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Phong Nguyen OAM

Phong Nguyen is a long-time volunteer, human rights advocate, refugee and cricket fanatic. He has lead an active and passionate life dedicated to a fair, just, humane and multicultural society.

His contribution to the Vietnamese community has been recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Mr Phong Nguyen OAM with colleagues at a Vietnam war memorial

Phong found the news of his award surprising, unexpected and embarrassing. He felt that during his time in the community, he has come across many well deserving Australians, whose contributions were far more significant and inspirational compared to his.

He believes that giving someone the opportunity to be recognised at this level is the thank you that many of these humble, unassuming and silent heroes truly deserve.

“Genuine and “fair dinkum” heroes are the ones who never think of themselves or do things to be recognised or praised. It’s, therefore, up to us who know them to nominate.”

Phong arrived in Australia as a young refugees in 1979. Following his arrival, Phong joined the Jesuits and became the first Vietnamese Jesuit in Australia. He left the order in 1986 but his passionate, vocal and enduring advocacy for the socially disadvantaged saw him continue serving the community.

“As a refugee escaping from the Vietnamese Communist atrocities and a survivor of the dangerous journey to freedom lands, I felt obliged to give back to Australia and to speak out against any human rights abuse, injustices and dedicate my life to serve others instead of myself and my family.”

One of Phong’s greatest achievements to date was watching how the Vietnamese community responded to the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria. Through his role as President of the Vietnamese Community in Australia he put out a call for donations and what they received in return was outstanding. In a short timeframe, the small community had donated more than $1.2 million to bushfire victims. Phong felt very proud to be a member of the Vietnamese-Australian community during this time.

Phong is the founding and inaugural Chairperson of the Vietnamese Museum Australia, former Chairperson of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, past Federal-President of the Vietnamese Community in Australia and former President of the Vietnamese Community in Victoria.

Throughout his life, Pong has received a range of awards to acknowledge his outstanding work, these include, the Inaugural Australia’s Ethnic Youth of the Year (1986), City of Greater Dandenong Media and People Choice’s Citizen of the Year (2000) and the Centenary Medal of Australia (2001).

He was appointed Victoria and Tasmania’s Australia Day Ambassador (2007 & 2008), inducted into the Victorian Refugee Recognition Record and appointed the People of Australia Ambassador by the Prime Minister (2012).