The Haunting of Agent Orange within the Waters of Rivers and Bodies for Vietnamese Australians

Boi Huyen Ngo


In the context of climate change and the inevitable future of climate change refugees, there is the need to explore the intrinsic connection between migrants and their connection to the environment, particularly when they are changing environments (their biogregion), and homelands.

This paper uses case study methodology in its examination of Agent Orange within the waters of Vietnam and Australia; it attempts to understand the haunting and the affects of water contamination within lived experiences of (un)belonging. Agent Orange was used by the U.S military in Vietnam as part of the herbicidal warfare program called Operation Ranch Hand. The Union Carbide Corporation chemical plant, which had produced Agent Orange for the Vietnam War, had one plant situated in Sydney, Australia by the Parramatta River. Parramatta River is a river in Western Sydney where many Vietnamese migrants, including my family, live. It is a popular landmark for picnics and events for Vietnamese families. The haunting upon my family, once they realised the presence of Agent Orange within the waters of their new homeland, has brought strong visceral and sensory memories of their experiences of the war and of migration. Their migration experience has taken a circular route, akin to the water contamination: Agent Orange has been produced in Australia, released in Vietnam and contaminated (and continues to contaminate) both Australia and Vietnam. Although they escaped Vietnam as refugees sailing on a boat across the waters, Agent Orange also has travelled, present within the waters in the river systems of both countries. Agent Orange's deadly legacy, ecocide, haunts Australian Vietnamese beyond physical and geographical space and time.


Ecocide; cultural ecology; migration; ecopoetics; Agent Orange

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