Cao-Dai Temple of New South Wales
Before 1993, the Caodaists of Sydney worshipped in the main room of a rented house at 132 Campbell Street, St Peters, New South Wales, Australia. Here a small Altar was set up to Duc Cao Dai / God the Father and the prayers and ceremonies dedicated to Duc Cao Dai and the Holy Spirits were first celebrated. By the mid-eighties the house at Campbell Street was becoming too small. Some members suggested buying the house. This would enable extensions to take place, and the property would become a viable asset if one day a more appropriate temple space could be built. Unfortunately this land was effected by Department of Main Roads developments and the community decided to look elsewhere.
A number of empty Christian churches were examined. Members of the community believed that if they bought an old church they would have less worry with neighbours and the local council because the use of the building would not change considerably. The community searched from 1986-1990 looking for a suitable site. Eventually, the community placed a deposit on a small ex-Anglican Church in Tempe. This decision was a compromise. While the community had been considering whether to buy in Tempe, they had also been examining a number of blocks of excess land which the NSW State Government was offering for sale to community groups. One block in particular was very suitable, but the community did not have enough money.
A meeting was held in Bankstown to raise the rest of the money for the small church in Tempe. But the followers of Duc Cao Dai were amazed that in one day they had raised the temple's funds to over $120,000.00! Now of course, they had the money to buy the block of land, but were unfortunately locked into the sale. Another amazing thing then occurred - the titles to the church could not be found, the sale fell through and the Caodaists of Sydney were able to buy the block of land at 114-118 King Georges Road, Wiley Park, New South Wales, Australia.
The building of the Caodaist Association of New South Wales Temple commenced at the laying of the foundation stone on 20 November 1991. This day marked the beginning of nine years of volunteer labour, hard work, frustration and determination. Earlier attempts to avoid having to deal with council now seemed judicious. Canterbury Council requested changes to a number of plans. This was a time of frustration for Caodaists as they learnt to understand the intricacies of building codes and local government. Mr Pham Van Duc, the architect helped create a building that reflected Cao-Dai architecture in Vietnam, and yet was eminently suited to the block of land and could be built to Australian standards. Finally permission to build was granted on 28 August 1991.
Over nine years hundreds of people helped with the Temple. People new to Australia not only worked at their jobs all week and studied in the evenings, but also gave up their weekends to get the foundations set and the walls rising. Some helped with bricklaying, painting, carpentry and paperwork, others turned over their gardens for the growing of food that could be cooked for the workers. Working on the Temple became an activity that drew the community closer together. On the 6th December 1992, the altar and the image of the Divine Eye was moved from St Peters to the new building. Regular worship has been taking place in the new building ever since.
A few of the features of the Temple were shipped out from Vietnam, such as the statues on the canopy over the altar, but in the main, most of the building, from the windows to the dragon columns were made by volunteer workers here. For those who know Dao Cao Dai architecture well, these Australian-crafted features give the building a decidedly local feel, though of course, to most Australians, the temple looks nothing but Vietnamese or Asian.
The truth is the Cao-Dai Temple at Wiley Park has been adapted to suit its location and the materials and standards of Australian building while still trying to capture the essence of Dao Cao Dai architecture. As Mr Nguyen Chanh Giao, president of the community, says, '...our Temple is a gift to all Australians...' and this is why, on Saturday 18 November 2000 the Cao-Dai Temple of New South Wales will not be opened by a dignitary of the religion, but by a representative of the Australian People, The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs; representing The Hon. John Howard MP, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia. The opening of the Temple will mark a new stage in the development of Cao Dai Religion. The Cao-Dai Temple of New South Wales will be the first purpose-built temple of its kind outside Asia. So when it officially opens its doors, this stunning place of worship on King Georges Road and the Caodaists of Sydney will cement their religions' place as both an Eastern and a Western phenomenon.
31 July 2000