Former Vietnam refugee Hieu Van Le, who arrived in Darwin on a boat in 1977, is to become South Australia’s first Asian migrant governor.

When Hieu Van Le arrived in Darwin on a boat from war-torn Vietnam, it was beyond his wildest dreams that he would become the governor of South Australia 36 years later.

The 60-year-old, who’s married to fellow boat traveller Lan and whose sons are named after cricketers, is to replace Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce in September.

“As a young `boat people’ refugee, I arrived here 36 years ago with nothing but an invisible suitcase filled with dreams,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“A dream to live in a peaceful, safe and free country and to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.

“But to be bestowed with the greatest honour and the privilege of holding the Vice-Regal office is absolutely beyond my wildest dream.

“This appointment, however, says much more about our society than about me – it sends a powerful message affirming our inclusive and egalitarian society.”

Premier Jay Weatherill said Mr Le was the first Asian migrant to become governor and, when he became lieutenant governor in 2007, was thought to be the first Vietnamese-born person in the world to be appointed to a Vice Regal position.

“He has already demonstrated an outstanding level of service to the community and I have no doubt that he will serve the role with great distinction.”

When asked about the present refugee situation in Australia, Mr Le said his new position made it inappropriate for him to comment on anything that could be interpreted as political interference.

But he did reveal he was a big fan of the Queen.

“I think she is a very inspiring and admirable leader, who carries out her duties with great grace and compassion.”

Mr Le retired from accounting in 2009 and was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2010.

Professor Brenda Wilson, chief executive of the Cancer Council of South Australia, will succeed Mr Le as lieutenant governor.

Mr Weatherill said Rear Admiral Scarce and his wife had been outstanding advocates for SA and tirelessly supported many organisations particularly those involving young people and the Aboriginal community.