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Three women on a couch

The intensity of these women is incredible. All day they’ve sat on the couch, hats, coats and scarves firmly on, intently writing, talking and dreaming of a Vietnamese prime minister. They scribble down their thoughts on post it notes in Vietnamese and laugh along to the jokes of the interpreter.

All day the mood in the room has been enthusiastic. An intense buzz of excitement in English and Vietnamese clatters through the space after each question is asked in both languages. Ann and Hao work together at high speed to translate questions and answers and the rich discussion.

This group is a mix of first and second generation Vietnamese and a gathering which, under the title of ‘Prime Minister for the Day’, is a rare event that has managed to draw out the older and younger parts of the community. The two generations sit together and apart in different mixes, laughing with each other, and arguing as the younger ones organise the room.

We meet in a room in a community centre, walls adorned by portraits of ‘ordinary’ Melbournians. These Vietnamese are ordinary too, in that their vision for a better Australia is similar to other stories we’ve heard: secure housing, multiculturalism embraced, indigenous history is respected, we all have secure work and people are healthy. This group has their own particular issues too: an integrated cyber network, Australian sovereignty over resources and strong laws to ensure food safety and security.

At the end of the day there is a room full of post it notes and butchers paper, covered in English and Vietnamese and people are smiling. Bodies and souls are further fed with a banquet sent by members of the Indian, Vietnamese and Middle Eastern communities.

The three women on the couch, keeping their hats, coats and scarves firmly on, become three women at a feast, in the middle of a strong and diverse community.