Open letter to Education Minister James Merlino

2nd October 2020

Today 23 academics, 23 educators, 14 community leaders, 76 current/former/future parents and students of Footscray Primary School, and concerned citizens have co-signed the following letter to the Victorian Minister Education James Merlino asking that moves towards axing the Vietnamese bilingual program at Footscray Primary School be halted immediately.

Full letter text below. You can view the original letter here. To add your name to the open letter please email:

The Hon. James Merlino MP

Deputy Premier and Minister for Education
Level 3, 1 Treasury Place,
East Melbourne VIC 3002

Dear Minister Merlino,

We thank you for your previous communications with parents of Footscray Primary School and taking an interest in this matter. However, we feel there are important issues which remain unresolved. The School Council’s decision to end the Vietnamese bilingual program continues to be of great concern for many in the school and broader community. Now several job advertisements for the proposed Italian bilingual program have heightened the urgency.

Most bilingual programs are introduced for their community and cognitive benefits. This was certainly the case 35 years ago with Vietnamese and remains so to this day, a program that is one of a kind in Australia. Even if there were perceptions of recruitment and/or quality concerns with the current Vietnamese offer, we would like to hear and explore them properly and then see them addressed. But this case has not been made nor communicated. Instead, we are left wondering why and how this decision was made, why at this time when Victorian communities are already under so much stress and why our grievances continue to go unaddressed. This causes a significant erosion of trust and confidence in the School leadership for concerned parents and community members.

Vietnamese is a growing language in Victoria, Australia and internationally. Vietnamese is the highest ancestry group in the Victorian State electoral district of Footscray. It is also the fifth most spoken language in Victoria and Australia.

A petition started from within the school parent community in August has gathered over 16,000 signatures, with over 8,000 of them from Victorian residents, including current and past members of the school community.

A large community of fellow Australians who live in a multicultural society identify with and are attached to Vietnam, its history, people and language. This decision to axe the Vietnamese bilingual program represents a loss for the Vietnamese community, the western suburbs of Melbourne, the Footscray Learning Precinct, multiculturalism, Asian literacies, the language community in Melbourne and therefore to us all. However, the biggest loss is suffered by the children of Vietnamese background whose identity, cognitive development, and familial bonds will be weakened. Ultimately their future prospects will be impacted.

We, the undersigned, call on you to put the recruitment on hold until there is due process for our community to find a solution. We look forward to your response and to partnering with you and others who share a commitment to vibrant Vietnamese bilingual education in Victoria.


Community Leaders

Dr Vicki Couzens, Board Member — Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages

Dr Tien Nguyen OAM, Former Federal President of the Vietnamese Community in Australia

Bon Nguyen, President — Vietnamese Community in Australia — Victoria

Phong Nguyen, Chair — Vietnamese Museum Australia

Kim Bui-Quang, Board Member — Vietnamese Museum Australia

Dinh Nguyen, President — Vietnamese Veterans Association of Victoria

Peter Ky Nguyen, President — Footscray Asian Business Association

Robert C Bundle, Indigenous Advisory Group — Footscray Community Arts Centre

Sang Nguyen, Former MP — Melbourne West Legislative Council

Paul Huy Nguyen, President — Vietnamese Community in Australia — NSW

Dr Anh Nguyen, President — Vietnamese Community in Australia — WA

Thuy Quach, President — Vietnamese Teachers Association of Victoria

Faith Thanh Tien Bui, President — Vietnamese Students’ Association, Victoria

Can Ngoc Tran, President — Vietnamese Catholics Melbourne

Ryan Johnston, Director — Buxton Contemporary, The University of Melbourne


Dr Van Tran, Linguist, Teacher — Djerriwarrhh Community and Education Services

Dr Anh Nguyen, Associate Research Fellow — Australian Catholic University

Dr Julie Choi, Senior Lecturer (Additional Languages) — Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Dr Tess Do, Lecturer — The University of Melbourne

Dr Chanh Tran, Lecturer — La Trobe University

Margareta Windisch, Yarraville — RMIT lecturer

Lan Anh Hoang, Senior Lecturer — The University of Melbourne

Dr Maree Pardy, Deakin University, Footscray resident

Dr Mary Tomsic, Research Fellow — Australian Catholic University

Dr Lea Campbell, The University of Melbourne, North Fitzroy resident

Dr Jordana Silverstein, Research Officer — La Trobe University

Prof. John Gibbons, Monash University

Dr Tania Canas, cohealth Arts Generator

Dr Liz Murray, University of San Francisco, Former teacher Footscray Primary School

Dr Helen Ngo, Deakin Univeristy

Dr Kate Just, Artist and Academic — The University of Melbourne

Prof. Natalie Tran, Professor of Educational Leadership — California State University, Director — National Resource Center for Asian Languages

Dr Alexandra Kurmann, Head of French and Francophone Studies, Researcher in Vietnamese Diaspora Literature — Macquarie University

Dr Carolyn D’Cruz, Senior Lecturer — La Trobe University

Jess Hardley, Associate Lecturer — Murdoch University

Dr. Markela Panegyres, Theorist and visual artist

Dr Ligia (Licho) López López, Melbourne Graduate School of Education — The Univeristy of Melbourne

Professor Tom G. Griffiths, The University of Newcastle


Ba Phu Ly, Principal — Hong Bang Vietnamese Ethnic School

Son Xuan Nguyen, Principal — Le Van Vietnamese School

Trinh Truong, Vietnamese language teacher

Lê Thị Thu Hằng, Vietnamese language teacher

Tưởng Nguyễn, Primary teacher — Hoppers Crossing

Michael Le, Secondary teacher — Springvale

Quyen Phan, Early Childhood Educator, North Melbourne

Thinh Hoang, Former Footscray Primary School bilingual teacher

Chau Cong, Former Bilingual Coordinator — Footscray Primary School, Teacher — Camberwell Primary School

Ngoc Nguyen, Former Footscray Primary School bilingual teacher

Chau Nguyen, Former VSL Vietnamese teacher

Mai Nguyen, Vietnamese Liaison Officer — Deer Park West Primary School

Huong Nguyen, Secretary — Thien An Vietnamese Ethnic School

Mimmalisa Trifilo, Teacher — Lara Secondary College

Kathy Pham, Classroom Teacher

Quang Thanh Long Tran, Middle School Coordinator, teacher — University High School

Mary Merkenich, LOTE teacher and AEU State Councillor

Emma McNicol, Teacher and Academic, Doctoral Researcher — Balaclava

Cam Hong Thi Khuong, Teacher-Bendigo Kangan Insitute of TAFE

Thuy Quach, Vietnamese teacher

Trisha Wheeler, Classroom Teacher — Footscray

Kevin Long, Educator — Williams Landing

FPS Parent / Alumni

Gemma Cafarella, Former Footscray Primary School student, Lawyer, Footscray resident

Thu Hoang, Former Footscray Primary School student

Tuan Hoang, Former Footscray Primary School Parent

Hung Hoang, Former Footscray Primary School Parent

Tien Nguyen, Former Footscray Primary School Parent

Hoang Tran Nguyen, Footscray Primary — School Council Parent Member

Alison Langley, Footscray Primary School Parent

Anh-Thu Nguyen, Footscray Primary School Parent

Anthony O’Sullivan, Footscray Primary School Parent

Brian Sardeson, Footscray Primary School Parent

Chantal Wynter, Footscray Primary School Parent

Dennis Matotek, Footscray Primary School Parent

Dương Trọng Thủy, Footscray Primary School Parent

Hao Do, Footscray Primary School Parent

Hien Tam Thi Le, Footscray Primary School Parent

Hòa Bùi, Footscray Primary School Parent

Huynh Huu Dinh, Footscray Primary School Parent

Jess McKenzie, Footscray Primary School Parent

Joshua Mullan, Footscray Primary School Parent

Minh Anh Nguyen, Footscray Primary School Parent

Minh Phan, Footscray Primary School Parent

Nam Ho, Footscray Primary School Parent

Ngan Nguyen, Footscray Primary School Parent

Nguyễn Tuấn Việt, Footscray Primary School Parent

Oanh Luc, Footscray Primary School Parent

Paul Beaumont, Footscray Primary School Parent

Quyen Tran, Footscray Primary School Parent

Rachel Pitts, Footscray Primary School Parent

Rebecca Boyce, Footscray Primary School Parent

Tạ Văn Vy, Footscray Primary School Parent

Tam Nguyen, Footscray Primary School Parent

Tony Bui, Footscray Primary School Parent

Trang Nguyễn, Footscray Primary School Parent

Warren Bond, Footscray Primary School Parent

Matthew Holzer and partner, Footscray Primary School Parents

Erin Tsubono, Footscray Primary School Parent

Emma Johansson Taylor, Footscray Primary School Parent

Kim Hutchinson, Footscray Primary School Parent

Paul Davis, Footscray Primary School Parent

Simon Mcsweeney and Heidi Golz, Footscray Primary School Parent

Jacqueline Low, Footscray Primary School Parent

Andy Erskine, Footscray Primary School Parent

Irene Andrianopodos, Footscray Primary School Parent

Michale Leslie, Footscray Primary School Parent

Ben Daniel, Footscray Primary School Parent

Manju Gurung, Footscray Primary School Parent

Anh Tuan Luong, Footscray Primary School Parent

Vũ Kim Phượng, Footscray Primary School Parent

Lê Quang Vinh, Footscray Primary School Parent

Lê Thị Thu Thảo, Footscray Primary School Parent

Mark Ford, Footscray Primary School Parent

Sebastian Bourges, Footscray Primary School Parent

Hong Phan, Footscray Primary School Parent

Bùi Thị thúy Nhi, Footscray Primary School Parent

Ngân Bảo Đặng, Footscray Primary School Parent

Hà Nguyễn, Footscray Primary School Parent

Thuần Vi, Footscray Primary School Parent

David Chu, Footscray Primary School Parent

Lý Tú Phương, Footscray Primary School Parent

Bùi Thị Mai Hương, Footscray Primary School Parent

Nhu Quynh Pham, Footscray Primary School Parent

Hoàng Tuấn Hải, Future Footscray Primary School Parent

Huong Bich Tran, Future Footscray Primary School Parent

Thao Thanh Lai, Future Footscray Primary School Parent

Quy Xuan Bui, Future Footscray Primary School Parent

Ha Do, Future Footscray Primary School Parent

Nguyen Hoai Anh, Future Footscray Primary School Parent

Thi Thao Linh Pham, Future Footscray Primary School Parent

Vu Van Bien, Future Footscray Primary School Parent

Đỗ Phương Anh, Future Footscray Primary School Parent

Nghiem Trang, Future Footscray Primary School Parent

Nhu Quynh Doan, Future Footscray Primary School Parent

Loc Nguyen, Future Footscray Primary School Parent

André Dao, Future Footscray Primary School Parent, Writer

Scilla Taylor, Grandparent at Footscray Primary School

Greta Shannon, Former Footscray Primary School student

Guy Owen, Former Footscray Primary School Parent

Elizabeth Richards, Former Footscray Primary School Parent

Priya Holmes, Former Footscray Primary School Parent

Community Members

Thi Tran, Translator/Interpreter — Braybrook

Dr Trang Hoang, For Life Medical Centre

Dr Hieu Linh, For Life Medical Centre

Lian Low, Footscray resident

Leanne Petroff, Yarraville

Nick Giannopoulos, Comedian, actor, film director

Nhan Nguyen, Footscray resident

Stacey Kazakis, Brunswick resident

Tara Hoang, Senior Business Analyst, Financial Institutions

Jo Williams, Maidstone

Jorge Andres Jorquera, Victorian Socialists Candidate Maribyrnong Council

Kate Coleman, Greensborough

Jacinta Cashen, Brunswick

Deb Chapman, Brunswick

Thuy Tran, Maribyrnong

May Mauseth, Director — Alviss Consulting

Thai Hoang Phuong Ngo, Co-Director — Hyphenated Projects, Doctoral Researcher

Khanh Do, Bank Manager — NAB

Dzung Nguyen, Social Worker — COHEALTH

Polly Bennett, Footscray resident

Dr Van Davy, Pearl Beach, NSW

Elizabeth Muldoon, West Melbourne

David Linden, Ocean Grove

Irene Fernandez, South Yarra

Toni Bloodworth, Northcote

Claudia Freyer, Fawkner

Hoa Nguyen, Housekeeper — Deer Park

Chung Nguyen, Retired — Braybrook

Carol Nguyen, Research Analyst, Altona North resident

Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, Writer, Brunswick East resident

Jinghua Qian, Writer, Footscray resident, Arts Ambassador — Maribyrnong City Council

Jessie Nguyen, Sunshine resident

My Nguyen, Student — Monash University

Emily Pham, Northcote resident

Jennifer Tran, Maidstone resident

Lana Nguyen, Moonee Ponds resident

Hanh Lai, Trader — Ascot Vale

Hong Loan Pham, Bulleen resident

Thanh Nguyen, Lalor resident

Bieu Phan, Housekeeper — Flemington

Thao Nguyen, Housekeeper — Flemington

Hang Nguyen, Self-employed — Flemington

Tu Lai, Housekeeper — Flemington

Thi Nguyen, Housekeeper — Brunswick

Khuong Nguyen, Retired — Flemington

Ngoc Do, Housekeeper — Flemington

Bay Lai, Housekeeper — Flemington

Tuan Tran, Library Officer — Malvern Library

Thi Tran, Self-employed — North Melbourne

Khanh Do, Storeman — Country Road Group

Kien Nguyen, Development Engineer — Clevertronic Pty Ltd

Thao Tran, Housekeeper — North Melbourne

Thuc Tran, Director — Riteware Company

Chau Tran, Retired — Keilor Downs

Viet Tran, Student — The University of Queensland

Anh Nguyen, Retired — Flemington

Anh Tran, Sushi Chef — Sushi Sushi

Kim Do, Developer — Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency

Vy Nguyen, West Footscray resident

Nadia Niaz, Editor — Australian Multilingual Writing Project

Chi Vu, Writer and Doctoral Researcher — Victoria University

Nhan Nguyen, Footscray resident

Rebecca Grimaud, Fitzroy North

Quan Bao, Lalor

Thanh Nguyen, Lalor

Tuan Bao, Bulleen

Gian Phan, Bulleen

Hong Luan Pham, Bulleen

Liz Walsh, Victorian Socialists Candidate Maribyrnong Council — Maidstone

Alison Cooke, Seaford

Brigitte Lambert, Croydon

Ky Dinh Vu, Retired — Chadstone

Sarah Dinh, Customer Service Representative

Natalie Kuo, Mount Waverly

Alex Elliott, Class Instructor

Andrew Ng, Dentist — St Albans

Jacinta Schreuder, Melbourne

Lin Cheng, Melbourne

Peter Ngo, Keysborough

Cath Edwards, Social Worker

Lisa Nguyen, Radiographer — Balaclava

Paula Joyce, Youth Counsellor — Footscray

Matt Tambellini, Graphic Designer — Footscray

Ai Nguyen, Resevoir

Rachel Walker, Disability Supervisor — Footscray

Olivia Tian Chai Koh, Melbourne

Elly Louchart, Clifton Hill

Muhammad Shahid Imran, Glen Iris

Oanh Tran, Beauty Therapy — Lalor

Veronica Witteveen, Braybrook

Văn Vũ Nguyễn, Richmond

Xuân Toàn Nguyễn, Richmond

Kim Lâu Nguyễn, Richmond

John Nguyễn, Richmond

Thi Thanh Hương Nguyễn, Richmond

Prue Delalande, Senior Youth Worker, Dandenong

Patrick Donelan, Northcote

Stephen Robert Irving, Yarraville

Alexandra Roper, Coburgh North

Catriona Vi Nguyen-Robertson, The University of Melbourne, West Footscray

Bryden Williams, Footscray

Dominic Hong Duc Golding, Vietnamese Adoptee and Community Advocate

Van T Rudd, Visual Artist — Sunshine

Angelina Russell, Social worker — Geelong

Tina Tran, Footscray

Rachel Sztanski, Footscray

David Jones, Yarraville

Sarah Brasier, Artist — Preston

To add your name to the Open letter please email: