The Tzu Chi Australia Brisbane Office held the Opening Ceremony for its brand new hall on November 19, 2022. At the same time, it celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the foundation in Australia. Through a video conference, the volunteers respectfully welcomed Master Cheng Yen, founder of Tzu Chi, to visit the new hall.

Video Conference with Master Cheng Yen

Ninety-seven-year-old Sister Angela from Mater Hospital has a deep relationship with Tzu Chi. She came to the new hall to communicate in friendship with the Master.  Both are spiritual leaders and cherish each other.

Through the video conference, the two met each other. Sister Angela said: “Good morning, Master. I am delighted to be here, my friend. It’s a big day today. You may be far away, but I still believe you are with us.”

From the gate, bookstore, Da Ai Kindergarten, multi-functional classrooms, kitchen, corridors on both sides, and the Gratitude Hall, Tzu Chi volunteers took turns and greeted Master Cheng Yen on a tour of the new hall through the video conference. This also gave the volunteer team the opportunity to get close to the Master.

Opening Ceremony of Brisbane Office

Six hundred guests from Australia gathered at the Gratitude Hall in Brisbane to witness a historic chapter of Tzu Chi Brisbane. The new hall has been planned since 2016 and was rebuilt in 2021. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some people have not set foot in the Tzu Chi office for years. When they first came to the new hall, they were full of joy and admiration.

The exterior of the new hall of the Brisbane Office, Australia (Photo by Lu Wei-cheng)

Volunteers greet guests with joy. (Photo by Shi Bin-bin)

Dentist Liu Shi-ming (劉士鳴) has been participating in free clinics since 2002 – at that time, the Brisbane Office was renting a shop in a mall. He said: "Over the years, I have seen the evolution of Tzu Chi. There are more and more volunteers and the team is getting stronger and stronger. I feel very touched. It is due to everyone’s hard work that there are so many dedicated volunteers who can achieve such results today.”

Volunteer Hong Chuan-xian (洪傳賢) has long been assisting Tzu Chi in performing stage lighting due to his experience in television work. He said: “I have been in Australia for more than 30 years. Tzu Chi volunteers are very hardworking. Whether it is lighting, architecture or design, it is really moving. With this opening ceremony, I think Tzu Chi has taken another big step in Australia. I believe that Tzu Chi will do well in Australia in the future.”

Dentist Liu Shi-ming (the man in blue in the center of the photo) has been participating in free clinics since 2002. (Photo by Shi Bin-bin)

30-Year Journey of Tzu Chi Australia

Thirty years ago, an immigrant family from Taiwan set up Tzu Chi Brisbane. They were unfamiliar with the place and language, and gradually put down roots in the local area. The Tzu Chi Youth brought the family’s 30-year journey to the stage through a musical sign language play. The witty skit of the volunteers, "Tzu Chi, is it Tai Chi or Sushi?" attracted much laughter from the audience.

Because of sincerity, language barriers are no longer there; because of persistence, cultural differences can be overcome. With the love of everyone, Tzu Chi is gradually blossoming and bearing fruit in Australia.

In the short comedy skit looking back at the history of Tzu Chi’s charity in Brisbane, local English speakers (right) often cannot pronounce Tzu Chi clearly. Is it Tai Chi? Or Sushi? They always felt confused at the beginning. (Photo by Shi Bin-bin)

Tzu Chi volunteers in Brisbane performed The Well Digger. (Photo by Shi Bin-bin)

Build Tzu Chi Spirit in Architecture

The design of the new hall began in March 2016. At that time, the original office had reached the limit of its material life. Many things were damaged and needed repairs. From this was born the concept of rebuilding the office,  including the addition of a kindergarten and a bookstore.

There were more than ten versions of the new hall in function and design. The new hall covers an area of 1,200 square meters. In such a small base area, it was a challenge to incorporate different functions and try to integrate the concepts of Tzu Chi's culture, as well as use natural lighting.

In creating the new hall, the designers hoped that it can play the great role of a green building that saves water and electricity, allows natural breezes to penetrate and increases air circulation. They also arranged the recycling of rainwater.

The biggest design concept is the integration of East and West. The appearance is Western. There is a lot of glass, many corridors, and balconies which reflect   local Australian design concepts. The interior is designed with the herringbone-shaped wooden eaves of the Buddhist hall, showing the beauty of the East.

The interior of the stately Gratitude Hall is designed with the herringbone-shaped wooden eaves. This is the Buddhist hall, showing the beauty of the East. (Photo by Lu Wei-cheng)

Build Something Suitable for Local Area

The local architect John Neylan and his team worked very hard during the design and construction process. They spent a lot of time discussing design concepts with volunteers Fu Xinyin (傅新寅) and Lu Weicheng (盧威程), and were invited back to Hualien to meet the Master. He said: "This reconstruction concept was relatively small at the beginning. As it gradually took shape, the Master guided it many times to make the building larger so as to exert its maximum potential."

So it changed from a small one-story building to the one now which can be seen from a far distance. What impressed John Neylan most was: "When I went to Hualien, the Master said: 'You are a local, and you know what is best in the local area, so please build something suitable for the local area.' I think the Master is very wise. "

This new hall has brought much to Tzu Chi Brisbane. The newly completed Jing Si Books & Café will create a community full of humanistic space, and introduce the philosophy and spirit of Tzu Chi, as well as how volunteers help  the community. The Da Ai Kindergarten will sow the seeds of many good characters and bring positive strength to society in the future.

Let us hope more and more local people will join Tzu Chi and spread their love together.

Welcome to visit Tzu Chi Australia and Tzu Chi Brisbane.

The Jing Si Bookstore & Café in the new hall of the Brisbane Office, Australia. (Photo by Lu Wei-cheng)

The play area of Da Ai Kindergarten in the new hall of the Brisbane Office. (Photo by Lu Wei-cheng)
Lu Wei-cheng, deputy director of Tzu Chi Brisbane, and his wife Lu Yi-xin welcomed the guests and interacted warmly with them. (Photo by Shi Bin-bin)

◎Lin Hai-ling / Australian Report 2022/12/09
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