GEIFN | REPORTS | FCCV | ANNUAL CONFERENCE | Victorian Interfaith Networks | Sunday, 12 November 2017 | 12noon-4.30pm

[Edited from public address]

An annual conference aiming to help build capacity and sustainability of existing multifaith and interfaith networks. Bringing people up-to-date with current matters, providing networking opportunities, and assisting host council and network to promote its work to the local community.

Where: Ulumbarra Theatre - 10 Gaol Rd, Bendigo VIC 3550

The Faith Communities Council of Victoria opposes family violence and violence against women in all its forms, and call upon people of faith to play a role in its elimination.
Read FCCV's Statement of Commitment

12noon-1.25pm: Registration, networking, lunch and activities
1.30-2.15pm: Honoured guests and keynote speech on Religious Freedom in a 21st Century Pluralist Society by Daniel Nellor, Advisor to the Australian Humans Rights (Freedom of Religion)
Commissioner, Mr Edward Santow.
2.20-3.50pm: Workshops and plenary sessions (see below)
4-4.30pm: Summary & closing ceremony

Enrolment for workshops and plenary sessions were made upon arrival.

WORKSHOP 1: Religious Freedom and Social Cohesion
Religious freedom is fundamental to the Australian way of life and liberal democratic values.
And the challenge of respecting religious freedom in a pluralistic, secular, multi-faith society is becoming more complex.
In Australia in 2017, a Sikh student with religious headwear has been excluded from a school on
the grounds of maintaining a ‘level playing field’; the construction of a Mosque in Bendigo has
created upheaval in the community; Catholic priests are being asked to break the Seal of
Confessional by reporting information divulged to them during confession; A local council has
banned the construction of a Jewish synagogue in Bondi because it could be a terrorist target;
Islamic women wearing head coverings are abused and intimidated and violent criminal acts
done in the name of religion result in pressure being applied to Muslim leaders to re-state their
commitment to peace.

This workshop examined the complex relations between freedom of religion and social
cohesion in Australia and the world today.
Is there a zero-sum relationship between religious freedom and social cohesion? Does
maintaining peace mean pushing religion into the private sphere? Does promoting harmony
mean rejecting diversity? How can religious freedom be advanced in contemporary Australia
while recognising the pluralistic nature of Australian society?

Facilitator: Daniel Nellor, Advisor to the Australian Humans Rights (Freedom of Religion)
Commissioner, Mr Edward Santow.
• Dr Julie Rudner, Senior Lecturer @ Latrobe University
Manal Shehab, Community Engagement Officer @ Islamic Council of Victoria
Jasbir Singh Suropada, Chairperson of Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria
• Father Andrew Fewings, Parish Priest @ Kennington Catholic Parish, Bendigo
Gary Bouma AM, UNESCO Chair in Intercultural and Interreligious Relations - Asia Pacific,
Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Monash University

WORKSHOP 2: Educational Program for Schools - Understanding Religious Diversity
Three presenters of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths will deliver a 90 minute interactive
workshop that will challenge some typical stereotypes people may hold and
demonstrates friendship and respect between people of different faiths and cultures.
In particular, workshop included:
• Comparing different faith traditions, commonalities and differences
• Sharing of personal life experiences, beliefs and common values
• Linking issues of diversity and faith to belonging and community identity
• An interactive Question and Answer session

This workshop demystified and demonstrated how a multifaith educational program can be delivered in Victorian schools.

Facilitator: Ginette Everest, Executive Officer of Jewish Christian Muslim Association of
Australia (JCMA)
Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia (JCMA) have been running school education
programs since 2007. JCMA Workshops create a great opportunity to focus on some key ethical
and social questions with students that align with key parts of the Victorian curriculum. There
are a number of school programs to select from, or contact JCMA for a tailor made solution to
your requirements. For more information see:

WORKSHOP 3: Active bystander training to prevent Violence Against Women
A workshop to show participants how to safely intervene as an active bystander to prevent
violence against women.
In particular, the workshop will:
• Raise awareness of participants about the level of violence against women in our culture
• Challenge thinking by countering mainstream messages about gender, sex and violence
• Open dialogue by creating a safe environment for men and women to share their
opinions and experiences about these issues
• Inspire leadership by empowering participants with concrete options to safely confront
and interrupt abusive situations

A highly interactive facilitated workshop, not a lecture. Awareness raising is utilised
to develop concrete options for participants to employ during a range of work or social
situations – ranging from inappropriate comments to physical abuse.

Facilitator: Dr Ree Bodde, Program Director, Think Prevent
Think Prevent is a community leader in violence prevention. Think Prevent conducts training
sessions with a wide-range of groups, and utilises an active bystander approach to
prevention. For more information see:

WORKSHOP 4: Introductory Training Workshop for Emergencies Ministry
Volunteers do not need to be councillors, clergy or social workers – rather ordinary people with
compassion and good listening skills who can offer emotional and psychological care with
people affected by emergencies such as bushfires and floods.
The Victorian Council of Churches Emergencies Ministry is a multifaith, multicultural program
seeking volunteers from various faith communities.

Facilitator: Michael Downing, Regional Support Officer, Victorian Council of Churches
Emergencies Ministry (VCCEM)
The Victorian Council of Churches has responded to most State disasters and many local
emergency events since 1977. Today, its Emergencies Ministry department provides outreach,
psychological first aid, personal support and emotional spiritual care across the State of
Victoria, and is part of the Victorian Government’s emergency response plan. For more
information see:

A number of complimentary events were organised over the weekend (11-12 November) for those with time to explore and discover Bendigo.
11 November - Tour to Places of Worship (11am - 4pm):  Bendigo is home to some of the most spectacular architecturally designed places of worship in Australia, including The Sacred Heart Cathedral and the work-in-progress that is The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion. The tour also included the planned site of Bendigo Islamic Community Centre.
12 November - Tour of Sandhurst Gaol (11am - 12pm): Bendigo’s Ulumbarra Theatre rises majestically from within what was once the Sandhurst Gaol. Constructed in the early 1860s, the gaol was based on the Pentonville prison model where the wings radiate from a central tower, now the symbiotic link between the heritage and contemporary architecture. Guided tour explored spaces throughout this extraordinary arts and community facility, telling the tales that once remained behind the walls.
12 November - WE ARE THE WORLD! Bring a bell! Concert (4:30pm - 6:30pm @ Ulumbarra Theatre): A magnificent blend  of traditional, classical and sacred music and dance, presented by over 150 performers, ending with Federation bells and audience bells, joining in unity.

On behalf of Buddhist Council Victoria Interfaith (bINTER) and Glen Eira Interfaith Network (GEIFN), thankyou to Organisers and Participants working tirelessly to redress historical, and presenting inequalities. Aspired programming on day was well-received for shining a spotlight on some of the challenges faced by sections of our diverse community and showcased some “heavy lifters” creating brighter futures. Thankyou to the wider community for their vocal, heart warming and demonstrative positive support for a more harmonious society. Received with gratitude.

Faith Communities Council of Victoria (FCCV)
Mr Sandy Kouroupidis, Multifaith Officer,
Mobile: 0412 670 369

This event was a collaboration of the Faith Communities Council of Victoria, Bendigo Interfaith Council, City of Greater Bendigo and the Victorian State Government - Department of Premier and Cabinet.