Bendigo mosque study wins an award at the Planning Institute Australia Awards for Excellence in Victoria

A STUDY of the community’s attitudes towards the Bendigo mosque has received an award for ‘cutting edge research and teaching’. 

Social Cohesion in Bendigo was recognised at the Planning Institute Australia Victorian Awards for Excellence at a ceremony in Melbourne on Friday. 

La Trobe University Community Planning and Development senior lecturer Dr Julie Rudner conducted the research for the Victorian Multicultural Commission.

In her report, Dr Rudner described a peculiarity of anti-mosque protests in Bendigo: they focused on the faith of future users, rather than the general landuse, which is a place of worship. 

“They aimed to exclude Muslim people from experiencing the same rights and freedoms as others in Australian society to practice their faith,” the study stated. 

The planning scheme does not distinguish between mosques, temples and churches.

Though the animosity divided the Bendigo community, Dr Rudner said the development created opportunities for vibrant debates on the politics of diversity, especially around notions of democracy, leadership, social networks and information sharing.

She was hopeful Planning Institute Australia’s recognition would bring the body of work to the attention of other councils as a reference for controversial planning decisions.

“These are really big and upcoming issues for local government councils and for state government with regard to planning for diversity as society changes,” Dr Rudner said.

For the most part, she said people had appreciated the research and found it useful.

“So much so, the Victorian Multicultural Commission is working on a tool kit to make available for community leaders and local councils,” Dr Rudner said.

However, she said there were people who objected to the mosque who felt the report was biased.

Dr Rudner has since turned her attentions to VCAT applications regarding places of worship, with La Trobe senior lecturer in planning Dr Andrew Butt.

Preliminary investigations indicate all religions have been treated fairly in all cases studied.

The research is to be presented at the State of Australian Cities National Conference in Adelaide at the end of the month.

La Trobe University planning students were also commended at the awards for their ‘outstanding’ work on the Dandenong Primary School project.

Dr Rudner said their designs were influential in securing funding for the works.

Awards were announced in 11 categories.