Dr amanda wise & dr jan ali commonwealth of Australia 2008



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9.What Councils are Doing: Top Twenty Muslim Australian LGAs

Introduction


The role of local city councils in building bridges between Muslim and non-Muslim- Australians is complex and multifaceted and involves everything from consultation processes, access and equity policies, internal anti-racism and cultural sensitivity training, to community based festivals, initiatives and projects. This project has primarily been interested in the latter approaches which we view as ‘capacity building’ at the grass roots level to foster stronger inter-ethnic social capital between Muslim and non-Muslim- Australians through partnerships, community engagement, community based activities and revitalising local communities. Socio-economic and cultural changes are transforming local communities and local municipal councils play a pivotal role in both facilitating as well as managing the change processes brought about by immigration and cultural and religious diversity. Community capacity building involves;

It is this community capacity building role that interests us here and is the focus of this chapter. Through this lens, we will look at community-based initiatives and programs of local councils from the top twenty Muslim-Australian Local Government Areas to improve relations between Muslim and non-Muslim-Australians.

Religious vs Secular Role of City Councils


Local city councils in Australia are still based on rigid secular foundations. They often distance themselves from religious or faith-based issues and programs in an attempt to preserve the secularity of the council. Such a position is not surprising; after all Australia is a modern secular capitalist society, and religion, if anything, is perceived as a ‘private affair’.

However, despite religion being a private affair, local city councils, particularly those in large capital cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, are increasingly finding they need to pay attention to communities with religious needs and strong religious convictions. Since local city councils are the first point of community contact in a three tiered government system in Australia, they will inevitably need to incorporate ‘religion’ in their agenda for community development and management.


Relation Building Activities in the Top Twenty Muslim- Australian Councils


This section identifies what councils with relatively large Muslim-Australian populations are doing to build better relations between Muslim and non-Muslim-Australians at the local level. These are referred to as the top twenty Muslim-Australian Councils in the report for the very reason that Muslim numbers in these LGAs are relatively higher than elsewhere in urban and rural centres in Australia.

Rank

LGA

No. Muslims

1.

Bankstown

25996

2.

Hume

19688

3.

Canterbury

17792

4.

Auburn

16111

5.

Liverpool

13740

6.

Blacktown

12463

7.

Parramatta

12120

8.

Brisbane

10868

9.

Moreland

10618

10.

Greater Dandenong

9875

11.

Rockdale

8897

12.

Brimbank

8407

13.

Fairfield

7896

14.

Holroyd

7478

15.

Casey

7475

16.

Whittlesea

6763

17.

Campbelltown

6371

18.

Darebin

4848

19.

Stirling

3921

20.

Wyndham

3656

Table: Top Twenty councils in terms of number of Muslim residents ABS 2006 Census
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