Lunar New Year

Today I wish all Australians who have recently celebrated the lunar new year a happy and prosperous Year of the Rat. On 9 February I celebrated the Tet festival with the Vietnamese community at the Sandown Racecourse in Springvale as the guest of the Victorian chapter of the Vietnamese Community in Australia. Many people at the festival told me that the Year of the Rat is a good year to begin a new job, being the first year of the 12-year cycle, and that it is an auspicious year for the first year of the new Rudd Labor government.

Today I wish all Australians who have recently celebrated the lunar new year a happy and prosperous Year of the Rat. On 9 February I celebrated the Tet festival with the Vietnamese community at the Sandown Racecourse in Springvale as the guest of the Victorian chapter of the Vietnamese Community in Australia. Many people at the festival told me that the Year of the Rat is a good year to begin a new job, being the first year of the 12-year cycle, and that it is an auspicious year for the first year of the new Rudd Labor government.

I congratulate Bon Nguyen, the event organiser, who organised this large, important and very enjoyable display of Vietnamese traditions and culture. The festival was attended by thousands of Vietnamese from across Victoria. I would also like to pay tribute to Mr Phong Nguyen, the President of the Vietnamese Community in Australia—Victorian chapter, who does a wonderful job leading that organisation.

On a more sombre note, the official proceedings for the festival commenced with the theme song commemorating the victims of the 1968 Tet offensive sung by Ms Son Ca. It is appropriate this year, on the 40th anniversary, to remember those who lost their lives during the Tet offensive. As many in this chamber would be aware, the Tet offensive was a turning point in the conflict in Vietnam. More than 100,000 people died during this offensive and very many of them were civilians. In particular, we should remember those who died as a result of the massacre of civilians and prisoners of war during the Battle of Hue.

A range of awards were presented at the opening ceremony, including awards to Mr Nguyen Khac Nhan, the 2008 Senior Australian Vietnamese of the Year, and to Ms Lisa Nguyen Thuy Duong, the 2008 Australian Vietnamese of the Year. They have made wonderful contributions to the Vietnamese and the wider community. Indeed, the Vietnamese community in Australia has made a remarkable contribution to the life of this country in a very short period. There is a significant Vietnamese community in Isaacs, with over 4,000 people claiming Vietnamese ancestry. I would like to say to the Vietnamese community of Isaacs, and of Australia: Chuc mung nam moi. I am looking forward to an even bigger celebration of the lunar new year in 2009 because, as we have been reminded by the member for Parramatta, next year it falls on Australia Day, 26 January.