The construction of the first Bendigo mosque will go ahead after the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) approved the proposal’s planning permit.
The proposal attracted much public interest following opposition from Bendigo residents who feared the mosque will lead to the ‘Islamification’ of the regional city.
The objectors’ group, led by Julie Hoskin, told VCAT that the proposed mosque will cause noise pollution, traffic problems and adverse social impacts.
In his ruling, Justice Greg Garde found that the mosque will not present significant social impacts to the community and would not unreasonably affect nearby homes.
“There is no evidence of abuse, harassment, intimidation, or loss of wellbeing or social cohesion associated with the operation of the existing places of Islamic worship in Bendigo, or in any other location in Victoria or beyond,” he noted.
“The proposal will provide a place of worship and associated facilities that will serve the Muslim community of Greater Bendigo…there is no such place of worship currently available to those practising Islam in the region.”
The Muslim community in Bendigo currently uses prayer rooms at the La Trobe University Bendigo campus to worship. The Australian Islamic Mission hopes the new Bendigo Islamic Centre will provide a permanent place of worship for Muslim residents in the area.
The synod’s Uniting Through Faiths unit has welcomed the decision, calling it “a wonderful outcome for real multicultural respect and inclusive interfaith values”.
Last year, Uniting Through Faiths organised an event in support of Bendigo’s Muslim community. Hundreds of coloured balloons bearing tags that read ‘Racism has no place in Bendigo’ filled the streets of Bendigo as a symbol of community harmony. This was in response to anti-Islamic black balloons which were tied to the houses of counsellors who supported the project.
The event was attended by hundreds of people, including ministers from the local Uniting and Anglican churches, as well as Victorian MPs Maree Edwards and Jacinta Allen.
The Australian Islamic Mission thanked supporters in a statement.
“The support from the Bendigo mayor, councillors, members of parliament, multi-faith groups, the Bendigo Interfaith Council, religious leaders and the community has been overwhelming,” it said.
“The Bendigo Islamic Centre will integrate with all other Bendigo residents, communities and faiths and will promote tolerance, harmony and understanding, thereby positively contributing to the City of Bendigo.
“The Bendigo Islamic Centre will be one of the significant community centres of Bendigo that will celebrate all events with the Bendigo community and set an example for multiculturalism, the true essence of Australia.”
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