What a joy it was to finally print yesterday's front page. Our photographer Glenn Daniels perfectly captured the celebration marking the construction of our city's first mosque - a day our Muslim community has long been waiting for, and planning.
A day they have had to wait too long for.
As I wrote in yesterday's editorial, the turning of a sod at Bendigo East on Friday meant so much more than the start of a construction project. It was the start of a new chapter for Bendigo, and significantly for the Bendigo Muslim community.
We cannot and should not speak on behalf of the Bendigo Islamic Association, so it's best we draw on their words and lived experiences to share how they feel.
In the words of Sameer Syed, the centre 'won't be just a mosque for the Bendigo Muslims to pray in, it will be a centre of religious and cultural exchange for all residents of Bendigo. Our vision is for every Bendigonian to benefit from the BICC, whether it be to educate themselves, engage in constructive dialogue, take part in community activities or simply drop in with family and friends for a coffee in a tranquil yet ultra modern setting. I am confident that once the centre is up and running Bendigonians will reflect on what a positive impact the centre has been making on this great city of ours."
And in Dr Aisha Neelam's words: "We love where we live, we feel welcome here and we want to use this facility to reach out to the Bendigo community."
We are a city that believes in harmony and fairness, and will continue to embrace people of all cultures and who practice all faiths. They are entitled to do so, free of judgement and hate.
But ... something else important to our city happened this week, and is more difficult to capture with images, or discuss in editorials. It was the release of an important discussion paper about the city's economic development strategy. You can read more about that, here.
As journalist Emma D'Agostino wrote this week, addressing inequality is at the heart of the strategy. Tackling this is key to increasing the region's wealth.
The strategy notes: "Greater Bendigo will continue to experience increasing inequality and disadvantage across our city if we continue to adopt a 'business-as-usual' model for economic development," it said.
Our region is home to nine of Australia's most disadvantaged suburbs: Long Gully, West Bendigo, Ironbark, North Bendigo, California Gully, Eaglehawk, Eaglehawk North, Sailors Gully and Heathcote. Strathfieldsaye is among Australia's most advantaged suburbs.
But the strategy cannot be written based on the experiences of only a few.
It sounds dry. But it's important a lot of people take notice - because this is the start of the conversation, and for the strategy to accurately reflect what is happening in our city, it needs a range of voices to be heard. We need the document to reflect the diversity of our city - and that means marital status, parenting status, socio-economic, culture, gender, religion, youth... every 'group' in our community needs to contribute for this to document to be of any value moving forward.
But that's a bit heavy for first thing on a Sunday, so if you didn't catch up with this story during the week... here it is again. It had everyone talking - and many of our journos wanting to write some snappy headlines :)
Have a great day,
Nicole Ferrie, editor
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