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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1861

Mr MATHESON (Macarthur) (21:19): It is with great sadness that I rise to speak tonight to support the father of the House, the member for Berowra, the Hon. Philip Ruddock, in his motion to celebrate the life of the late Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue OAM, who passed away on 28 January 2012. His passing represents a great loss not just to the Vietnamese Buddhist community but to the Australian nation as a whole. The Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue's legacy will live on through his many achievements. He will be warmly remembered by the Vietnamese community as one of the pioneers of Vietnamese Buddhism in Australia.

The Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue had a long and distinguished career as an educator and spiritual leader both here in Australia and in his homeland, Vietnam. In Vietnam, he was a highly respected Buddhist leader, holding many important positions, including Director of Studies at the Buddhist Studies Institute and Secretary of the Southern Vietnam Delegation to the National Conference of the Vietnamese Sangha. The Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue also held influential positions within the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, including Commissioner for Sangha Affairs. The UBCV was later banned by the Vietnamese communist government.

After leaving communist rule in Vietnam, the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue spent many years in a refugee camp in Hong Kong. He did not let his surroundings hinder his passion for education and his faith. By 1980, his migration to Australia was sponsored by a group of Vietnamese-Australian Buddhists. He became the first resident Vietnamese Buddhist monk in Australia. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to this group. Few would have imagined the great work that the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue would achieve in his lifetime. In Australia, the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue transformed the Vietnamese Buddhist community, uniting them with a common vision of rebuilding Vietnamese Buddhism in Australia and promoting peace and social harmony.

Before his prestigious career in Australia as one of the nation's most influential Buddhist leaders, the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue faced many trials and tribulations, meeting each one with a keen and determined mind and a positive heart. It is a lesson that our communities benefit from and a lesson that I hope we will never forget. We should all follow the example set by the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue and see each challenge before us as an opportunity to learn, to develop our spirit and mind and to reach out to those around us. The late Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue had a profound impact on the Buddhist communities in Western Sydney and across Australia. He was a strong advocate for peace, social harmony and inclusiveness and was the spiritual leader of the Phuoc Hue Buddhist Temple in Wetherill Park, which bears his name. He was the driving force behind this beautiful temple, which was completed in 1991. He had a strong vision to rebuild Vietnamese Buddhism in Australia, not just for the benefit of the Vietnamese community but to contribute to multiculturalism in Australia. The spread of Buddhism has also touched my electorate of Macarthur with the much visited Da Bao Monastery in Wedderburn, just south of Campbelltown. This monastery provides the Buddhist community in Macarthur with a beautiful place of worship and meditation and hosts a number of festivities and celebrations throughout the year.

The Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue's vision of rebuilding was not limited to the many beautiful temples and monasteries we see across our electorates today. He was also firmly committed to rebuilding the lives of the many Vietnamese refugees who came to Australia seeking refuge from the war that ravaged their homeland. He helped them make a new life for themselves and helped to build the Vietnamese community into what it is today—a respected, peaceful, productive, and vibrant part of the Australian social fabric. As the first president of the United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation in Australia and New Zealand, the UVBC, he had a long and enviable list of accomplishments, both in Australia and internationally. Some of these include the selection by His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Phuoc Hue Temple as a neutral place to hold discussions with Australia's religious leaders from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist faiths in 1994. In 1995, the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of his contributions to the Vietnamese Buddhist community.

On an international scale, the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue was a high-ranking member and elder of the World Buddhist Sangha Council. In 2001, he led the organising committee for the First Executive Conference of the Seventh World Buddhist Sangha Council and Congress as well as for the Third World General Conference of the World Buddhist Sangha Council Youth Committee in Sydney. He was also a strong advocate for international peace and cooperation. In his capacity as President of the Buddhist Federation of Australia, he addressed the first international Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation in 2004 with a strong message of peace and cooperation between nations and people of different faiths.

The Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue was a humble and honourable man. He achieved many great works in his lifetime and touched hundreds and thousands of lives. Although he is no longer with us, his memory and his legacy will burn brightly for generations to come. It is an honour and a privilege to be here today with the father of the House to celebrate the life of the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Hue OAM.