New mayor’s refugee story all in the bag

L-R: Dr Moya McFadzean, Cuc Lam and Rohini Kappadath

An iconic red suitcase Cuc Lam bought after trading her wedding ring is on display at the Immigration Museum following an International Migrants Day event on Monday to recognise her recent appointment as Mayor of Maribyrnong.

During the lunchtime event, Cr Lam shared her personal story as a refugee of the Vietnam War, her journey to Australia and her dedication to helping others.

Museums Victoria first acquired artefacts for its collection from Cr Lam in 2001 and the story and objects she brought to Australia have been used extensively since this time by the Immigration Museum and other educational and cultural organisations to explore themes about refugees, belonging and making a new life.

In addition to her suitcase, Cr Lam donated her escape clothes, photos and other personal effects to the Museum collection. Her suitcase has been identified as a treasure of the Museum’s collection and was included in the Treasures of the Museum book published in 2004.

“Cuc Lam’s story and her collection have become icons for the museum and our migration collections. We have documented them, displayed them, featured them in education programs and online resources,” said Dr Moya McFadzean, Senior Curator, Migration and Cultural Diversity.

“Cuc’s suitcase has become a symbol of how a very ordinary object can reveal a life most extraordinary. It is a touchstone for the refugee story, it reminds us that people have sought refuge in Australia since early settlement, and that the validity and urgency of this motivation for migrating continues even more so today. Such objects help us to make such stories tangible.”

Immigration Museum’s General Manager Rohini Kappadath has recently been appointed to lead the transformation of the Museum into a living, vibrant multicultural hub that celebrates our rich cultural diversity and drives social cohesion.

“We are living in extraordinary times. The world is experiencing the biggest displacement of people since the Second World War with more than 22 million displaced from their home countries. 

“Although migration and movement across the globe can bring with it challenges, it also brings well-documented economic benefits.  Migrants are entrepreneurs, job creators, risk takers, workers, consumers and taxpayers. 

“This International Migrants Day, we proudly recognise the contributions of migrants, and are honoured to continue sharing the story of Cuc Lam, a dear friend of the Immigration Museum,” Ms Kappadath said.

Cr Lam’s suitcase is on display in the foyer of the Immigration Museum until 1 February 2017.

Immigration Museum
400 Flinders St, Melbourne
25 November to 15 April 2018
Adults $15, Concession & kids free

For all media enquiries, please contact Museums Victoria.

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