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Video clip synopsis – The effects of Australia’s role in the mass adoption of Vietnamese babies during the fall of Saigon, Vietnam, in 1975.
Year of production - 1985
Duration - 3min 23sec
Tags - adoption, Asia, Australian culture, belonging, change and continuity, family life, filmmaking, identity, media text, migrants, multiculturalism, On Loan, refugees, Screen Asia, values, Vietnam War, see all tags


Choosing who you want to be

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About the Video Clip


This clip is central to the theme of the film. Lindy has two cultures and two families. Which does she choose? Or, is it necessary to choose? Australia is a country where many cultures live side by side. Each new generation of migrants aspire to and embrace the Australian way of life. For her entire life, Lindy has known Australia, its country, language and culture. Though she feels a close relationship with Vietnamese culture, should she leave behind what she has established in Australia for a father she has not known?

This digital resource is from the project Screen Asia, a joint production of the Asia Education Foundation, Australian Children’s Television Foundation and Screen Australia Digital Learning. Click here for more digital resources for Asia.

Curriculum Focus


In the middle years of schooling, students can synthesise, analyse, reflect on and apply their learning to personal experiences of Asia in an increasingly independent way. They engage in cultural exchange, reflecting their enhanced understanding of their own culture, and their richer and broader framework of knowledge and understanding of Asian cultures. The aim is that students will increasingly empathise with people from different cultural backgrounds, and develop intercultural values and skills to participate in, learn from, contribute to and engage confidently in diverse cultural environments at home and abroad.

Asia Scope and Sequence: English, SOSE, The Arts

Australian Curriculum: English, History, Arts

All state and territory syllabuses for English, SOSE and Arts

Background Information


On Loan presents the story of Lindy Baker (Marillac Johnstone) who believes she is a Vietnamese orphan adopted by Marj (Belinda Giblin) and Geoff (John Walton) when she was three years old. Only occasionally wondering about her background, Lindy is living happily with her family until a letter from her Vietnamese father arrives. Having searched for many years, Le (Quang Chinh Dinh) is overjoyed to find her and he is coming from Thailand to see her. Lindy and her adoptive family are thrown into emotional turmoil as they wait anxiously for his arrival.

The screenplay was written by Anne Brooksbank; Producer – Jane Scott; Director – Geoff Bennett.

The telemovie, On Loan, was one of a series within the Winners series, produced by the Australian Children’s Television Foundation in 1985. Each film in the Winners series shows an aspect of the importance of parents and family life to children. Several films illustrate the struggle for children to grow up and be treated as independent people leading lives of their own as they see fit. Each film says something about the place of family, the need for belonging, or to establish our own identity, the importance of parents to children and of children to parents.

Viewing this clip will assist students to understand Asia, to develop informed attitudes and values, to know about contemporary Asia, and to connect Australia and Vietnam (refer to National Statement for Engaging Students with the Studies of Asia).

Classroom Activities


Background preparation

Students should create a ‘Fact File’ rubric of three columns. (You will find a model on page 50 in In our Own Backyard: Connecting to Global Issues in Our Region edited by Bronwyn Collie, published by Curriculum Corporation, 2006.) Label your three columns ‘Feature of Comparison’, ‘Vietnam’ and ‘Australia’. To complete the boxes, research information for the following ‘features of comparison’ for both countries: Geographic area, Population, Government, Capital population, Dominant language, Other main languages, Main ethnic groups, Religions, Average income per day/year, Average life expectancy, National literacy rate, Major exports including any to Vietnam/Australia, Major imports including any from Vietnam/Australia, Cultural exchanges with Australia/Vietnam.

Activity 1: Ask students to discuss and respond to the following questions:

  1. On the train platform, Lindy’s cousin, Minh, explains that she is now considered part of the extended Vietnamese family in Sydney. Will this be a positive thing for her? Why? Will this be a positive or negative thing for her adoptive family? Why? What factors will determine this?
  2. Minh, Lindy’s cousin, gives her the sketchbook she made of her memories of childhood in Vietnam when she arrived in Australia as a refugee. What do you think of this gesture? Why does she do this? Why does the writer/director include this in the story? If you have a recent migrant background create a sketchbook of memories.

Activity 2: Individually or in a group, students are asked to research and write their responses to the following:

  1. In the train trip scene, Lindy’s biological father asks her to live with him and the surviving family in Asia. He says “You choose!” What is her response? Why do you feel she responds in this way? What would you choose? Why?
  2. Part of Lindy’s argument is to say “But I’m an Australian!” What does she mean by this?
  3. Unless you have indigenous blood, in Australia all generations have experienced cultural identity issues connected to a migration story. At what point did your ancestors experience this? Or perhaps your family is experiencing this now? Present this in a photo-story.
  4. Family law courts in Australia put the wellbeing of the child first when making adoption and custody decisions. Are the adult characters in this story doing this too? Imagine you are interviewing them about this issue. How would each respond? Create the interview dialogue in pairs.

Activity 3: Individually or in a group, students are asked to research and write their responses to the following:

  1. Lindy’s Vietnamese refugee cousin, Minh, says to her “I wish one day that both I and you will go back to our country for a holiday”. Draw up an itinerary for the girls that could be used for their trip to Vietnam and create a photo-story or animation of their holiday. Try to predict their responses and feelings in the text of your photo-story, or in the speech bubbles of your animation. Think about whether their visit will bring mixed feelings. OR
  2. Lindy’s biological father decides to tell about her parents’ wedding in Vietnam. The wedding may have been a civil wedding, a Catholic wedding (due to French colonial influence), a Buddhist ceremony or a Cao Dai wedding. Research images or information about these four ceremonies. Present them as a poster. Have you been to any weddings in Australia? What kind of ceremony took place? Do you have any photos? If so, add them to your poster. OR
  3. Imagine Lindy five years into the future. You can find her on Facebook/MySpace. What information would she include on this page. For example, how would she respond if you ‘wrote on her wall’? Where will she be living and with whom? Which relatives will still be in her life? How will her life look culturally? What would she like or dislike? Will she have learnt Vietnamese? Will she have travelled to Vietnam? If so, with whom? Create a Facebook/MySpace page for her. OR
  4. Imagine Lindy and Minh are visiting Vietnam. They are interviewed on Vietnam radio about their stories. Write the radio interview. The interviewer will include questions about whether Lindy and Mai think the Australian government should have helped them and their families after their lives were disrupted by the civil war which Australia became involved in. The girls will have opinions about the need for help with family reunion, adoption issues, travel costs, and education including languages.

Further Resources


Adopt Vietnam, Operation Babylift – Vietnam Adoption Airlift 1975

Brooksbank, A, 1985, On Loan, Winners, McPhee Gribble / Penguin Books, Australia.

Garland, S & K, Tatsuro, 1993, The Lotus Seed, Harcourt, Brace and Co.

Hathorne, L, 2001, The River, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.

Hoepper, B, 2008, Vietnam Topic Book, SOSE Alive, Jacaranda.

Hyde and Parr, 1995, Same Difference, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.

Ledger, S, and Ledger R, 1998, Snapshots of Asia – Vietnam, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.

ICARN (Intercountry Adoption Resource Network) Australia

Kemp, H, 2003, Bikes of Burden, A Visionary World Publication, Hong Kong.

Kwok, J and McKnight L, 2002, Film Asia, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.

Lewis, R, 1997, Vietnam – Young People, Old Country – Primary, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.

Lewis, R, 1997, Vietnam – Young People, Old Country – Secondary, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.

Uschan, M, 2002, The Fall of Saigon: The End of the Vietnam War, Heinemann Library, Oxford.

Wheeler, 2007, Lonely Planet, Vietnam Guide, Lonely Planet. 5th edition.