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Kids are never yours forever – they're on loan

Video clip synopsis – The effects of Australia’s role in the mass adoption of Vietnamese babies during the fall of Saigon in Vietnam, in 1975.
Year of production - 1985
Duration - 3min 19sec
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


Kids are never yours forever – they're on loan

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About the Video Clip


This scene can be viewed as Lindy’s awakening to her cultural heritage. The clip introduces the viewer to the meaning of Lindy’s Vietnamese name, Mai (yellow flower). Lindy has gone with Le to visit her uncle and his family who live in Sydney. She is unaccustomed to hearing the Vietnamese language and struggles to understand what is said at the dinner table. Her cousin, Minh, explains the meaning of Lindy’s Vietnamese name and interprets what the family is saying. In contrast to Lindy’s growth and awareness of her new family and cultural heritage, her adoptive family express concern about their tenuous relationship with Lindy. They are worried that at the age of 16, Lindy has the right to choose her own path and who she wants to live with.

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. What does Lindy tell her Vietnamese cousin she remembers about her birth mother? Depict this in an animation.
  2. When we hear Lindy telling her Vietnamese cousin, Minh, about her memories of her birth mother, at the same time we see Lindy’s adoptive mother pick up the doll placed by the Australian family photos. She holds it thoughtfully. What symbolism is the film director suggesting in this sequence? Explain why he would use this?
  3. Lindy’s Vietnamese cousin, Minh, explains the origin and meaning of Lindy’s birth name, Mai. What does it mean and why? What is the irony of the meaning? What appears to be Lindy’s reaction to this explanation? How do you know?
  4. Survey some class members about their given names. Ask whether they know the meaning and cultural origin of their names. Ask whether they know why their parents chose their name.

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

  1. Lindy’s parents have two levels of anxiety about her sleepover with her Vietnamese cousin. What are they?
  2. Is Lindy’s family wise or foolish to allow her to sleepover at her Vietnamese cousin’s? Why?
  3. The director is suggesting that not only is Lindy maturing, so too are her parents, though with more difficulty. What evidence can you find to support this statement?
  4. Lindy’s father philosophy is that ‘Kids are never yours forever – they are on loan’. What does he mean? Does he apply this proverb to both his children? How does the director show this?
  5. Draw up a list of five pieces of advice that you would give to each of Lindy’s families about how to support and work with Lindy through this time of change.

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

  1. Create a rubric of columns for the five characters we meet in this film clip:- Lindy, Lindy’s cousin (Minh), Lindy’s father (Le), Lindy’s adoptive father (Geoff), Lindy’s mother (Marj), Lindy’s brother (Danny). Write the words from this list of adjectives and verbs into the column if the word suits the character. It is possible to put a word into more than one column.
    Angry, anxious, hurt, confused, curious, fearful, sympathetic, stressed, loving, accepting, rejecting, optimistic, pessimistic, thoughtful, deep-thinking, philosophical, disturbed, secure, independent, supportive, excited. Can you add some words of your own?

Further Resources


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.