By CASEY NEILL
A VIETNAMESE woman with tears spilling from her eyes approaches the media table at the 14 December Greater Dandenong Council meeting.
“Thank you, please pass my sincere thanks to all of them,” she says.
But not everyone welcomed the decision to fly the Co Vang – the yellow and red striped Vietnamese heritage flag – alongside other community flags.
In a letter to the council, the Australian Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam said that recognising the Co Vang “not only offends Vietnamese people’s self-respect but also goes against the development tendency of Vietnam and Australia relations, especially in the areas of trade and education”.
The embassy strongly requested that the council not pass the motion to amend its flag flying policy to include the Co Vang alongside other community flags at council events, on council premises, and in council publications.
Councillor Maria Sampey opposed the motion.
“Why are they favoured? That’s where I’m coming from,” she said.
“Other nationalities had hard lives.
“Go down the path of recognising one national flag, we’re really discriminating against everyone else.”
A member of the hundreds-strong gallery interjected: “It’s not a national flag, it’s our own community flag.”
Cr Loi Truong introduced the motion and said the council should act on the wishes of the people.
He said that more than 14,000 people from Vietnam lived in Greater Dandenong – 9.2 per cent of the population.
Cr Truong said the City of Fairfield approved a similar request in 2004 and the Cities of Maribyrnong and Bankstown followed suit in October.
“It’s all about votes for you,” Cr Sampey interjected.
Cr Sean O’Reilly said the flag was a special symbol for a large part of Greater Dandenong’s community.
“By this gesture we stand as united Australians acknowledging the heritage and meaningful contribution of Vietnamese Australians to the city,” he said.
The motion passed to cheering, tears, and the gallery waving hundreds of Co Vang.
Among those pushing the flag initiative were Springvale Indochinese Mutual Assistance Association (SICMAA), South Eastern Melbourne Vietnamese Association Council (SEMVAC), Vietnamese Veterans Association of Victoria, Freedom Day Club, Dandenong RSL, Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia’s Victorian education team, Indochinese Elderly Association in East Melbourne and Springvale Asian Business Association (SABA).