Feature Week 21: Community Leaders
Hieu Van Le
Week 21 of the National Year of Reading coincides with NAIDOC week, so it seems appropriate to turn the ambassador spotlight on Rod Little. We are fortunate to have the support of a number of other community leaders, and we also feature two of these: Hieu Van Le, the Lieutenant Governor for South Australia and Margaret Reynolds, an advocate for human rights and disability services, particularly in Tasmania.
About the Lieutenant Governor
Hieu and his wife, Lan (LARN), arrived in Darwin Harbour in 1977. They were some of the first “boat people” fleeing Vietnam in search of freedom and safe shelter. At only 22 year of age, Hieu was the navigator, by default, of a small, flimsy, leaking fishing boat with 41 fellow refugees on board.
Mr Le settled in Adelaide where he returned to university to regain his qualifications in economics because his degree from Vietnam wasn’t recognised in Australia. He went on to finish a Masters in Business Administration, also at the University of Adelaide.
Since then, he has worked as a senior manager with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, or ASIC. He is the Chairman of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission and the Lieutenant Governor of South Australia. He is the first person of Asian background to have been appointed to these positions in South Australia and is committed to the development and promotion of multiculturalism in South Australia.
The Lieutenant Governor received an Australia Day Medal for outstanding service to ASIC and a Centenary of Federation medal for his contribution to the advancement of multiculturalism in Australia. On Australia Day, 2010, Mr Le was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia, for his service to the community in South Australia.
Mr Le's thoughts on reading and the National Year of Reading
I really am delighted to be a community leader ambassador for the National Year of Reading 2012.
Reading can be a simple pleasure, but it also has a profound impact on a person’s life. It is an enormously effective way of expanding your horizons, gaining knowledge, learning more about the world around you and being given windows into the past. My message to young people in Australia would be - to paraphrase the famous author William Faulkner - “Read, read, read! Classics, good and bad. Read everything! You’ll absorb it”.
Mr Le's reading habits
- When do you read? Anytime I can. As Lieutenant Governor of South Australia, and Chairman of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission, I spend a lot of my evenings at community events, so reading during the week can be difficult. I always look forward to getting a few spare hours on a weekend to settle down with a book, and I love to read intensively on holidays.
- Do you have a favourite genre? I generally read non-fiction, and my favourite genres are politics, biography, social commentary and history.
- Which book is by your bedside right now?
‘The Australian moment’ by George Megalogenis. I’m only halfway through, but it’s a fascinating and deeply insightful book about our country, and I highly recommend it.
- What was the last book you bought from a bookshop?
I love browsing in bookshops, and bought a couple of new books in my last visit. They were ‘Vietnam: The Australian war’ by Paul Ham, and ‘The march of patriots: the struggle for modern Australia’ by Paul Kelly.
- How do you get hold of books? I nearly always buy books myself from bookshops, but I do enjoy receiving books as gifts.
- Do you skim the boring bits or read every word? Both! Often I’ll skim the boring bits and then discover myself enjoying the book, so I’ll go back and read what I’ve missed.
- At what point do you give up on a book? I usually try and persevere, but I do give up on certain books when I find them boring or too predictable.
- Do you remember learning to read? Of course. I first learned to read as a young child in Vietnam, and later I had the pleasure of learning to read in English. I remember both experiences very clearly.
- What’s the first book you can remember reading?
There were two, both in Vietnamese, and I remember them clearly to this day. One was ‘Tintin’ and the other was ‘Monkey: journey to the west’.
- Estimate the number of books you own. I have about 2,000 at home, many in Vietnamese.
Mr Le's favourite reads
- The most influential book in my life was Papillon by Henri Charriere. It was translated into Vietnamese shortly before the fall of Saigon, and, as a young man living in Vietnam and planning to escape the horrors and brutality, I found it deeply inspiring. The book contains a spirit of resilience and determination that was often on my mind in those very difficult times, and I’ve thought of it on many occasions in the years since.
- Another book that has been extremely influential in my life was Monkey: Journey to the West. It is one of the great classical novels of China from the 16th century, and the version that I was given as a child was a Vietnamese translation complete with illustrations. I used to read it so often that the pages became worn and tattered.
This book gave me a great many lessons about life and morality that had a strong impact on me as a kid. It’s full of tales of right versus wrong, good versus evil, the importance of truth and the consequences of lies. Perhaps most influential of all was the emphasis on the central importance in life of finding the balance between benevolence and humility, and strength and bravery.
When I arrived in Australia I remember seeing the TV version of Monkey on the ABC, and thinking how different it was to the images and adventures that I had created in my head.
Want to know more?
- You can connect find out more about the office of the Governor of South Australia on their website:
- More information about Mr Le and the office of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission can be found on the Commission website:
- Select the following links to see our other featured ambassadors for week 21:
- If you want to see the other National Year of Reading ambassadors, go to our ambassadors page.
- Other featured ambassadors can be found on the ambassador feature week listing.