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It’s 1993 and Nguyen Xuan Tu was standing outside the Crawford School building with his arm around his son, Hieu.
Far from their home in Vietnam, Xuan Tu was in Canberra completing a Master of Economics of Development. He urged his son, “Make sure you remember Australia. I want you to study here one day.”
More than twenty years later, Xuan Tu and Hieu are standing outside the Crawford building once again as Hieu graduates with a Master of Environmental Management. It’s the realisation of a dream that has been two decades in the making.
“I only have a few memories from that time,” Hieu recalls. “I came to Canberra when I was five years old. My father brought me here while he was studying.”
Like his father, Hieu’s study was funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Japan Scholarship Program. It was his father’s experience at ANU that encouraged Hieu to apply for a Masters program at Crawford School.
“I completed a Bachelor of Environmental Management degree in Vietnam. After that I applied for the Masters program in Crawford School. I deliberately chose to study here because this is where my father studied.
“I’m very grateful for the financial support that the ADB Japan Scholarship Program gave me. The scholarship helped me pursue my dream of studying in Australia and boosted me go further in my future academic career after coming back home ”
With his Masters degree now complete, Hieu is focused on the opportunities ahead.
“I want to go back to Vietnam and start working in the development sector. I’d like to work on green growth.”
The green growth framework describes economic development which minimises negative impacts upon the environment. Studying the framework will be valuable for his career in environmental management.
“My country is a developing country. When you develop, you have a trade-off between environmental protection and economic development. With the knowledge I have gained, I can help empower Vietnam to balance economic development and environmental protection.”
For Xuan Tu, returning to Canberra brings back many memories from his time studying at the Crawford School.
“When I come here, I feel like I am coming home. Today we had lunch in the gardens – it was close to the old Crawford School. I cannot believe that it was twenty years ago that I was studying here.”
Now the Director-General of the Vietnam Ministry of Planning and Investment, Xuan Tu credits much of his career to what he had learnt while studying in Canberra.
“There were so many benefits from my Masters course. At that time, Vietnam was changing from a centralised economy to a market economy. We didn’t have enough experience or knowledge about how a market economy operates. The knowledge I gained at ANU was very useful for handling the challenges that Vietnam faced at that time.”
Although Hieu will soon return to his home in Vietnam, he hopes this will not be the end of his connection with Canberra.
“We now have had two generations of our family study at ANU. One day I hope I can come back with a family of my own.”
Photo and story by James Walsh.