Carina Hoang » Videos

Being a refugee is not a choice: Carina Hoang at TEDxPerth

Refugees are often marginalised, their humanity ignored as their stories go untold. In this remarkable and emotional talk, however, author and former refugee Carina Hoang discusses her experience as a “boat person”. It’s a powerful account that is impossible to ignore.


The untold story of a Perth mother who must honour the dead by helping the living even if it means going to hell and back. In 1975, the fall of Saigon triggered an unprecedented Exodus of more than 2 million. Carina fled with her siblings in a wooden boat with 373 people. Storms, pirates and deprivation was the order of their days at sea. Their fate awaited them in an island jungle where wild dogs howled like wolves at night. Thirty years later, Carina is helping families back there as “a way of finding closure to fully get on with life”.

Special Thanks for the additional archival footage provided by: UNHCR the UN refugee agency.
Produced by Alan Bacchelli.



50 Comments (Leave a Reply)

  1. steven tran (November 15, 2010)

    very touching after viewing the video bring back alot of memory about kuku island,when I was there 31 year ago. I really wish I could join a trip visiting there again. thank you!

  2. admin (November 21, 2010)

    Hi Steven,
    Welcome to my website. If you would like to join me on my future trip to Kuku, feel free to contact me via

  3. Hoang Tran (February 15, 2011)

    Thank you for what you do, I was fortunate to have left VN by plane, but these stories just bring out strong emotions in me. Can’t wait to read your book.

  4. admin (February 18, 2011)

    Thanks Hoang Tran, for sharing your thoughts. I hope you will enjoy reading Boat People


  5. steven nguyen (February 19, 2011)

    thanks for the video. Even thu i did not stay at kuku, It brought back memories when i was in the refugee camp at bataan in the philippines in 1983.

  6. Thanh Anh (February 28, 2011)

    Thanks for beautiful work you do, and thanks for finding our friend Nhan thi Mong Ha, cam on Oanh.

  7. admin (March 3, 2011)

    Cam on nhung loi chan tinh cua Thanh Anh.

    Oanh Oanh

  8. admin (March 3, 2011)

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  9. Jenny Tran (March 4, 2011)

    Just ordered your book after listenning Mr. Vu Van Loc. I have not read your book, but I believe it will be a good book. Contact me if you go back to those island in the future please let me know.


  10. Jenny tran (March 16, 2011)

    I did send my comments I saw my post before but I have not seen this time Someone deleted it?

  11. admin (April 1, 2011)

    Hi Jenny,
    Thank you for ordered the book, I hope you will enjoy reading it. I am going back to the islands in Indonesia in 10 days, email me at, if you have any question.
    Warm regards,

  12. admin (April 1, 2011)

    Hi Jenny,
    Your message was not deleted. I just need to accept and reply. I am relocating my office, thus did not have internet service for a short period.

  13. gerry gillard (April 3, 2011)

    Hi carina, just thought i’d have a look at your video.after reading the artical in SOUTHERN GAZETTE,29/03/2011,I have met many VIETNAMESE, and traveled through your country,all ways finding your people are just lovely human beings beings. beings. its always a plessure

  14. Thomas Huynh (April 30, 2011)

    I just found your site through VOA News website ….!Very impressed what you have done to heal the wound for other people souls !Think about joint and together we could expand the mission to the wider border beyond the Kuku island of Indonesia for our refugees families ?!
    And maybe …..more for our country !
    Wish you and your family well and happiness as always …!

  15. Trung (May 1, 2011)

    cam on nhung viec lam cao thuong cua chi, gia dinh minh cung co nguoi em mat tich vi vuot bien, va cung chua tim duoc mo, hoac tin tuc gi,cau chi luon manh khoe va dat duoc y nguyen ma chi muon , chao chi

  16. Wayne Lu (May 8, 2011)

    Thank you for your video on KuKu island.

    My name is Manh Lu. I was one of the boat people in KuKu island in 1979 when I was 16 . Come to America on April, 1980. I just showed my two kids about your website and the video. Thank you for your hard work for the boat people. I will visit your website from time to time.

  17. Daniel Koh (May 27, 2011)

    Hi Carina,

    Thank you for producing the book and sharing the sad stories with the world.

    I purchased the book 2 weeks ago and finished reading it in less than a week. I am in WA too and find it interesting that many of the people mentioned in the book are also currently residing in WA. Perhaps, I may someday bump into them.

    I have read other similar books before and I must say that yours is the best. It is especially educational to the young generations of Vietnamese people whose parents had to experience the terrible ordeal during that era.

    I am glad to note that many of the survivors are successful in their lives and now holding good jobs. Being an Asian myself (ex-Singaporean), I have many Vietnamese friends and I find them to be very hard working and intelligent people.

    Good luck to your future endeavours and to your PhD studies.

  18. Anna Ngoc Duong (June 23, 2011)

    Thua Co Carina

    Anna left VN when I was 9 years old, travel on a tiny wooden fishery boat to Kuku, Terampa and then our boat was dragged to Galang Indonesia, mum and i lived there for 3 1/2 years, even though i was very young to realise what hardship mum went through and the uncertainly of our future. Your story has brought back many memories and I wish to go back to those island in the near future, I consider those three Islands that I have landed my feet on are my second home.
    Thank you
    Anna D.

  19. Denis Ladbrook (July 5, 2011)

    Carina, I heard you speak at Subiaco Library and am now reading your inspiring book. Thank you for recording these perilous escape and resettlement journeys. The courage and determination of the survivors touches my heart. May the book deepen understanding and compassion across this land.

  20. Thong Huynh (July 7, 2011)

    I admire you all for your determination and will to make the journey back, I myself was in Malaysia in 1979 experienced our moment of despair and helplessness of being abandoned liked in the valley of death and being spared and bring back to life as being re-born. This is how I feel every moment I look back as now. You have all bring a moment of closure of the souls of these being to help the deceased souls for a passage of forgiveness and “Si^eu Thoa’t” Thank you all for make it happens.

  21. hoanglong phi (October 19, 2011)

    tôi rất cảm động khi những anh chi em ỏ hải ngoại vẫn còn những người nặng lòng với đông hương đã khuất.tôi ở lại trong nước nhưng tôi cung biết nhiều nỗi khổ của người rời bỏ quê hương ,để rồi bỏ xác nơi đất lạ xứ người ,vì tôi cũng có nhiều anh en bạn bè từng ra đi mãi mãi không bao giờ có được cơ hội quay về.Tôi chúc cho chị carina hoàng cùng gia đình mạnh khỏe ,chúc chị luôn gặp may mắn trong công việc giúp đõ những người đồng hương
    Thị xã phước long .lần đâu vào trang của chị qua trang báo .sai Gon lito

  22. Anna Bui (March 4, 2012)

    Hoang.I admired you.Thank you for the good heart. I just purchase your book.Thanks with all my heart

  23. Anna Bui (March 4, 2012)

    I was stay 14 month at Tengah,after read all the post from your web site, nothing to compare like what you and people in Kuku went through.Thank you

  24. Darmowa Strona Www (April 12, 2012)

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  25. Cheap Monster - PowerBeats Sport headphones - White (April 14, 2012)

    Hi there, You have done an incredible job. I will certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I am sure they will be benefited from this web site.

  26. Conf茅rence sur Internet (April 16, 2012)

    It is a right blog for anyone who wants to find out about the following topic. You realize so much its almost complicated to argue with you (not that I really would definitely want…HaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin for a topic thats been written about for decades. Excellent stuff, really fantastic!

  27. Jamal (April 20, 2012)

    Nice wib.for nice Carina ,you are on the right way and keep going you will maintain your target soon.

  28. Carina (April 20, 2012)

    Thanks Jamal for your kind words.

  29. Carina (April 20, 2012)

    Hi Anna,
    Thanks for your comments. Throughout the years, those on Kuku experienced different hardship depends on when we arrived. I don’t think anyone who came to Kuku could ever forget their experience there.


  30. Carina (April 20, 2012)

    Hi Anna,
    Hope you and your family enjoy reading my book.

  31. Carina (April 20, 2012)

    Kính chào Hoàng Long,
    rất cám ơn bạn đã chia xẻ suy nghĩ này. Xa quê hương là một nỗi buồn của từng cá nhân, nhưng bỏ nước ra đi rồi chết trên biển cả hoặc trong trại tỵ nạn là một nỗi đau của dân tộc, dù cho chúng ta đang sống ở Vn hay ở quốc gia khác.

    Thân ái,
    Carina Hoàng

  32. Carina (April 20, 2012)

    Hello Thong,
    often the livings without closure are the ones who need help. I used to think that what I am doing is to help the souls of the deceased to ‘sieu thoat’, but seeing the dynamics of those who came with me to find the graves of their loved ones, I realized that they too, need to free their soul. Without that sense of closure, it’s difficult for them to move on.


  33. Carina (April 20, 2012)

    Hello Denis,

    I am happy that you find my book inspiring. My speeches and the book have made great impact on many. Like you, most people open up and have more compassion for others after they gain more understanding of these human suffering.


  34. Carina (April 20, 2012)

    Hello Anna,
    3 and 1/2 years is a long time to be on those islands. It sadden my heart to hear that. Not only those island were your second home, I believe that those 3 years you spent in refugee camps were the foundation that made up who you are today. If you ever want to revisit Kuku and Terempa, you could join one of my trips.

    Best wishes to you and your Mum.

  35. Carina (April 20, 2012)

    hi Daniel,

    thank you for your comment. Through this book project, I feel very privileged to have met many courageous people. Their resilience and positive attitude are very inspiring.
    I hope to ‘bump’ into you some day. If you are interested, please email me at


  36. Lee Phung (May 5, 2012)


    I just happpened to see your website while reading the Cal Poly’s Panorama, being Cal Poly 86 Alumni. Wow what a meaningful project you are doing and I am so proud of you! Seeing the video of the Kuku island reminded me vividly of my own experience, as you said, in a way like Robinson Crusoe’s adventure, but in a totally diferrent way! Back then, I lived in the neighbor island (Air Raya, not sure about the spelling) from Apr-Sep 79 and was wandering in Kuku selling goods (being the middle man for local people) to survive!

    My plan is to visit the islands again, to look for and thank the local people in Letung island who helped me to survive. As I remember, Air Raya and Kuku were almost completely bare when I left the island, looking back from the boat that ferried me to the ship leaving the island for Galang for our final destination.

    Keep up the meaningful project and I look forward to joining you.


  37. source (June 2, 2012)

    Have you given any thought at all with converting your website into French? I know a few of translaters here that would help you do it for no cost if you want to make contact with me personally.

  38. Carina (June 12, 2012)

    Thank you for your suggestion. I will send you an email.
    Please give me your name so I can address you properly. Many thanks.

  39. Carina (June 12, 2012)

    Hello, I tried sending you an email, but the response was the email address was permanently failed. please email me at

  40. William L (June 14, 2012)

    Thanks for the video etc. I would like to join a group to revisit Galang and KuKu sometimes too. I lived at Galang from 03/82 – 01/83.

  41. John Pintabona (June 17, 2012)

    Hi Carina, Congratulation on your 2012 IP book award. I look forward to reading your book.
    John Pintabona
    Councillor for the City of Vincent – South Ward

  42. Carina (June 23, 2012)

    Hi John,
    Thank you!

    Warm regards,
    Special Representative – UNHCR

  43. Carina (June 23, 2012)

    Hi William,
    I am keen on making one more trip to the islands, then stop to finish school.
    If you are interested in joining me, stay in touch via my email:


  44. Dylan (September 7, 2012)

    Mrs Hoang thank you for visiting landsdale primary school and telling your story of the 1979 Vietnamese exodus

  45. Carina (December 6, 2012)

    Hi Dylan,

    I am so sorry for my late reply. Thank you for your message, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to share my story with you and your friends at Landsdale Primary School.

  46. Rush Arruby (December 22, 2012)

    Very touching and I do appreciate you will always remember your last memory at Kuku Island ( Anambas Islands ). I was born in Anambas Islands 40 Years Ago. Nice to know You. Thx

  47. Carina (January 29, 2013)

    Hello Rush,
    thanks for sharing. where do you live now? have you been back to visit Anambas?


  48. Tony Nguyen (June 18, 2013)

    I was in KuKu island from April 1979 to the end of 1979, watching this video it very touching, thank you very much for sharing the video.

  49. tin nong (July 8, 2013)

    Cảm ơn sự chia sẻ của bạn

  50. Amy Bowdrey (November 11, 2013)

    Hi Carina, thank you so much for what you are doing to help these people. You came to speak at my camp and your talk was so inspirational. Thank you so much, Amy

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