Melbourne's gateway to little Vietnam on Lunar New Year. | Asia Pacific

Melbourne's gateway to little Vietnam on Lunar New Year.

Melbourne's gateway to little Vietnam on Lunar New Year.

Updated 31 January 2014, 15:06 AEDT

Chinatowns all over the world are recognised with a distinct gateway arch at its entrance.

Well now, Victoria Street in Melbourne which is famous for its Vietnamese markets and restaurants, has unveiled its own grand gateway.

The project is being completed, as the local community celebrates TET, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.

Reporter: Adelaine Ng

Speakers: Jackie Fristacky, mayor of Yarra council, Melbourne; Meca Ho, businessman, Victoria Street, Abbotsford

NG: If you live in a city that has a Chinatown, you'll know this is often where many of the Lunar New Year celebrations take place every year. Chinatowns aren't hard to miss because as you enter the area, usually, you'll pass under a distinct gateway arch. Well, Victoria street in Melbourne now boasts a similar structure, newly-erected to coincide with Lunar New Year celebrations.

But this one is a little different, because it sits at the entrance to an area closely linked to the city's Vietnamese community.

Victoria Street is listed in many travel guidebooks - its an historical and cultural attraction that is the heart of Vietnamese community living in Melbourne city. Here, you could be mistaken for thinking you were in a busy street in Hanoi. At the heart of the 7 kilometre long street is a section filled with Vietnamese restaurants, clothing shops, grocery stores and fishmongers.

In fact, some call it Little Saigon.

Now, a prominent gateway has been erected at the street's entrance. It's a modern design that resembles a boat, symbolising the way many Vietnamese arrived in Australia as refugees in the 1970s. The structure is an imposing sight, standing more than 11 metres tall.

Jackie Fristacky is the local mayor for the City of Yarra. She says while it's a grand construction, it's not quite finished yet.

FRISTACKY: It's elongated ... er.. looks like the boats are flying on either side, soon to be carved will be Vietnamese hats, there'll also be bamboo on the railway bridge that goes across Victoria street, they'll be illuminated at night, and underneath the railway bridge will be more symbols of Vietnamese drums and also, Vietnamese boats - graphics of Vietnamese boats.

NG: Jackie Fristacky, mayor of the city of Yarra which governs the area says the new gateway cost 3 million dollars to build and was only made possible because everyone chipped in....from local council to federal and state government and also the local Richmond Asian Business Association. Ms Fristacky says it will be a significant landmark for years to come.

FRISTACKY: Signifying the contribution of the Vietnamese community that made to develop Victoria street as a multicultural hub, to symbolise its focus for the Vietnamese community and welcoming visitors to partake in the feast that's able to be had here on Victoria street - the wonderful ethnic restaurants, the wide range of Vietnames and Chinese businesses that operate here.

NG: Meca Ho operates one of the businesses here. Arriving by boat from Vietnam in 1975 his family now runs a popular restaurant. He says the significance of the new gateway can't be under-estimated.

HO: It's the identity to our street. It shows many of the migrants who came here with nothing, and now they're contributing something, and they're giving back to the community now. With this festival, we bring that vibrancy to the city. And not only because we're from hardworking Asian background, but also we can give back some of it to our community within Australia. We contribute to this changing of the face of the people of Victoria. Before when I first came Australia, my parents had a business here, there were not many Australian dining at our place, but now there're more than ever.

NG: The new gateway should be finished, complete with suspended hats and artwork by the end of February.

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