Foreign Minister Bob Carr has announced a re-elected Rudd Labor Government would contribute $3 million to enable completion of the Islamic Museum of Australia in Thornbury in Melbourne's north. Funding for this project is already included in the national budget.
The announcement coincides with celebrations marking Eid al-Fitr - the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The $10 million museum will be the first Australian museum dedicated to Islamic art when it opens to the public next year. Australia is a vibrant and successful multicultural nation and this funding will ensure the wider Australian community can learn about the rich history of the Muslim faith. The history of Islam in Australia long precedes the arrival of white settlement. For centuries, vessels from Indonesia visited the shores of northern Australia where they traded with local Indigenous people.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, other Muslims came to Australia, often as the crew of ships bringing white settlers. They were followed in the mid-19th century by the Afghan Cameleers. The museum will allow their stories to be told and it will also be a place to display and share the cultural history of Islam.
The Islamic Museum of Australia is described as an "Islamic exploratorium" and will house calligraphy, paintings, glass, ceramics, textiles and arts dating back to the 7th century, with special programs for school children. The building blends the purity and sophistication of Islamic design and features a large rusted "veil" as part of the entranceway. The Islamic Museum of Australia is a community foundation with the vision of establishing a leading cultural institution to showcase and preserve the arts, history, culture and heritage that Islam and Muslim societies have brought to Australia and the world.
The Jewish Museum of Australia, which has been involved in the development of the Islamic Museum, welcomed the government support. The Jewish Community Council of Victoria's president Nina Bassat told J-Wire: "The Islamic Museum of Australia is an important development for the Islamic community. Much thought and care has gone into the project, including consultation with the Jewish Museum of Australia, which it is using as a model. The Islamic Museum will add to the cultural life not only of the Islamic community, but to the celebration of multicultural art for the whole of Victoria.
"From the Jewish community perspective, we are heartened by this donation as it gives some hope to Jewish Museums and to the Jewish Holocaust Centre, which hitherto have not been the recipients of any large Government donations and which now feel encouraged to put their case on the basis of this announcement."
Some political analysts claim that this is part of a Labour Party funding programme tailored to sway voters in marginal seats. Almost half a billion dollars have been strategically allocated to be used for targeted CCTV and crime prevention grants, ethnic museums, libraries and green buildings. Half of the recipients had been announced in marginal electorates by Justice Minister Jason Clare in the first week of the campaign.
The grant for the Islamic Museum comes from the new $4.55 million Building Multicultural Communities fund. Minister for Multicultural Affairs Kate Lundy also made awards to African and Khmer communities in Adelaide, and the Korean community in Bennelong.
"New Museum Celebrating the Wealth of Islamic Culture - Receives $3 Million from Federal Labor Minster for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr" Australian Labor August 12, 2013
"Islamic Museum of Australia for Melbourne"J-Wire August 13, 2013
Kirsty Needham, "Labor grants a few wishes" South Coast Register August 11, 2013
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today