Muslims have been proud to make Bendigo their home since the Goldrush, contributing to the community and the economy of Victoria’s third-largest city for more than 120 years.
In 1998, the Bendigo Islamic Association was born, with a membership of between 5 and 10 families.
About 20 families join the Association each year, helping to coordinate the religious and social needs of the local Islamic community.
Today, more than Muslim 250 families are in Bendigo. They are from 25 different nationalities and include students from Southeast Asia and the Middle East. They worship, socialise and celebrate together, as a single Islamic community.
Not having a formal place of worship or celebration in Bendigo has seen some families move away to bigger, mostly metropolitan, cities, weakening the fabric of the local Islamic, and wider Bendigo, community.
Since 1997, La Trobe University has offered the Muslim community two rooms on its local campus to pray. One, small, room is available every day during semesters only, and the other only during Salat al-Jumu’ah.
The small room accommodates about 40 people, the larger one about 70. Because of limited space, occasionally prayers also must be conducted in the corridor and attendance of women at prayers is sometimes zero.
With the nearest mosque more than 100kms away, and current, borrowed, facilities inadequate to
meet the growing demands of the Muslim community, it is clear a permanent facility to help the Muslim community worship, celebrate and grow is needed.
Planning permit for Bendigo Islamic Community Centre:
We have turned to the Australian Islamic Mission for help, hoping to use their expertise and experience to build the Bendigo Islamic Community Centre.
Plans to build the Bendigo Islamic Community Centre were lodged in late 2013. The development, on industrial land at East Bendigo, includes community spaces, a café, a library and a prayer hall for up to 375 worshippers, with associated support rooms.
The City of Greater Bendigo council approved the BICC in June, 2014, with a vote of 7-2, representing the support of the project in the local community.
However, a series of appeals delayed planning approval, and protests led by outside anti-Islam groups attracted unwanted attention on Bendigo and the project.
In response, in September 2015, Believe in Bendigo was born. Believe in Bendigo started with a group of about 20 community leaders in a lounge room, and turned into a movement.
On June 15, 2016, the High Court dismissed the final appeal against the BICC, giving the go-ahead for the construction of Bendigo’s first Islamic facility.
With the combination of community support, the celebration of diversity and openness, and the city’s rich history and culture, the influences that will dominate the construction of the Bendigo Islamic Community Centre were born.
BiCC Building a community:
It isn’t enough to celebrate and acknowledge Bendigo’s embrace with a simple ‘thankyou’. The Bendigo Islamic Association and the Australian Islamic Mission want to repay that support with a facility the entire community will be proud of.
A diverse and pluralistic Muslim community living within a magnificent landscape has provided an opportunity to create something special, to ensure the Bendigo Islamic Community Centre is one of a kind.
In celebration of the Australian way of life, the BICC will be one of the most open Islamic facilities in the country.
Its design is not centred around a prayer hall, but a stunning community courtyard, open to the public.
There will be easy access and a range of community facilities, including a café, sports hall, a library for wider community.
In fact, the mosque itself will make up less than a quarter of the site footprint, encouraging access by the wider Bendigo community.
However, it’s not just people that have influenced the BICC design.
Bendigo’s grand architecture has been moulded by one man – William C Vahland. More than 200 buildings and public structures throughout the city and the region bear his sandstone signature.
As well as grand designs, Vahland gave the city its inexpensive Miners’ Cottage template, allowing a mass of mud, mineshafts and messy tents to become a safe and prosperous community.
Architect Asher Greenwood has moulded Vahland’s influence into his BICC design, incorporating decorative ironwork, Victorian-era grandeur and practicality, sandstone colours and goldmining icons.
Within a bush setting, the BICC uses the classical Australian natural light to bring the environment indoors, and showcase the local landscape – resulting in both cultural and natural transparency. At the request of the local Muslim community, the BICC is non-monumental, but pays homage to the city’s past, reflects its present and celebrates its future.