BACKGROUND: This paper explores how a group of Vietnamese Australian young women acquire knowledge of sexual issues, and the impact the traditional Vietnamese culture has on the acquisition of this knowledge. It is based on a qualitative study that examined the factors which shape the sexual behaviour of Vietnamese Australian young women living in Australia. METHODS: A Grounded Theory methodology was employed in this investigation, and involved in-depth interviews with 15 Vietnamese Australian young women aged 18-25 years, who reside in Victoria, Australia. RESULTS: The findings illustrated three key elements involved in the acquisition of knowledge of sexual issues: 'Accepting parental silence', 'Exploring sources of knowledge' and 'Needing culturally targeted information'. The young women desired discussion about sexual issues but accepted that cultural 'barriers' were formidable. Their desire conflicted with the traditional familial norm of 'silence' regarding sexual matters. Consequently, knowledge was sought outside the home, specifically from peers and the media. The importance of culturally appropriate and adequate sexual discussions for Vietnamese Australian young people was stressed, so that informed decisions could be made about their sexual lives. CONCLUSION: It is imperative for young people to have adequate and appropriate sexual education so that informed and safe sexual choices can be made. For young people from diverse cultural backgrounds, this education must be culturally appropriate and accessible, taking into consideration cultural mores regarding gender and sexual matters, as well as current beliefs in the 'mainstream' youth culture.