Professor Tien Kieu was a Tutor at St Hilda’s College and Senior Common Room President in 1993. Now a Victorian MP, Professor Kieu made a ‘miracle’ journey into State Parliament.
Professor Tien Kieu is a boat person, a label from which he does not shy away. A child of war, he is originally from North Vietnam. At age 19, he fled Vietnam in 1980, joining tens of thousands of his countrymen and women who settled in Australia in that great wave of migration.
Now 58, Professor Kieu recently stood in the Victorian Parliament to give his first speech of the month and began with a passage from the second verse of the national anthem, the one most Australians don’t know. “For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share”. “My presence here today started with the kindness and generosity of the Australian people through to the spirit of the national anthem,” Professor Kieu said.
There were several failed voyages Professor Kieu experienced coming to Australia. An ill-fated attempt to fashion a petrol tanker into a vessel and an overloaded boat capsized with more than 30 people, horrifically his close relatives drowned. “Those are the deaths I will live for, so I vow to myself,” Professor Kieu said in the ornate red chamber of Victoria’s upper house. Unsurprisingly, he has watched with interest the progress of the Medevac Bill in Canberra, which will give asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru a better chance to come to Australia for medical treatment. “We want to control our borders but it can be done without sacrificing humanity,” he says.
Having beaten the odds himself, Professor Kieu set out building a career based on conquering mathematical improbabilities. He is a Professor of Quantum Mechanics, who has spent much of his academic life trying to solve what he calls “non-computable problems”. These are mathematical mysteries so inscrutable not even a computer can solve them, he explains.
Having made the unique journey from a remote beach in Vietnam to being a member of the State Parliament, Professor Kieu’s political ambitions are comparatively less dramatic. He wants to promote the study of the sciences in higher education and push for greater resources for teachers in these fields.
St Hilda’s is proud to have such an inspirational community member and will continue to follow Professor Kieu’s journey.