THE Bendigo Islamic Association has welcomed changes to religious gathering restrictions in regional Victoria.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday confirmed religious groups would be allowed to conduct indoor services for up to 20 people, plus a faith leader.
Outdoor services would be capped at 50 people, as would funerals.
BIA spokesperson Dr Aisha Neelam said the changes were a "step in the right direction".
"We are doing this quite cautiously," she said. "It will still be a while before we can get back into the full swing of things.
"I don't think we can have any significant gatherings just yet until we have our own space at the Bendigo Islamic Community Centre.
"But hopefully what this will mean is that we can have small prayer meetings"
Dr Neelam said the community have been holding family prayer within the household and a number of virtual gatherings throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said it had been a challenging year for the community.
"It's fair to say, like every other Victorian, it's been hard," she said. "In the grand scheme of things, we've all been affected regardless of faith.
"It can be quite an isolating experience, especially with a lot of people within the Muslim community who are culturally and linguistically diverse.
"We do rely on the community for support. It's been difficult that we can't meet up like we normally would at these gatherings."
Dr Neelam said the Bendigo Islamic Association would be happy to see restrictions ease further, but only when health authorities deemed it was safe.
"Like any community, we would love to be able to meet with each other," she said. "We pray we can get rid of coronavirus, but cautious optimism is good.
"These are baby steps and we're getting there. What this has taught us is that we need to be kind to each other and we need to empathise with one another."
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