn’t be in a hurry to waste my water if she were on fire. What a vile, hate spewing individual. I feel like she is Australia’s xenophobia personified.

Where has our humanity gone? Why does it matter what someone looks like or what language they speak? Come the second generation they’ll have Aussie accents too. Do I get penalised for my dodgy mid-Atlantic accent when I’m with my parents? No. Probably because I’m white.

I know that this post isn’t going to change anyone’s mind, I’m not so self important that I think my opinion matters more than anyone else’s. I just want my beautiful, caring humanitarian friends to be reminded to keep fighting the good fight. Only we can stop the fear and teach acceptance by practicing it at every opportunity.

We live in a wonderful, richly multicultural country and in a few years time when who ever else’s turn it is to start invading our shores (probably the sharks. Shall we just cull them all now and get ahead?) we’ll walk around our CBD at a sea of faces with Aussie twangs and maybe people will hate each other a little less. You hear that Wogs? You’ve officially been accepted now 😉

But if one more person uses the ‘look after your own’, ‘we are full’ argument with me I’m telling you now, I will punch you straight in the face you arrogant, selfish human. We’re all just blood and guts on the inside mate, we don’t choose where we are born and one thing Australia will never be is fucking full. The immigration issues we are having here are completely different to that of the States and Europe. I’m not even going to start on their politics. National front my arse.

Change isn’t a bad thing; my absolutely favourite life lesson is the most important one: you shouldn’t be scared of something because it’s different.

Please watch Better Man on Stan or YouTube if you have the time guys.

I love you all rainbow fam.

Harleigh Q