On Sunday November 12th, around 240 people gathered at Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo for the 2017 Victorian Interfaith Networks Conference. The event was hosted by the Bendigo Interfaith Council and the City of Greater Bendigo, in association with the Faith Communities Council of Victoria.

ulumbarra theatre photo1
Ulumbarra Theatre - Bendigo

Proceedings commenced with various faith and community stands on display, which included fun activities and an opportunity for people to network.

2017 faith standsFaith and Community Stands

This year’s keynote theme was on 'Religious Freedom in a 21st Century Pluralist Society’. Keynote speaker was Daniel Nellor, who is the advisor to the Human Rights Commissioner on Freedom of Religion, Mr Edward Santow. Daniel spoke of the rising tension between accommodating differing freedoms in 21st century Australia, and the challenges for the place of religion in the public square. You can read Daniel's keynote speech here.

Related Article: Some claims same-sex marriage threatens religious freedom 'exaggerated', according to advisor to the Australian Human Rights Commissioner

A wonderful Welcome to Country was given by Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Owner Jida Gulpilil, which was followed by dignitary speeches from: Murray Davies, Chairperson of the Faith Communities Council of Victoria; Margaret O'Rourke, Mayor of the City of Greater Bendigo; and Mimmie Claudine Ngum Chi Watts, Victorian Multicultural Commissioner. Master of Ceremonies for the day was Margot Spalding, from Believe in Bendigo.

2017 dignitaries
Left to Right: Jida Gulpilil (Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Owner); Margot Spalding (Master of Ceremonies);
Murray Davies (Chair of Faith Communities Council of Victoria); Dr Ree Bodde (Think Prevent)

2017 dignitariesLeft to Right: Daniel Nellor (Australian Human Rights Commission); Mimmie Watts (Victorian Multicultural Commission);
Margaret O'Rourke (Mayor of City of Greater Bendigo); Monsignor Frank Marriott (Chair of Bendigo Interfaith Council)

A statement on the prevention of family violence and violence against women was read out by Murray Davies followed by Dr Ree Bodde, who spoke passionately about the importance of implementing active bystander training to prevent violence against women within faith communities. Click here to hear podcast of Dr Bodde's speech.

Upon the conclusion of dignitary speeches, a number of workshops were conducted throughout Ulumbarra Theatre. Workshops titles were:
1. Religious Freedom and Social Cohesion
2. Educational Program for Schools - Understanding Religious Diversity
3. Active bystander training to prevent violence against women
4. Introductory Training Workshop for Emergencies Ministry

2017 workshopsWorkshops: (Top-left) 1. Religious Freedom and Social Cohesion; 
(Top-right) 2. Educational Program for Schools - Understanding Religious Diversity;
 (Bottom) 4. Introductory Training Workshop for Emergencies Ministry

The day included a wonderful concert entitled ‘WE ARE THE WORLD! Bring a Bell!’, 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. Click here to read full report on the Concert, including how to buy the DVD.

concert wearetheworldWE ARE THE WORLD! Bring a Bell! Concert

The conference was wrapped up by Monsignor Frank Marriott, Chair of Bendigo Interfaith Council, who thanked the MC and all the organisers and handed the baton (message stick) back to Murray Davies who announced the 2018 Victorian Interfaith Networks Conference will be held in the Western suburbs of Melbourne.

 

Further Information on the 2017 Victorian Interfaith Networks Conference

 Some photos from the Conference and Concert - click arrow to start video (press play button to run again)

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