Alma Road application for Muslim group

AN application to hold Muslim prayer services at a community centre in the heart of Jewish Melbourne has been welcomed by Jewish leaders.

AN application to hold Muslim prayer services at a community centre in the heart of Jewish Melbourne has been welcomed by Jewish leaders.

It is believed that weekly Friday afternoon prayers have already been conducted at the Alma Road Community House in St Kilda East for some time.

The site is managed by Port Phillip Community Group under licence from the City of Port Phillip, and is used for a variety of activities, including prayer groups.

The application for changing the use of 200 Alma Road asks that the property be allowed to be used “for the purpose of a place of assembly” for up to 100 people, for parking restrictions to be lifted and for permission to make structural changes to the property.

Marcia Pinskier, commissioner at the Victorian Multicultural Commission, said she was pleased different faith groups were congregating in the largely Jewish area of town.

“As long as there’s a well-meaning community gathering for their own faith purposes, there would be no reason they wouldn’t be entitled to share our common community spaces,” she said. “One presumes this is a well-meaning group, and it would only be a positive thing for us to mix with others across the broader community.”

Acting Jewish Community Council of Victoria president Anton Block said local Muslims “are entitled to run services wherever they want to, if there’s demand for the services, and they meet all permit requirements”.

“It’s the laws of supply and demand. If the Islamic community wish to meet that demand, then nobody should stand in the way, unless there are issues with planning requirements.”

However, a local resident and member of the Jewish community, who did not want his name published but who has been campaigning openly against the application, told The AJN he opposes the proposed new guidelines and has placed an objection to the planning application.

He said he was concerned about potential security issues relating to the use of the site by people possibly drawn from across Melbourne to an area close to many synagogues. As a local resident, he was also concerned about parking issues.

A council spokesperson said “Council has received some objections to the Muslim prayer group that meets for one hour on Friday afternoons. These objections claim that this transforms the centre to a place of worship.

“The use of the centre for a few hours per week for prayer is considered to be a normal and ancillary part of its use as a ‘place of assembly’, or neighbourhood house, and does not change the centre to a ‘place of worship’. If the community house was to be changed to a place of worship as its primary use, another planning permit would be required.”


Image: The Alma Road Community Centre in St Kilda East.

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