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Two birthdays, two names and 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 birthdays, two names and one child

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About the Video Clip

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At the beginning of the clip, it is Lindy’s fourteenth birthday and we hear her anxiety of not knowing the details of her birth. She receives a letter from her biological father, whom she presumed was dead. In it, he tells her that he has been looking for her for a long time. This clip sets up the dilemma within the film and the choice Lindy has to make.

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. Lindy has mixed feelings about her 14th birthday. What is she happy about and what is she sad about? Why? Quote some dialogue to provide evidence.
  2. Who does Lindy confide in about her birthday issue? Is it surprising that Lindy confides in a friend rather than her parents? Why? Who would you confide in?
  3. Julie asks Lindy whether she thinks about her adoption. What is Lindy’s reply?
  4. Julie comments “He’s a nice dad. He’s nicer than mine. You were lucky to get him”. What does this suggest about Julie?

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

  1. The doll can be viewed as another character in the film narrative. Describe Lindy’s doll. What does the doll symbolise in the film? Do we see the doll during significant moments? When?
  2. We observe that Lindy receives two “gifts” for her birthday. One is the pendant, and the other is the letter from her biological father. How does each gift affect her? Why?
  3. When Lindy reads the letter and learns her birth name, as well as the news that her mother is dead, the doll is in the background. What is the director’s intention here?
  4. Describe the music in this clip. How does it reflect Lindy’s state of mind? Explain
  5. Lindy is upset that her adoptive parents seem to know more about her origins and her biological mother than she has been told. Why did the parents not tell Lindy what they knew? Did they do the right thing? Why?

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

  1. Lindy’s adoptive father suggests that she write back to her Vietnamese biological father. Step into Lindy’s shoes and write this letter. Include questions you would want answered if you were Lindy.
  2. Lindy is curious about her birth country and the circumstances of her adoption. Imagine you are Lindy researching the Vietnam War. What images and information can you find? Present your research as a photo-story.
  3. Do we see any Vietnamese culture in Lindy’s home, or in Bondi, Sydney, where she lives? How might this affect her sense of identity when growing up?

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.

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.

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

Lewis, R, 2003, 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.