Australia’s first Vietnamese cultural and heritage centre will be built in the heart of Footscray to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first wave of refugee arrivals.
The $20 million centre, proposed by the Victorian chapter of the Vietnamese Community Australia, is likely to be built on a carpark on Donald Street after Maribyrnong council threw its support behind the project.
The VCA first began pursuing the project in 2002, but has struggled to find a suitable site.
A packed public chamber erupted into applause last week when councillors voted to enter a memorandum of understanding for the project to proceed on the 985-square-metre council-owned site.
VCA vice-president and cultural centre chairman Phong Nguyen said the aim was to open the centre in time to mark the 50th anniversary of Vietnamese refugees arriving in Australia, which will fall in 2025.
“The support has been overwhelming, particularly from the community here in Footscray – they are very excited,” he said.
“We are very proud that we have contributed so much to Australia and our second generation are very excited by this.”
Mr Nguyen said the next step would be raising funds and he expected the Vietnamese community would dig deep.
“For the right cause, our community are very generous and very committed,” he said.
“I do believe with the support that we have so far, and the commitment we have from the businesses in the area, that it can be done in the timeline we have set, which is 2025.”
Mr Nguyen said the centre would be one of the first of its kind in the world, serving as a lasting tribute to the Vietnamese community.
“It’s very important to preserve the culture and the history of the Vietnamese settlement in Australia,” he said. “Words are not enough to say how appreciative we are.”
Chi Hoang, who is among the 10 per cent of Maribyrnong’s population born in Vietnam, is a strong supporter of the project.
She said the local Vietnamese community was overjoyed by the council’s decision.
“It will bring the tourists and make Footscray booming,” she said.
“I want to thank Australia and the councillors who voted for this.”
Nhan Nguyen said the project would be a way of sharing the Vietnamese community’s story with the broader community.
“It’s a very central space, so students and others can easily travel here and learn the stories,” he said.
Mayor Cuc Lam said the Footscray has long been a welcoming place for the Vietnamese community.
“The Vietnamese community would like to maintain the language and culture, and this museum will be one of significance for generation to generation.”
Councillor Gina Huynh said the location is perfect as visiting Footscray is like stepping into a “Little Vietnam”.
The proposal will now go to public consultation.