Mosque moves forward - video

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 18-Jun-2014 UPDATED


Bendigo's first mosque is preparing for the second stage in its process, gathering the necessary funds to build the $3 million development.

The Bendigo Islamic Association will now need to source adequate funding before the mosque can be built.

"We are going through this process gradually and we don't have a certain timeframe for building. We just currently have the masterplan. The most important thing to build is the prayer hall and the basic infrastructure first," BIA committee member Heri Febriyanto said.

"The second stage would include building the care takers' residence and the third stage would be the hall and other facilities. 

"We don't know exactly when it will be built... It depends on our funding." 

The BIA was humbled by Greater Bendigo council's decision to approve the planning permit for the mosque.

Mr Febriyanto said this was a new beginning for the Muslim and non-Muslim community.

"We really appreciate council's decision to approve the permit and we thank the community who have, and are continuing, to support us," he said.

"This is a win for all the community in Bendigo."

VIDEO: Click here to see the mosque meeting footage. 



Greater Bendigo council has given the go-ahead for Bendigo's first mosque.

Council tonight approved the $3 million East Bendigo plan, seven votes to two.

Councillors Helen Leach and Elise Chapman voted against it, with councillors Ruffell, Willliams, Campbell, Fyffe, Lyons, Weragoda and Cox voting for it.

The meeting was held in front of about 250 people, most of them against the plan.

The crowd interjected throughout the meeting.

Cr Ruffell said it was an important vote.

"This is a great thing for Bendigo," she said.

"The vote tonight was about a planning application. The report was thoroughly researched and we extensively asked council staff about a number of concerns put forward by objectors.

"In all cases, they, and council, follwed due process. I believe in the report, so I voted on that."


Four police officers were present before and during the meeting.

A few times a child was heard crying when the loud crowd became raucous.

During the debate, one of the crowd said 'the people of Bendigo don't want this mosque.

Another person in the crowd says they did, and was shouted at "to sit down" by the loud crowd.

VIDEO: Click here to see the mosque meeting footage.   

At one stage the crowd talked about the inhabitants of the mosque as "child rapists and murderers" and "we welcome those who want to abide by our laws."

There were a number of loud interjections throughout the debate, with councillors often being shouted down, or struggling to be heard.

The local Muslim community was advised to stay away from the meeting, with fears a busload of protestors was coming from Melbourne.

Blow-by-blow details below, including councillors' comments. 

Full story in Friday's Bendigo Weekly.



Vote is taken, motion is won 7-2. Some crowd applause. Rest are going beserk.

Cr Fyffe says he supports the mosque. Looks like 7-2 vote.



Cr Ruffell announces she will vote for it. 5-2. That's it carried. Cr Fyffe says people live near mosques in Melbourne saying they have had "absolutely no trouble at all".


Cr Ruffell compares mosque parking to Sacred Heart cathedral, and to the height of the mosque, and the size or other religious buildings.  

Cr Ruffell says no call to prayer.

Cr Weragoda says he is disappointed 400 people are against multiculturalism.

Cr Chapman goes off saying they are not objecting to multiculturalism.


Cr Weragoda throws his support behind the mosque. 4-2 now. Cr Ruffell and Cr Cox yet to speak. Cr Cox's speech should be a pearler. Hope the child is alseep. Somoene in crowd sets off an Islamic chant phone noise.

One of the crowd says 'the people of Bendigo don't want this mosque. Another person in the crowd says they do, and is shouted at "to sit down" by the loud crowd.

Crowd getting restless.

Crowd talks about "child rapists and murderers" and "we welcome those who want to abide by our laws."




Cr Leach goes into "social effects". For offices to conclude Bendigo will never have the negative impacts seen overseas is incredible, she sayd.

"The only option here is refusal," Cr Leach says, even though she moved for deferral earlier. 



Cr Leach says it is not appropriate to build the mosque in an industrial area, claiming it will impact detrimentally on the amenity of the area. 

She says carparking will not be enough. She says "what if the minaret is used for the call to prayer."

Cr Cox mumbles "read the report" under his breath. He could be talking about comments from the audience.


Cr Leach says she 'doesn't know what planet people are on" if they don't understand what goes on in mosques. A person in the crowd yells "a training ground". 

Cr Leach says amendments are not enforceable. Asks Cr Cox to explain why will Bendigo be any different to other areas. Cr Cox talks about traffic and traffic policing.

Cr Leach talks about planning issues. Cr Leach says no soil testing report. Cr Cox said there was. Getting nasty again. Cr Leach says "it was not brought to my attention."


Cr Campbell supports Cr Williams and Cr Cox and is continualy heckled. He says Australian constitutional law has not banned mosques and Mulisms in this country. He reminds locals the law is the same for everyone and if you do not follow the law you will beheld accountable.

Cr Lyons is trying to control the very rowdy crows, which is sprouting hatred.

Vote looks like  3-2 now. Cr Ruffell, Fyffe and Weragoda to come.


Cr Chapman amazingly reads out the concerns about the people re Islam. Wow. 

Cr Lyons approves an extension for Cr Chapman says it will be her last. 


Cr Chapman says applicant "knowingly" put wrong landowner's name on application. Calls for applicant to be fined. Cr Chapman continues to read out the objector's objections.




Cr Chapman points out a number of the objector's notes they had sent her. Argues them. Most of them have been addressed already in the recommendation n the agenda. She reads them our.

Cr Cox intervenes, again, suggesting Cr Chapman has already received information to counter this. Bit of argey bargey between Cr Cox and Cr Champan.

Ms Mansfield acknowledges the original application had wrong owner of land, saying it is a common mistake.


Cr Chapman asks if council can guarantee there will be no call to prayer? Ms Mansfield says the conditions and applications will be enforced, but says there can be no guarantee there will never be a call to prayer, but the applicant would be required to make another application. 

Cr Cox says Cr Chapman knows very well there is no call to prayer anywhere in Australia. Crowd goes beserk again. 


Think the heckling is scaring a young child in the audience. She is crying.

Cr Cox says no compelling evidence that a mosque would have a detrimental social impact. Crowd goes beserk. Policeman looking interested. Child must be even more scared. 

Cr Cox says come claim the mosque will result in a takeover of "a religious" group.

Locals claim Islam "is not a religion."

Cr Cox says "Bendigo will benefit from a diverse population with people coming from a wide range of cultural backgrounds".


Cr Cox says concerns about a school being built onsite are invalid because a school cannot be built in an industrial area. More objection.

"It is important people read the conditions attached to this application."

Cr Cox says the parking is based on the maximum number of patrons of 375. Is heckled again, unsurprisingly. Lot of shouting from crowd. Cr Lyons is about to go bananas. 


Cr Cox rises to speak, it gets rowdy and Cr Lyons asks for a "fair go", Goes down with the crowd as expected. Cr Cox says council is representing locals to VicRoads as part of the small amendment to recommendation.

Cr Cox says he believes over the past few months council has dealt with most of the issues. he says call to prayer is not going to happen, which it says in the application. He reminds the audience it is a part of the recommendation.


Cr Williams starts to talk to his motion, saying he has met with the locals, and is being heckled. Can't hear him. Cr Lyons is going to intervene soon. Crowd is trying to shout him down. Bit ugly.

Cr Williams says it meets planning requirements and acknowledges the objectors.

Cr Chapman asks about VicRoads views on the application. 


Cr Leach says council does not have enough information. Head count has about 200 at this council meeting. VOTE IS LOST. Only Cr Chapman and Leach vote for deferrment. Cr Williams moves recommendation with small planning changes. All procedural.


Cr Cox says a deferral will trake the rights of council away from council and applicant will be allowed to go to VCAT because of the time it takes. He says this is why the matter needs to be debated tonight.

Cr Lyons calls fro calm as Cr Cox is heckled. Doesn' go down well. Cr Williams speaks against the amended motion.


Cr Leach says the minaret could impact the future of the Bednigo Airport, even though CASA and Bendigo airport did not object. Crowd give her a big clap. Cr Cox raises to speak against the motion.


Cr Cox questions relevance of Cr Chapman's claim the Bendigo Airport are concerned with the development. She acknowledges the airport does not object to the mosque. Cr Cox calls for point of order, is jeered. Cr Lyons asks her to get to the point.


Cr Chapman said this council did not vote not to hold a consultation about the mosque. Crowd jeers, asking "who made it".


Cr Leach says she believes the application should start as new. Cr Elise Chapman says she supports the deferral amendment. Says objectors should be listened to. She says council should be open and honest to the community it represents.


Cr Leach says council is in peril of immediate appeal and refusal.

"We are supposed to represent the ratepayers and the residents of this city.

"Are we doing this on the application before us, I don't thnk so."

Cr Leach says nothing in the past, or in the future, will ever be as significant as this. Asks if "we" are going to abrigate the rights of objectors. Another round of applause from crowd.

Cr Leach said objectors should be heard.


Cr Elise Chapman seconds and Cr Leach says she is not prejiduced, just against giving one party an advantage over another on planning matters. She says it is not subjected to same scrutiny as others. Cr leach says it is amatter of national interest.

She says no proper consultation with residents, who will ne required to suffer the impacts of an industrial-built mosque, which could house 1000.

Cr Cox says Cr Leach is going further than her motion. He is jeered by crowd, who praise Cr Leach for "actually listening to her constituents".

Cr Leach says it is not a matter of rejection, but deferral.


Time for the mosque. Cr James Williams moves a motion to approve the development. Cr Leach says her light was on first. Cr Leach moves to defer the mosque for two months, saying objectors now number 432, the most in this council's history. She says teh decision would imperil council to an imminent appeal and refusal. Crowd claps.


Crowd is spilling out into the hall and stairwell. Couple of preocedural matters going on.


Council moves for the meeting to be closed down, but a resident asks "why are we giving such a huge platform too racism". You can imagine the response.


Eaglehawk resident asks to prove what "law" means they don't have to have an objectors' meeting.

Section 91 of Local Government Act is the answer, says director Peter Davies.


Questions get nasty with Julie Hoskin asking about Ms Mansfield. Question ruled out of order. Another questioner asks why no separate meeting. Ms Mansfield explains why because such a large number of people it is not possible. Crowd jeers, seemingly proving the point.


Yet another mosque question disallowed. Calles of "disgraceful" from the gallery. However, it has been council procedure for years. Sandra Cddy starts talking about Islamaisation, Australia Post and abbattoirs. Asks about sleeping well at night and Islamisation.


Another objector tries to get around mosque questions by bringing in a point of law about who owns the property.  


Another question about the mosque, which receives a loud round of applause. Objector says it is about East Bndigo Structure Plan. Director Prue Mansfield explains processes need evidence. 


John Carter says he worships one God and doesn't worship any other Gods. Says he is against the mosque, but Cr Lyons again strikes question down.


Appplause as Shannon Vize tries to ask a question on the mosque, but, as is always the case, no questions are allowed on planning matters on the night's agenda. 


Anita Donlon asks council what steps have been taken to safeguard our c ommunity from a terrorist attack?

Council Organisation Support director Marg Allan responds, saying there is a process in place.


Barry Lyons warns locals they cannot interject from the gallery.


Tonight's audience is spilling out the door.

There are at least four police officers inside and outside the Town Hall.

Councillors are walking in, saying it is the largest crowd they have seen during their term.



Police will be at tonight's Greater Bendigo council meeting in anticipation of a bus load of anti-Muslim protesters.

Council staff are preparing for a large influx of anti-mosque protesters, arriving from Melbourne, to the meeting.

Bendigo Police Sergeant Greg Gentry said there would be at least one police unit on scene to maintain public order.

"There will be an initial presence and depending on what happens and the numbers will depend on the police presence," he said.

Muslim leaders have also been advised not to attend tonight's meeting in light of the potential dangers to their persons.



The Bendigo Weekly has led the way on coverage of the proposed $3 million mosque for the city, and tonight will be no exception.

On January 10 we broke the story of the proposal, and followed it up with a strong editorial.

The following week we told the story of a local Muslim family, highlighting the importance to them of a mosque, and showing the community the peace and harmony of such a household.

We urged the community to celebrate increasing cultural diversity.

Tonight a major step in Bendigo's history will be made.

Greater Bendigo council will vote on the mosque proposal tonight, and is expected to approve it.

While the decision will likely be appealed to VCAT, council staff believe it is on solid planning grounds.

Whatever happens tonight, keep up to date with this link.

It will be updated regularly during the debate, so keep hitting the refresh button.


Leafy Green Trees commented on 18-Jun-2014 06:50 PM5 out of 5 stars
There were more objections to Howard Street Cr Leach than this matter and as you know the council took no notice just like this matter, done deal. Cr Ruffell should have corrected you with the facts about Howard Street, over 3000 objections if my memory is correct.
Danny commented on 18-Jun-2014 06:52 PM5 out of 5 stars
Excellent job with this feed. Thank you
Deaken commented on 19-Jun-2014 12:35 AM5 out of 5 stars
I am ashamed of how ignorant and hateful some in our community are. I am truely shocked at the hate.
Wayne Proudfoot commented on 19-Jun-2014 06:20 AM5 out of 5 stars
Well done Bendigo Council ! Now sit back and wait for the howls of racist discontent from the ill informed, intolerant 'mob' who couldn't even maintain a modicum of decency and respect while the motion was being debated. That goes for some councillors too.
Kay O'Brien commented on 20-Jun-2014 01:36 PM5 out of 5 stars
What a total disgrace from council and gallery council should have shut meeting down and to the so called mouth that refered to the protesters as MY GROUP note I was sitting where I said I was


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