Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen: ordination

I rise to congratulate Vincent Long Van Nguyen on his ordination as Australia’s first Asian Catholic bishop. On Thursday, 23 June, I had the pleasure of joining the Leader of the Opposition and the Minister for Education at a very moving ceremony at St Patrick’s Cathedral. The ordination was conducted by Archbishop Denis Hart along with Cardinal George Pell and the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, Giuseppe Lazzarotto, before other bishops, priests and a packed audience of predominately Vietnamese Australians.

The new bishop spoke beautifully about his journey to that special moment, including his experience as a refugee fleeing war-torn Vietnam. For eight days the then teenage Vincent was crammed onto a boat with 147 other people. Unlike so many others, he survived the perilous journey and after 16 months in a refugee camp found his way to Australia.

His story is one of a triumph of the human spirit. When he mentioned his experience as a refugee and the ‘fair go’ spirit he encountered in Australia there was rapturous applause, as there was when he said that the Vietnamese were the new Irish of the Catholic Church — and when he proudly proclaimed his allegiance to the Sydney Swans!

Vincent, a Franciscan, was ordained Titular Bishop of Tala and Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne. He will be a wonderful leader based in the culturally diverse western suburbs. He has made members of our Vietnamese community extremely proud, and his story is one that should be proclaimed loudly in the national debate on asylum seekers.