Born out of a tragedy in
As more than 50% of the Vietnamese community are Buddhists, this rapid growth posed a great challenge to a handful of Vietnamese Buddhist monks and nuns who pioneered their Dharma journey in the early 1980’s by building temples and providing religious teaching and service for believers around Australia. They had to overcome secular obstacles as well as organisational and demographic changes. In the process, they have made notable contributions to
In the long term, how the first generation of Buddhist leadership can rejuvenate to stay relevant to the increasing second and following generations of Vietnamese Australians may affect the viability of Vietnamese Buddhism in this country .
For many years, Dieu Kim used to spend her annual leave over the Christmas/New Year holiday period attending summer retreats at
Dieu Kim, a young hospital doctor, is part of the hybrid “one and a half” generation coming to resettle during her teens. She is bi-lingual and bi-cultural.
Stephen Nguyen, a young engineer, came to
Vi Phan is a
Liz Thanh, a social worker and Canberra-born second generation of Vietnamese background, is yet to show any interest in Buddhism. Like her peers, she is simply not “religious”.
There are many like Dieu Kim, Stephen Nguyen, Vi Phan and Liz Thanh throughout Australia, representing the young generation of Vietnamese Australians who have fundamentally changed not only the demographics of the Vietnamese Australian community, but also its spiritual needs, after only four decades of resettlement .
Census 2011: Australians and Vietnamese Australians by numbers
The Australian population stood at 21.5 millions at Census 2011 of which around 1.1% identified as of Vietnamese background. The numbers of Vietnamese Australians vary amongst the three bases for calculation. In terms of birth place, there were 185 039 Vietnam-born, compared with 221 114 persons claiming Vietnamese ancestry and 233 390 persons speaking the Vietnamese language at home .
Within the Vietnamese Australian community, around 56% identified Buddhism as their faith.
At Census 2011, Buddhism remained the second largest religion after Christianity but ahead of Islam and Hinduism. This second position however does not tell the whole story of Buddhism.
Firstly, Australia is still a predominantly Christian country, albeit as a proportion, Christianity has declined significantly between Census 1911 and 2011 from 96% to 61% (with 13 150 600 persons) while Buddhism in 2011 increased its share to 2.5% of the population with 529 000 believers of whom 104 066 were of Vietnamese heritage or around 20%.
Secondly, amongst the non-Christian Faiths, Buddhism was the third fastest growing religion after Hinduism and Islam. Within a decade since Census 2001 Hinduism increased by 189%, Islam by 69% compared with 48% of Buddhism. At this rate, Buddhism may not remain in the second position during the next decade.
Thirdly, while all these three faiths depend largely on immigration from Asia and the
And fourthly, Buddhists in multicultural
A good illustration of this complex diversity is the ways Indochinese refugees setting up their Buddhist temples and congregations in
Structurally at the national and state levels, the Buddhist Federation of Australia (BFA), the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils (FABC), the Buddhist Council of NSW and the Buddhist Council of Victoria or similar bodies in other states are peak organisations bringing together members of the Sangha from different schools and lineages and some prominent lay Buddhists, for a common voice and shared goals in the promotion of Dharma for peace and social harmony. This kind of co-operation at the leadership level has not permeated to CALD Buddhist communities where inter-personal communication is still by way of a mother’s tongue.
A compact Vietnamese community in early multicultural
Some Vietnamese came to
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, thousands of young Vietnamese were sponsored under the Colombo Plan to pursue their tertiary education in this country. They were the best and brightest amongst
Before 1975, a permanent Vietnamese community in
When Saigon fell on 30 April 1975, hundreds of Vietnamese students were stranded and allowed to remain in
Former Vietnamese students were divided amongst themselves due to their personal allegiance. Those who chose to support the new power back home stayed together within their own circle and were reluctant to be involved in the soon-to-be fast growing Vietnamese refugee community. Many others such as Dr. Tran My-Van at the ANU in
The Vietnamese population increased dramatically and continuously through the four subsequent censuses: 41,096 in 1981, 83,028 in 1986, 121,813 in 1991 and 150,941 in 1996. At Census 1996, there were also 46,756 second generation of Vietnamese background.
Substantial changes to
These figures show that the Vietnamese came to
Difficult first steps and decade of achievements
Apart from Venerable Thich Nhu Dien’s occasional visits from
Vietnamese Christians could join the mainstream and well-established Catholic Church or other
Dr. Hoang Khoi recalls that as a Buddhist and a post graduate student at the University of New South Wales, he and his fellow believers held meditation sessions and sometimes celebrated the Vesak and Vietnamese Lunar New Year at an inner suburb Thai Temple, which practises Theravada Buddhism, whereas most Vietnamese are Mahayana Buddhists.
As Vietnamese refugees began to arrive in greater numbers after the Whitlam dismissal in November 1975, the need for a resident Vietnamese speaking monk and their own place of worship and meditation became more acute. Mrs. Be Ha, fresh from a refugee camp with her family, and still in temporary accommodation at the Enterprise Migrant Hostel in
Currently in her voluntary position as the long-serving President of the Springvale Indo-Chinese Mutual Assistance Association in Victoria, Be Ha remembers her profound delight and relief to be among a small group of Vietnamese Buddhists welcoming the first Vietnamese Buddhist monk to Australia at Melbourne’s Tullamarine International Airport on 09 July 1980: Senior Venerable Thich Tac Phuoc, who would become known later as the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue, was sponsored from a refugee camp in Hong Kong. He had been a high ranking member of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) in
Senior Venerable Thich Tac Phuoc conducted the first Buddhist ceremony in the Vietnamese language by a resident Vietnamese monk in 1980. This was held at a Catholic facility in
Shortly after his arrival, Senior Venerable Thich Tac Phuoc moved to
Venerable Thich Bao Lac made a few trips to
The growing Vietnamese Buddhist community realised quickly that building a place of worship would prove far more difficult and complicated. Today’s seemingly well-established Phuoc Hue and Phap Bao Monasteries in Western Sydney and other similar Vietnamese temples in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth disguise the problems of neighbourhood protests, land use zoning and local government’s building regulations they had to overcome when starting out as house-temples in residential areas. “Buddha worship in a garage” was the description given by The Sydney Morning Herald  to the very modest brick veneer house known as the first
What motivated active Buddhists like Dr. Hoang Khoi, Messrs Phan Dong Bich, Le Thang Tien, Chuc Thanh, Thien Chau, Mrs Nhu Hoa, Mrs Mai Tuyet Anh, Ms Ngoc Han, the late Mr. Tran Ngoc Thach, the late Mr. Dinh Quang Chinh etc… in Sydney, Mr. Minh Chieu, Mrs. Be Ha, Mr. Tran Hoang, Dr. Tran Quoc Dong, the late Dr. Nguyen Duc Hung etc… in Melbourne, and Mr. Nguyen Viet Trung, Dr. Bui Trong Cuong, Dr. Tran Van Lan etc… in Brisbane and many other cities, was the acute unmet needs of mature aged Vietnamese who joined them for a new life in an English speaking and predominantly Christian country.
These committed volunteers’ determination, devotion and long-standing involvement in the temple development projects in the 1980’s were instrumental in the completion of many Vietnamese-styled pagodas around
“My mother was a devout Buddhist in
Some five years after the fall of
Structurally, Senior Venerables Thich Tac Phuoc, Thich Huyen Ton and Venerable Thich Bao Lac, together with the Vietnamese Lay Buddhist Associations in
Since the Federation’s second Conference in April 1983, when Senior Venerable Thich Tac Phuoc was re-elected President (and known thereafter as Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue), Vietnamese Buddhism has had its best decades of development.
Newly sponsored monks from refugee camps in
In 1982, the Federation and its NSW branch began publishing Phat Giao Viet Nam and Phap Bao Buddhist Magazines respectively, as a means to reach a wider audience. Prior to the age of the Internet, this traditional way of communication was essential as a link for the budding Buddhist community.
Youth Activities Reactivated
For additional face-to-face contact with Buddhist parents and their children, most Vietnamese Buddhist temples across
I believe what appears to be a better organised and potentially more suitable response to the young generation ‘turning away’ from religion is the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Family / Association known in Vietnamese as Gia Dinh Phat Tu (GDPT).
Conceptually, the Buddhist Youth Family is broadly similar to the Scout Movement (Phong Trao Huong Dao) or the (Catholic) Eucharistic Youth Movement (Phong Trao Thieu Nhi Thanh The). All three had been active in
Unlike the other two which are better known internationally, the Buddhist Youth Family is specific to the Vietnamese Buddhism. It was established by a well-know Vietnamese lay Buddhist leader, Dr. Le Dinh Tham in 1940 and became a nationally affiliated youth branch of the Saigon-based UBCV, which has been banned since 1981 by the current
Most Venerable Thich Quang Ba recalled his effort to reorganise the Vietnamese Buddhist Youth Family at Pulau Bidong camp upon his arrival there as a refugee in early 1983. Once in
Also in 1983 in
Each GDPT conducts activities at most weekends in association with, but not under direct control of a Vietnamese Buddhist temple. They are under the general guidance of a national or continental leadership group (Ban Huong Dan Trung Uong) such as in the
During the past 40 years, thousands of pre-teens and teenagers have been enjoying the benefits of week-end learning and playing in groups for character building, mutual support and a culture of community service. Former members who are now young adults return to their temple as team leaders to continue this personal development training. One such leader is Toan Nguyen, a solicitor in
“Back in the early 1990s (1992 for me) people joined GDPT for friendship, socialising, supporting each other as new migrants to
“I remember back then it was not as organised like today because of the lack of resources. Many of our activities were outdoors and older leaders had to support junior members with transportation and camp fees etc. Everything was so basic but we had fun and we enjoyed the activities, the friendship and the various scripture classes that were held by the
Learning through fun and group activities indeed attracted Hai Thanh Nguyen to join a Buddhist Youth Family in the first place. Now a leading Buddhist Youth Family working under the ‘guidance but not control’ by Senior Venerable Thich Phuoc Tan, he and his Buddhist Youth Family represent the young face of Quang Minh Temple.
Both Toan Nguyen and Hai Thanh Nguyen believe that GDPT plays a very important role in introducing Buddhism to young Vietnamese Australians because most temples in
As Vice President of GDPT in
“As a leader, I think GDPT needs to improve in many areas, especially in training and procedures. I have been in the association for 20 years and I must admit the support from the Sangha is not nearly enough especially the financial side…As a brand, many people believe in the work that GDPT, especially when it comes to charity work… I believe the failure of our organisation is not to have a long term plan/vision and work with proper procedures…”
Hai Thanh Nguyen added that, the internal division amongst the Vietnamese Sangha within and outside Vietnam affects the Buddhist Youth Family in its effort to become a unified Buddhist youth institution.
Of course, these are common weaknesses of any NGOs, especially those which are not incorporated and Buddhist organisations are not an exception.
In 2013, Toan Nguyen started his fundraising for long term planning and towards the end of 2014, purchased a property in the Fairfield LGA to facilitate his GDPT group’s activities. Toan Nguyen’s enthusiasm was shared by other GDPT leaders with longer involvement.
“Properly motivated and led, it is potentially an effective way for generational renewal for the lay Buddhist community in Australia”, said Phap Loi, a Buddhist Youth Leader with training experience both in Vietnam and in Australia.
Phap Loi came to resettle in
From Federation to Congregation: Organisational Challenges
Another milestone was reached in 1987 when the Federation adopted a new Constitution to become the United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation in
The Federation/ Congregation’s focus during the 1980’s and early 1990’s was to build temples and to enhance its organisational structure for its ultimate objective – to serve the spiritual needs of Buddhist believers who were mainly first generation Vietnamese settlers. For its efforts, the Congregation as a whole and individual temples were fairly successful, bearing in mind that the first generation of monks left Vietnam as individual refugees without any collective intention or plan to reorganise themselves within a structure like a mini UBCV in Australia.
Newly established temples received strong popular support not only in terms of attendance for regular Dharma teachings and traditional festivals, but also by way of practical donations. Some temples were assisted by State governments for land, but most relied on private donations in cash and kind from within the Buddhist community.
The Federation/Congregation became known nationally and internationally through its membership of the Australian Buddhist Federation, the World Sangha Council and the World Fellowship of Buddhists.
By the early 1990’s, Vietnamese Buddhists could frequent their own temple for worship and Dharma learning in Canberra and all State capital cities with the exception of Hobart, while a small community in Darwin had to rely on sporadic visits by monks residing in the southern States .
As the Congregation was entering its stage of consolidation, internal disunity began to appear within its executive council. It became dysfunctional in 1997 and after its public split in 1999, a new and separate Congregation (the second Congregation) was established and headed, reportedly with some reluctance, by the Adelaide-based Most Venerable Thich Nhu Hue who was until then Deputy to Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue in
This split represents the first organisational failure suffered by the Vietnamese Buddhist community. It was still unfortunate even though it was not caused by differences in policy or goals. Both organisations remain non-political but supportive of the struggle for human rights and religious freedom by the UBCV which has endured on-going repression and persecution by the communist authorities in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Both are committed, as Australian Buddhist institutions, to cater for the spiritual life of Vietnamese and Australian believers and to promote Dharma Teachings for a harmonious and peaceful society.
Looking back a decade after the event, Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue told me that he would have preferred the original Buddhist Federation to remain rather than to become a Congregation, because in his view, the reality was not conducive to a vertical structure. Basically, individual temples look after their own operational requirements and their own future . Some even enhance their equity base by extending their operations inter-state. Perth-based
Most Venerable Thich Bao Lac believes the split was unavoidable because of distrust among the leadership, while Senior Venerable Thich Quang Ba attributed part of its cause to clashes of personalities.
In Perth in April 2007 during the Third four-yearly National Conference of the second Congregation, I sought the view of the US-based Most Venerable Thich Ho Giac (who passed away in December 2012) , then Leader of the Overseas UBCV, on this internal division. He said he was not disturbed by it at all, as the two Australian Congregations always endeavoured “to honour Buddha by serving human beings”.
For whatever reasons, the two Congregations moved on and have conducted themselves in mutual respect, albeit at some arm’s length.
Some Buddhists felt saddened when this disagreement became public, but the community has generally disregarded the split and continued their connection and sometimes multi-connection with the temple(s) of their choice across the two Congregations. Compared with the long-standing division between the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia and the Greek Orthodox Community, the Vietnamese Buddhist leadership remains quite amicable with each other indeed.
Most Venerable Thich Huyen Quang
Most Venerable Thich Quang Do
However, the disruption that has shaken the confidence of both the Sangha and the community came almost unexpectedly from Vietnam in September 2007, when the UBCV, in the names of the 4th Patriarch, Most Venerable Thich Huyen Quang and his Deputy, Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, decided to disband the overseas Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Congregations in the USA, Canada, Europe and Australia (i.e. the Second Congregation) to pave the way for a re-organised UBCV’s Overseas Office located in the USA. This was to be headed again by Most Venerable Thich Ho Giac, who had been one of the most senior members of the UBCV in 1975.
Again distrust amongst the leadership of the Sangha and ambition by some lay Buddhists played a major part for the UBCV’s arbitrary move which has probably weakened the overseas Vietnamese Buddhist structure and the UBCV itself. Although it was not legally binding and effective in
In August 2008, Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue, 87, resigned as head of the original Congregation, for a personal reason and because of ill health. He was succeeded by his two disciples, Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Bon, founding Abbot of Los Angeles-based
Leading members of the Vietnamese Sangha in both Congregations believed they would be able to meet these structural challenges to retain the confidence of the Buddhist community. What they have agreed as far more difficult to overcome, however, is the community’s demographic changes which require the second generation of monks and nuns to follow a different approach in terms of language skills, IT competence and good knowledge of
This demographic challenge, however, is by no means unique to the Vietnamese Buddhist community - bearing in mind that less than half (or 48%) of the Generation Y believe in religion  in today’s world of increasing secularism.
Generation Y includes persons born between 1981 and1995. For the younger ones born toward the end of the 20th Century and during the first decade of the 21st Century, it seems that the impact of secularism is more pronounced in Christianity than in Islam and Buddhism, in percentage terms. Census 2011 shows that around 18.5% of Buddhists and 20.8% of Moslems were under the age of 15 compared to 12.5% for the Catholics and 9.2% for the Anglicans.
In assessing the first decade of Vietnamese Buddhism, one can argue that the successful focus in establishing physical facilities has had its costs. Phap Loi believes that the Vietnamese Sangha did not pay enough attention to “train people” as human capital for the Congregation’s sustainable future in its role as the medium for Dharma promotion.
The leadership of both Congregations still maintains that this was the right approach, because the initial lack of facilities actually denied the Buddhist community a proper environment to pursue their faith. The Federation’s first conference in 1981 was indeed held at a borrowed Cabramatta meeting hall in South Western Sydney.
But Senior Venerable Thich Quang Ba, Van Hanh’s Abbot and Senior Venerable Thich Thien Tam, his counterpart at
Most Venerable Thich Quang Ba,
Just like many waves of settlers before them, the Vietnamese have travelled through the same migrant experience. Their values and aspirations are not always shared by the second and subsequent generations. In fact, their sons and daughters are often hostile to their views of the world. Some families try to enforce the “traditional” discipline and fail, while others tolerate their offsprings’ hybrid life  inside and outside their home. A peaceful family and a harmonious community as well depend on their ability to navigate this cultural diversity. Vietnamese families still play an important role for this navigation to be successful. Be Ha says her wish has come true as her two children who are now young professionals, actively retain their Buddhist Faith.
“Vietnamese temples are not engaging with young people” – Vi Phan.
I think the Congregations and individual temples understand the need to engage with young people in the community. To what extent they are able to do so depends on their ability to change themselves and to train and nurture a new generation of leaders and teachers.
When I asked the current leadership to identify their most difficult challenges, invariably they mentioned the dual issue of communication with the young Australian-born generation and the temples’ relevance to their aspirations. And what are the strategies and time frame to meet these challenges?
Senior Venerable Thich Phuoc Tan, Abbot of Quang Minh Temple
Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang, Abbot of Quang Duc Monastery.
The Greek Orthodox Church has been in
Most Venerable Thich Bao Lac said, however from his observation, while the number of grandparents had been much reduced over the years, the middle group of mature Buddhists who were in their twenties and early thirties some decades ago would still remain committed and active members of the Congregation. This middle group’s children are the real challenge – young persons like Dieu Kim, Stephen Nguyen, Vi Phan and Liz Thanh.
Some elder members of the Congregations’ leadership have taken steps to renew and rejuvenate the Vietnamese Sangha. Most Venerables Thich Nhu Hue, Thich Bao Lac and Thich Phuoc Nhon already vacated their position as founding Abbot and appointed their young disciples to manage their respective temple in
Others temples such as Van Hanh, Quang Duc, Pho Quang and Huyen Quang in Bankstown, NSW, have sponsored young Bhiksus and Bhiksunies from Vietnam to join their locally-trained monks and nuns.
Most Venerable Thich Nhu Hue
This sponsorship option has had two drawbacks: (a) It takes a long while for young monks and nuns to adjust themselves to the Australian cultural and social environment, especially when they are not fluent in English; and (b) the retention percentage is low. Senior Venerable Thich Quang Ba (who has now joined the highest rank of Most Venerable) estimated that around half of the sponsored returned to secular life within five years of arrival. Amongst those who stayed, some have achieved exceptional success like Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang at Quang Duc and Venerable Thich Nhuan An at Nguyen Thieu. The former is skillful in computing and the latter, in teaching young participants at retreats. Venerables Thich Nu Tinh Anh and Mandarin-speaking Thich Nu Bao Truong, as sponsored nuns from
Locally-trained monks who are young Australian graduates of Vietnamese background would be ideally suited to replace their first generation elders. But an “ideal” solution is often elusive.
Discussions for an Overseas Vietnamese Advanced Institute of Buddhist Studies took place intermittently during the last few decades, but such a scheme remains at best an aspiration, because of resource limitations – in both human and financial terms.
An ambitious expansion of
The task of training locally-engaged novice monks and nuns is difficult enough in the absence of a formal Buddhist institute staffed by qualified teachers it proves even much harder to keep them afterwards because of secular distractions in a modern consumer society.
The majority among some 50 Vietnamese monasteries and house-temples across
The gender imbalance within the Vietnamese Sangha will indeed take a long time, if ever, to change despite the increasing number of Bhiksunies entering the Congregations. On the other hand, the generational gap between the Sangha and the Buddhist community’s younger members appears to be partly addressed with some success.
A way forward
At Phap Bao, the second Abbot was a young man living in
The current Abbot of Quang Minh was a 10-year old boy who had intended to stay only for one week at a temple in
Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang was in fact trained in
Still in their late thirties or early forties, these second generation Abbots and others who will emerge, represent the best hope for renewal and growth of Vietnamese Buddhism. Not only are they re-activating the connection with the young through the traditional way of the “Buddhist Youth Family”, but they are also able to communicate Buddhism as a living and evolving religion to different groups of people – those who were and remain Buddhists, those who are lapsed Buddhists and those who are yet to be interested in Buddhism
The languages of communication nowadays certainly include the Internet, i-phones and social media. Senior Venerable Nguyen Tang says the www.quangduc.com website contains more than 200,000 texts and documents in Vietnamese and English and has more than 2,000 visits daily, 80% of which are Vietnamese and 20% English  compared with the traditional library at Hoa Nghiem with 13,000 titles in Vietnamese, English and Chinese and around 100 visitors weekly. These data are modest but important as indicators of an early effort for change. Most major Vietnamese temples have now built their websites to extend their reach.
But Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang believes the IT-based means is only a complementary method and not a replacement for both teaching and learning. Ngoc Han, a lay Buddhist who was an executive producer of SBS Radio in
The information superhighway allows students to be in virtual contact with their teachers without leaving home. However, Buddhists like Ngoc Han continue to frequent their temple because they like its environment and enjoy the opportunity of real human company. People are social creatures. Today’s temples are no longer like a parish pump, but their social and cultural attractions and camaraderie remain relevant to the non-economic needs of Buddhists.
Vi Phan was justified in her observation that Vietnamese temples failed to adequately engage with young persons. One reason is the generational gap and the other is the languages of communication.
The first generation of leadership such as the late Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue and Most Venerables Thich Huyen Ton, Thich Nhu Hue and Thich Bao Lac are very knowledgeable in classical Chinese, Sino-Vietnamese and of course Vietnamese. Most Venerable Thich Bao Lac is also a noted author and translator of sutras from Chinese into Vietnamese with a long list of titles to his credit, which are well read by first generation Vietnamese. Other books written in Vietnamese by the late Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue, by Senior Venerables Thich Phuoc Nhon, Thich Nhat Tan, Thich Phuoc An and recently by Venerable Thich Phuoc Thai of Quang Minh Temple, are similarly received. But young Vietnamese Australians still miss out, as their first language is English and their preferred means for information are the Internet, iphones and social media.
The Vietnamese Sangha’s second generation is better equipped to meet both challenges – the structural reform as well as the demographic change, because they are bi-lingual, bi-cultural and IT-literate. But they will not be able do so, unless they are given increasing responsibilities at the temples and within their Congregation.
In years to come, the Buddhist message of loving kindness and compassion will remain the same, only the mediums of communication need be new and creatively different.
Tangible and Intangible Contributions
Pride is not part of the Buddhist sentiment in this impermanent world, but the Vietnamese Buddhist community felt pleased to have achieved some contributions towards multicultural
Generally, these contributions can be seen in a physical sense, by the presence of Vietnamese temples in suburban
There has not been, however any attempts either on behalf of the Vietnamese Buddhist congregations or officially by a government agency to evaluate these contributions in terms of tangible and intangible cultural heritage of
Be that as it may, the passing of a prominent Vietnamese Australian Buddhist leader provides an opportunity for recognisation of these contributions through both civic and political expressions.
Perhaps unseen previously amongst the non-Christian Faiths in Australia, the death of Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue on 28 January 2012 as the first and long serving Patriarch of the Vietnamese Australian Buddhist community brought into focus his achievements and those of the Vietnamese Australian Sangha as a whole. As expected, his peers from various Buddhist lineages and traditions in
What, I believe, was exceptionally significant was the message from the Head of the Catholic Church of Australia, His Eminence Cardinal George Pell, and the condolence motion moved on 27 February 2012, by the Hon. Philip Ruddock, MP, former federal Attorney-General and Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. This motion was seconded by Mr. Craig Kelly, MP, and supported by a further four MPs from both sides of politics in the National Parliament.
Mr. Ruddock’s motion reads:
“That this House (1) expresses its deep regret at the death on 28 January 2012 of the late Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue OAM, the Spiritual Leader of the Phuoc Hue Buddhist Monastery and leader of the Vietnamese Buddhist community in Australia; (2) places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service; and (3) tenders its profound sympathy to the Vietnamese Buddhist community in its bereavement”.
Mr. Ruddock then placed on the official parliamentary record the text of Cardinal George Pell’s message of condolences: “The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney joins with the senior Venerable Thich Phuoc Tan, OAM and other senior monks, nuns and lay practitioners who mourn deeply the passing of this exemplary spiritual leader and scholar. On occasions of significant ecumenical and inter-religious activities, the strong support of The Late Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue, OAM and his community was keenly felt and much appreciated. The Late Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue, OAM will remain an inspiration not only the Australian Vietnamese Buddhist Community but to many other Australians as well, recalling his contribution to the life our country with gratitude”.
In conclusion, Mr. Ruddock said: “The Most Venerable Thich Phuoc
Other speakers agreed.
Mr. Chris Hayes, MP, noted that [the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue] “aspired to rebuild Vietnamese Buddhism not only to serve the religious needs of Vietnamese Australians - mostly refugees - but also to make a genuine contribution to multiculturalism in
In his view, “The Phuoc Hue temple is more than just a sacred place, particularly for Buddhist people, it is also a place of compassion and a place of giving. It is also an iconic feature in the fabric of multiculturalism as it stands in
This tangible contribution was also emphasised by another MP.
Mr. Craig Kelly, MP, said: “Through his drive and persistence, he built, or was instrumental in the building of, Vietnamese temples in Sydney,
As a Member of the federal Parliament of Jewish background, Mr. Michael Danby not only paid tributes to the late Most Venerable but also drew a parallel example to another religious leader. He said:
“Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue [is] probably the most influential Buddhist leader this country has seen. Vietnamese Australians have contributed so much to
For his part, Mr. Russell Matheson, MP, remembered some specific events in the life of the late Most Venerable: “As the first president of the United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation in
To sum up, the former Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs, The Hon. Laurie Ferguson, MP, captured the mood of the moment in the following words: “Here in the national parliament of Australia, we are celebrating the life of a person who was born in 1921 in a village near Saigon, who fled his country, who was a refugee in Hong Kong in 1979 and who was then sponsored into this country to become the first resident monk of Vietnamese background in Australia. We are celebrating his contribution to this country, what he accomplished and the fact that this can happen in
In terms of tangible contributions, there has not been a specialist appreciation of Vietnamese Buddhist temples in
For those who had seen the school prior to 1990 and subsequently the monastery since 2010, Fawkner landscape changed beyond any recognition and for the better, thanks to the tireless efforts of its founding Abbot, Senior Venerable Thich Tam Phuong and his successor, Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang: the monastery stands out architecturally. Bhikkhu Thich Tam Phuong encapsulated these efforts as follows: “Twenty years is a long period in human life, especially for Buddhist followers, rushing to escape from Samsara, the circle of birth and death, no time to waste on the journey to, or from, our spiritual home. Twenty years have past, our first generation had to suffer and make sacrifices to build infrastructure and to build a solid foundation for the next generation of Vietnamese in
Built much later in 2003 with Mr. Pham Van Duc, an architecture graduate of the
Vietnamese Buddhism has shared the same testing problems with other non-Christian religions in its effort to establish itself in a predominantly Christian country. Thanks to strong support from a battling refugee community during their early resettlement, the Federation / Congregations were able to expand timely throughout
(c)  Tuong Quang Luu, Sydney Australia
 A shorter version was published in Part II Chapter 5 “Changes and Challenges to Vietnamese Buddhism in
This article has been updated to cover events up to early 2015 including the author’s presentations delivered at a Seminar on Buddhism, organised by Dr. Anna Halafoff of
 All quoted views are taken from the author’s interviews with Buddhist leaders of various lineages and traditions, lay Buddhists and others via face-to-face meetings, and some times by emails.
  Commonwealth of
 Census 1976
  Luu, Tuong Quang, Chuc-Thanh, and Ngoc Han (eds) The United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation of Australia and New Zealand 1981-1991, Phuoc Hue Monastery, Sydney
 This article drew the attention of politicians, particularly in the State of
 Skennar, John, Sydney, A City Growing Within: The Establishment of Buddhist Centres in Western Sydney, in Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre’s “Buddha in Suburbia, Greater Western Sydney”, 2005.
 See Note 
  Phap Bao Pagoda, Gia Dinh Phat Tu Phap Bao – 25
 See Note 
  Luu, Tuong Quang, Vai Van de Phap ly trong sinh hoat tu vien Phat Giao Viet Nam tai Uc Chau-Tan Tay Lan / Some Legal Issues relating to Vietnamese Buddhist Temples in Australia-New Zealand (Presentation to the 4th National Vietnamese Buddhist Conference, at Phap Hoa Temple, Adelaide, 17-19 March 2011)
 Sarah Price & Susanna Kass, Generation Y turning away from religion, The Age, Melbourne, August 6, 2006.
  Ang, Ien Professor & Others, Living Diversity – Australia’s Multicultural Future,
 Interview on 17 October 2012 at Barom Kagyu Chodrak Drupju Chuling Buddhist Sydney Centre.
 Ngoc Han, Interview with Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Quang Duc Monastery - VOA Vietnamese Service on 6th November 2010 and Dan Viet Weekly, Sydney, 5th November 2010 quangduc.com/author/about/86/ngoc-han?r...
 Luu, Tuong Quang, Some Thoughts on Buddhism and Communications in
Multicultural Australia, Australian Buddhist General Conference: ‘Engaging Buddhism in Australia’ at Victoria University, Melbourne, from 20th to 22nd February 2004. www.tuvienquangduc.com.au/tacgia/luutuongquang.html
 Luu, Tuong Quang, Thich Phuoc Hue (1922-2012): Leader advocated social harmony, Sydney Morning Herald, February 18, 2012 http://www.smh.com.au/national/obituaries/leader-advocated-social-harmony-20120217-1teeh.html
 Commonwealth of Australia, House of Representatives, Hansard, Monday, 27 February 2012, pages 79- 85
  Kỷ yếu Hai Mươi Năm (1990-2010) Thành Lập Tu Viện Quảng Đức – The 20th Anniversary of Quang Duc Monastery
 Ngọc Hân, The 10th Anniversary of Minh Quang Temple, Interview with Most Venerable Thich Minh Hieu, VOA Vietnamese Service on 7th August 2013 at 10 PM ; Nhân Quyền Weekly, Melbourne, 7th August 2013, Văn Nghệ Weekly, Sydney, 8th August 2013. quangduc.com/author/about/86/ngoc-han?r...
Some selected references:
 Paul Croucher, Buddhism in Australia 1848-1988, New South Wales University Press, Sydney Australia
 Dr. Cristina Rocha and Dr. Michelle Barker (ed.), Buddhism in
 Nguyen Lang (reportedly a pen name of Most Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh), Viet Nam Phat Giao Su Luan (Critical Essays on the History of Vietnamese Buddhism), first published by La Boi,
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