Life On The Job




Anh Do (born 2 June 1977) is a Vietnamese-born Australian author, actor, comedian, and artist. He has appeared on many Australian TV shows such as Thank God You're Here and Good News Week, and was runner-up on Dancing With The Stars in 2007. He is the brother of film director Khoa Do and has acted in several of Khoa's films, including Footy Legends, which he co-wrote and produced. In 2012, his TV show Anh Does Vietnam began airing. He was a finalist in the 2014 Archibald Prize. (Source: Wikipedia)

Anh Do and his family fled to Australia as refugees in 1980. In his 2010 autobiography, The Happiest Refugee, Do tells of how his family survived five days in a leaky fishing boat nine and a half metres long and two metres wide. During the trip his family and the rest of the passengers were attacked by two different bands of pirates. The first group stole one out of the two engines and the second group of pirates stole the second engine, which had been broken but repaired by Anh's father using a piece of rubber from a thong. It was reported that as the second band of pirates left, one of them threw a gallon of water onboard which kept all but one of the refugees alive, until they were finally rescued by a German Merchant ship. The boat was packed with 40 Vietnamese refugees fleeing across the Indian Ocean. "We were crammed in like sardines," he said.

The Happiest Refugee has won many awards, including the 2011 Australian Book of the Year, Biography of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, as well as the Indie Book of the Year Award 2011, Non-fiction Indie Book of the Year 2011, and it was shortlisted for the 2011 NSW Premier's Literary Awards, Community Relations Commission Award.(Source: Wikipedia)


Did You Know?

The Happiest Refugee

•Winner, ABIA (Australian Book Industry Awards) Book of the Year
•Winner, ABIA Biography of the Year 2011
•Winner, ABIA Newcomer of the Year 2011
•Overall Winner, Indie Book of the Year Award 2011
•Winner, Non-fiction Indie Book of the Year 2011
•Winner, The 2011 Nielsen BookData Booksellers' (ABA) Choice Award


Anh Do grew up in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta. "In 1982, he started school at St. Bridget's Primary, a local Catholic school with an abundant mix of nationalities." (Source: The Happiest Refugee)

(Source: Slideshare)

He won a part scholarship to attend St Aloysius at Milsons Point for his secondary education. His uncle was a Jesuit and wanted the best education for Anh and his brother. He advised Anh's parents to send him to St Aloysius - a prestigious Sydney school.

St Aloysius

He studied a combined Business Law degree at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Experiences & Opportunities:

When he was 14 he started a small business breeding tropical fish. While studying his first year of law at the University of Technology, Sydney, he owned a stall which sold American-Indian artefacts, which he later expanded to four franchised stores.

Six months before finishing his combined Business Law degree, law firms offered him jobs which required 60 hours of work a week. He opted to take up stand-up comedy instead. Since 2013 Do has cut back on comedy to focus on painting full-time again and was a finalist in the Archibald Prize in 2014. (Source: Wikipedia)

He took every gig he was offered, including spruiking fruit and vegetables in shopping malls and hosting boxing tournaments, until he'd saved a $40,000 deposit [on a house for his mother].

''I gave the house to her for Christmas 2000,'' recalls Do, who was then 23. ''We all cried.''

Do realised he may have a future in comedy during his final year of university, when the law students practised their courtroom technique in ''moot courts''. ''Rather than just going through the case, I'd just make the class laugh and I'd win because they would vote for me,'' he says.

At an ''open mic'' comedy night, a friend told Do he was funnier than the participants, so next time Do did a five-minute stint that went well and led to his first booking. (Source: SMH)

Did You Know?

Anh was a finalist in the Archibald Prize 2014 for his portrait of his Dad, Tam Do.

Finalist in Archibald Prize

Anh Do’s father Tam Do is a pork roll maker. ‘A few months ago my father came to stay with me. I didn’t know he’d been in hospital because he’d forbidden the family to tell me. He deals with problems by conquering them first. You only hear about it afterwards. My father taught me to fear nothing and I’ve always thought he was invincible,’ says Do.

‘He’s had an incredible life: stared down communist soldiers, faced starvation at sea and pirates who threatened his family. But this time, despite his bravado, he looked vulnerable. He’d dropped to 50 kilos and when I hugged him I could feel his ribs. I spent the next few days wondering how long this skinny, fearless man could keep defying the odds.

‘I had everything set up to paint a famous comedian friend. But I knew I had to paint dad. I decided to use unprimed linen because I wanted the oil paint to bleed a shadow of my father. The main thing I wanted to capture was dad’s physical vulnerability juxtaposed with his defiant, untamable spirit. I painted it in a day, cried a lot and was emotionally spent at the end.’

Born in Vietnam in 1977, Do came to Australia as a refugee with his family in 1980. He enrolled to study law at university and fine arts at TAFE simultaneously but dropped out of both courses to become a comedian. Since last year, he has cut back on comedy to focus on painting full-time again.
(Source: Art Gallery of NSW)

My father's favourite Vietnamese saying: There's only two times in life - now and too late.


Pictures of You: Anh Do


Sunrise: Anh Do Comedian


ABC News: Author Wins


Anh Do: Comedian & MC


Ahn Do - Celebrity Comedian



Anh Do's Website


SMH: Profile: Anh Do: 2 February 2011


News: 16 July 2015


A Finalist in Archibald Prize - 2014

Archibald Prize Finalist

ABC: 702: 2010

ABC 702



Career FAQs

Career FAQs



Philosophy [Community of Inquiry], the Question Quadrant,  and "The Little Refugee"

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle High SchoolSecondary

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy
CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking
Personal and social capability
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability
Australian Curriculum Cross Curriculum Priorities: Asian Priority



1. Get the students to form a circle with their chairs or directly on the floor. Everyone is to be in the circle. Read "The Little Refugee" by Anh and Suzanne Do by asking the students to take turns to read out loud each paragraph.  

The Little Refugee

2. Set up a Question Quadrant on the floor or on a whiteboard:

Question Quadrant

3. Get the students, in pairs, to come up with 4 questions - one for each quadrant. The questions for thinking are the hardest to come up with – but that is what we are aiming for. Example: What is Hope?

4. List all the questions on the board and put the students' names next to their question.

5. Ask the students to think about grouping the questions - the ones that are the same or similar - together.

6. Start the discussion with the most asked question.

7. Make sure the students follow the rules of Philosophy in Schools:

  • Only one person speaks at a time
  • Pay attention to the person who is speaking
  • Give other people a chance to speak
  • Build upon other people's ideas
  • No put-downs (Source: Phil Cam)

8. Discussion should involve students in critical, creative and caring thinking:

Critical Creative Caring
give reasons
consider implications
apply criteria
weigh evidence
generate questions
raise suggestions
imagine alternatives
formulate criteria
make connections
build on ideas
listen to other's points of view
consider other's reasons
explore disagreements considerately
build on other's ideas
explore other's opinions
help to synthesise suggestions

9. Provide Closure: Example: Get the students to reflect in their journals a time when they felt lonely.

10. Leave the questions on the board or copy them so that the other unanswered questions can be used in the next lessons.


Interviewing Anh Do (Adapted from Oxford University Press - PDF)

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

TeacherTeacher - for more activities see the Unit Written by Jane Sherlock - Years 9/10 English

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy
CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking
Personal and social capability
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability
Australian Curriculum Cross Curriculum Priorities: Asian Priority

 1. Read The Happiest Refugee [or, The Little Refugee by Anh Do and Suzanne Do - a Picture Book].

2. Go to the ABC's 7.30 Report with Leigh Sales - Leigh interviewed Anh on 26th July 2011 after he had won a major literary award for The Happiest Refugee.

7.30 Report

3. Watch the interview and read the transcript.

4. Form a group of 3-4 students. Write three more questions each [individually] and then share and decide which 3 questions you would put to Anh.

5. Each of you is to also write Anh's likely responses to the 3 questions. Compare them and decide as a group your best three answers [ they could be a combination of your individual answers]. Base Anh's responses on what you have learnt about him from reading The Happiest Refugee.



Australia's Migration Policy - what does it mean for refugees like Anh Do? A multimodal presentation. (Source:Oxford University Press - PDF)

 MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy
CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking
Personal and social capability
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability
Intercultural UnderstandingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Intercultural Understanding
ICT Capability
Australian Curriculum General Capability: ICT Capability
Australian Curriculum Cross Curriculum Priorities: Asian Priority

Vietnamese Refugees
Above: Thirty-five Vietnamese refugees await rescue after spending eight days at sea.
Photo by Lieutenant Carl R Begy. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons

1. Read the following articles and websites: 

"Vietnamese refugee crisis

The aftermath of the Vietnam War motivated many people in Vietnam to leave their country seeking safety and a better life.

Surprisingly, few people fled Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The enormous wave of refugees from Indochina started after the war, beginning in 1975 when totalitarian communist governments had control of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and forced millions to flee. The Happiest Refugee begins in 1976 in Saigon (current day Ho Chi Minh City). The Vietnam War has ended and the country is in turmoil as the brutal communist government tries to impose its new regime.

Two million Vietnamese people became refugees. Many, like Do's family, fled their country in small, overcrowded, substandard boats. Some boats made it to the safety of neighbouring countries like Malaysia. Other boats made it as far as northern Australia. However, in trying to cross the South China Sea, many people died, the victims of unseaworthy boats and pirates. Some refugees spent years in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, such as Thailand, before finally being allowed to resettle in other countries like Australia.

In the ten years from 1976, approximately 94,000 refugees from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam settled in Australia. Only a very small number of these, about 2,000 people, came to Australia by boat.

Australia's migration policy

Australia has a long history of welcoming people who have lost their homes and livelihoods, especially through the devastation of war and harsh political regimes. People have had to flee their homes because they fear for their lives, often because they belong to a political, religious or cultural group that is being persecuted in their country of origin.

Australia's permanent migration program is divided into two main categories:

  • 'migration', which is for skilled migrants, migrants joining family members already in Australia, and a small group of special eligibility migrants

  • 'humanitarian', which is for refugees and others in humanitarian need" (Source:Oxford University Press)

ABC - The Luckiest Refugees
27th January 2014

The Luckiest Refugees
Refugee Council of Australia

Refugee Council website
University of Adelaide: Hieu Van Le's Story

Hieu Van Le's story
A remarkable journey

South Australia's Lieutenant Governor and University of Adelaide graduate Hieu Van Le came to Australia in 1977 as a Vietnamese refugee. His remarkable journey to Australia is the stuff of legend and his achievements within Australia almost as extraordinary.
ABC: Former refugee Hieu Van Le sworn in as South Australia's governor during official ceremony: 1 September 2014

Hieu Van Le

Another Way is Possible by Paul Wallis

"In the late 70s and early 80s Australia processed and received in excess of 112,000 Vietnamese refugees including those originally dubbed "boatpeople". They were processed in Australia and Malaysia. Though the state of the vessels in which they arrived and the dangers of their passage were matters of great concern, nobody at that time thought to build policy platforms on the notion that our guiding prinicple should be the targeting of "people smugglers" (ie those renting out the boats) in order to stop the boats - as if that were to solve the problem.

Not only did we in Australia accept this rapid inflow of asylum seekers, but today no one could deny that our country has been cultrally enriched by this influx. At the time the significant inflow of refugees was managed without the need for a policy of mandatory or indefinite detention. Families were not deliberately separated, or fathers deliberately deprived of sleep, or sick people deliberately deprived of their medicines, before shipping them back to the same danger they were fleeing. It was managed without the fear and politicking we see today. Because Australians recognised the need to deal compassionately with the aftermath of war.

Today those making a similar journey to our shores for similar reasons, be it persecution of Christians in Thailand, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iran; be it civil war in the Central African Republic or refuge from dangerous politics in countries like Zimbabwe, find that the government of Australia has changed since the 1980s in the style of "protection' now being offered. Given the modest numbers it is difficult to understand why. But the testimony of our Vietnamese, brothers and sisters will remind us, if we will remember, that another way is possible."
(Source: WebArchive Only Paul Wallis)

2. Working in small groups, research and create a multimodal presentation on one of the following topics:

  • Anh Do and his family and their contribution to Australian Society, OR,

  • Hieu Van Le's Story compared and contrasted to Anh Do's story, OR,

  • The Plight of refugees in Australia
    Many people find the issue of refugees confusing or alarming because of myths and misinformation. Sort through the misformation to find the real facts. The following questions will help guide your research.

    i. How has the media represented the issue of refugees in Australia? Research recent media coverage of asylum seekers and refugees, including newspaper editorials, cartoons and letters to the editor.

    ii. Find information and statistics about the numbers of refugees who come to Australia and where they come from. What is happening in their home countries to cause them to flee? What happens to some of these families months or years after they have settled in Australia?
    (Source:Oxford University Press)

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