Asian Gateway: We don’t want to see Springvale split up'

Gateway: An artist’s early impression of the Springvale Asian Gateway project, which is being hotly criticised by a Vietnamese group. (Supplied)

By CAMERON LUCADOU-WELLS

THE proposed $600,000 Springvale Asian Gateway project has become the subject of a heated community row.

A Vietnamese community group has attacked the latest design of the
gateway to Springvale’s shopping centre for being too Chinese in style.

The South East Melbourne Vietnamese Association opposes the
gateway’s proposed main panel, which proclaims Springvale in traditional
Chinese calligraphy above the word Springvale in English.

However, the Chinese community says the design is in line with other Asian gateways around the world.

The Vietnamese association says the design fails to recognise that
there are far more people of Vietnamese descent than of Chinese
heritage in the area.

The Springvale Asian Business Association (SABA), which is contributing $200,000 to the project, has backed the design.

SABA spokesman Mr Stan Chang said the proposed design represented a long-held Asian tradition.

“This form of gateway – including Chinese characters – is in any
Asian country, whether it’s Japan, Vietnam or Thailand,” he said.

“We don’t accept arguments upon ethnic lines. We don’t want to see
Springvale split up into different groups. It’s not how we should live
and operate in Australia.’’

Greater Dandenong councillor Loi Truong called for the Chinese calligraphy to be removed from the top of the design.

“The gateway is supposed to be Asian, not Chinese,” he said.

The South East Melbourne Vietnamese Association has also rejected a
proposed compromise crossbeam on the gateway that would feature
“Welcome’’ in four languages, with accompanying symbols, representing
Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Australia.

Cr Truong said more Springvale residents speak Vietnamese (24.5
per cent) than Chinese (13 per cent), and more than four times as many
residents were born in Vietnam than in China.

The potential division in the Asian community arose after Greater Dandenong council invited comment on the design.

The project, first announced in October 2010 by the state
government, was to recognise “Springvale’s cultural links to the
Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian communities”.

The then Labor government said the gateway would be built near the
corner of Buckingham and Windsor avenues to highlight the Asian
cultural precinct.

South East Melbourne Vietnamese Association’s council has offered to donate $100,000 towards the project to have its say.

Spokesman Trung Doan said the association didn’t accept the Chinese-style gateway was an Asia-wide tradition.

“There are gateways in Vietnam with Vietnamese writing on them,” he said.

Greater Dandenong city improvement manager Dino De Melis said
community feedback had been incorporated into the draft design. “The
design is still being finalised and will go back to the community when
it’s available,” he said.

The dispute has shades of last year’s spat involving Cambodian and
Vietnamese groups over the council’s naming of Multicultural Place in
Springvale.

During public consultation, more than 8000 of 11,000 petitioners
supported the unsuccessful name Saigon Square. However, Cambodian groups
were offended by the name. Vietnamese groups mounted a campaign on the
issue during last year’s council elections.

Councillor Sean O’Reilly said Springvale’s hallmark was its tolerance for other cultures.

– clucadou-wells@mmpgroup.com.au

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