Bendigo is getting a mosque.
After months of confrontation, protests and legal wrangling the Victorian Court of Appeal has cleared the way for a mosque to be built in the regional Victorian city.
It’s about time.
The plan for a mosque on Rowena Street in Bendigo East has been derailed by a vocal group of anti-Muslim protesters who do not want to see it built.
But the local community, spearheaded by businesswoman Margot Spalding, banded together to support the mosque.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic. My phone has been running hot with locals saying congratulations. People are very happy about it and very excited for Bendigo,” Spalding said.
“It’s great for Bendigo to have a mosque and it’s great for the Muslim community. We want to encourage diversity and religious tolerance.”
Following anti-Muslim protests in Bendigo sparked by the announcement of the mosque, Spalding created “Believe in Bendigo” a community group aimed at bringing the city together.
Religious leaders have said the mosque will be good for Bendigo, and in October Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said many of those opposing the mosque wouldn’t even know how to spell Bendigo.
“You’ve got people who wouldn’t know how to spell Bendigo coming to Bendigo, trashing Bendigo’s good name. They’re outsiders in every sense of that word. They’re outside the norm, they’re outside our values, and they’re outsiders to the great city of Bendigo,” he said.
The ruling followed a lengthy court battle between opponents of mosque and supporters. After the mosque was approved by the Bendigo City Council in June 2014, the decision was appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
VCAT upheld the council’s original decision, and a further appeal spearheaded by Bendigo local Julie Hoskin, was taken to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal today rejected claims that the mosque would have adverse social effects, and dismissed the appeal.
“Upon the application for leave to appeal before this Court, counsel for the appellant objectors submitted that Ms Hoskin raised the issue of significant social effects in ‘a very clear way’,” the judgement says.