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Two fathers, two mothers - one child

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 - Asia, Australian culture, On Loan, Screen Asia, Vietnam War, adoption, belonging, change and continuity, family life, filmmaking, identity, media text, migrants, multiculturalism, refugees, values, see all tags

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Two fathers, two mothers - one child

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About the Video Clip

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This clip sees Lindy struggling with her identity and sense of belonging. We learn that while she is happy to be found by her biological father, there are problems associated with this new relationship. Her adoptive parents, and Lindy, fear that Le will want to take her away from them as he had never signed the adoption papers. Lindy and Le meet for the first time at the airport. While he recognises her, she cannot remember him. As Lindy and her adoptive father settle Le into his accommodation, Lindy is torn between the two of them. The scene in the lift is evident of this; Lindy is positioned between her two fathers.

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

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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

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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

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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. In the swimming pool scene, Lindy and Julie discuss Lindy’s feelings about Lindy’s approaching first meeting with her biological Vietnamese father. What do we learn from Lindy’s words, and from the water imagery, about her situation and state of mind?
  2. The clip reveals that Julie’s family situation in Australia has some similarities with Lindy’s family situation. Explain why. Do you have anything in common with Lindy or Julie? If so, what are the commonalities?

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

  1. In the airport scene, we see a close-up shot of Lindy letting go of her adoptive father’s hand at a particular moment. What does this symbolise? Find a current web-news report of a family reunion at an Australian airport, which has come about because of a family separation or refugee situation. In pairs or small groups, share this report.
  2. Lindy’s adoptive father is honest with her Vietnamese father when he says he has mixed feelings about his visit. Is his honesty wise? Why?
  3. How do we see Lindy manage being with her two fathers who use two different names for her – Lindy and Mai?
  4. In the hotel lift scene Lindy asks her Vietnamese father about her birthday. What is his answer? What is her reaction? Quote from the dialogue in your response.
  5. What are the differences and similarities between Lindy’s two fathers? Consider their personalities, their life histories, their cultural identities and their attitudes to family. Show this in a Venn diagram. Doe we feel optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the relationship between the two men? What evidence is there for your opinion?

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

  1. Imagine if Lindy (Mai) had grown up in post-war Vietnam, instead of in Sydney. Research information about Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). In 1975, this is the city where most Vietnamese adoptees were flown from to Australia. Find images of Ho Chi Minh’s nearby Mekong River settlements and the cities of Hue, Nha Trang or Da Nang to obtain similar visual information. Then, using images and text, imagine a place where Lindy was actually born. Label and describe the setting of Lindy’s likely home and streetscape – or riverscape – or coastalscape. Point out similarities and differences between her home in Sydney and her home in Vietnam.

Further Resources

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The Australian Children’s Television Foundation

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.