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Family violence victim finds path to independence

6 June 20240 comments

For four years Uyen Truong was trapped in her marital home with no access to her own money or friends.

The victim of an abusive and controlling relationship, the Vietnamese migrant had no personal agency, and no access to education or opportunity.

When Uyen arrived in Australia from Vietnam with her husband in 2012, she was looking forward to a new life in a new country.

“But I became the victim of abusive control. I had no money of my own, I wasn’t allowed to learn English and I had no freedom to meet people. And I couldn’t even wear the clothes I wanted to,” she said.

“My husband was not violent, but he made my life miserable. I tried to end my life a few times.”

Uyen left her husband in 2015 with her three children and found support through women’s refuges, a kindly social worker and through government programs. But with virtually no English, she faced a long journey in rebuilding her life.

“When I left, I couldn’t speak English, I didn’t know how to use public transport and I had no family or friends to help me,” she said.

“At the time I met a Vietnamese lady who explained to me that I had rights in Australia because the law was different. That helped me a lot.

“When I left, I had to leave the kids with him. I went to a police station, but I couldn’t communicate with them. I called my cousin to speak to them and the police connected me with a women’s refuge.

“I had nothing with me, no clothes or anything. I spent two nights in a hotel before I was settled in a house in Roxborough Park.”

Uyen and her children have since moved into public housing in Dandenong.

She is now enrolled in an English language and vocational program with migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES Australia in Dandenong. The course is part of her journey to healing and independence.

She says her studies are preparing her for work and volunteering in the community sector.

“I am improving my English with the help of my AMES teacher Tracey and slowly I would like to find a way to help people,” Uyen said.

“The government and social workers helped me a lot and I want to give back to the country.”

Uyen has also become an advocate and campaigner against family violence.

“I want to share my story with all the women of the world. I want them to know there is a way out and they can get support,” she said.

“I can remember everything that happened to me. I could write a book. I suffered a lot, but I don’t keep it inside me. I’ve let it go.

“I now have freedom and happiness every day,” she said.

Uyen’s Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program is funded by the federal Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.