SYDNEY - Easing their years-long dilemma, the government of Australia's eastern state of New South Wales has allocated thousands of new burial plots for Muslim and Jewish communities.
"For us as a Muslim community ... the news is overwhelming, community leader Ahmad Kamaledine told reporters at New South Wales Parliament House, reported the Australian Associated Press (AAP) on Monday, April 2.
The NSW government announced Monday the allocation of 6,000 additional burial plots for Muslims.
The decision also specified 3000 for the Jewish community at Rookwood Necropolis in Sydney to address the space shortages.
Kamaledine said approximately 350 Muslim burials occur each year at Rookwood.
Working to secure burial plots for the past 12 years, he said the decision helped solve a years-long dilemma for the Muslim community.
In six months' (time) we had nowhere to go, he said.
The Muslim community will receive half of the land at Lot 10 in the NSW government-owned Rookwood Necropolis, accommodating 6000 people in double-depth plots.
The other half of Lot 10 will be used for 3000 single Jewish burial plots which will be protected in perpetuity, under Jewish requirements.
Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson said the additional plots would relieve a long-standing problem for the state.
"This solves a very pressing problem in relation to burial space, particularly for these two religious faiths," she told reporters.
"We're very short of plots for Muslim burials, and this has been seen as a very urgent issue for the O'Farrell government."
The government also announced the amalgamation of trusts to help assauge the burden of purchasing burial lands for Muslims and Jews.
"This will allow the leverage of capital to purchase burial plots into the future," Hodgkinson said.
Under the decision, the Anglican, Muslim, Jewish, General and Independent Trusts will join with the Rookwood Necropolis Trust to form the Rookwood General Cemeteries Reserve Trust. The Catholic Trust will remain separate.
The new law would replace more than 20 pieces of legislation now in place in NSW and would be developed within six to nine months, she added.
New South Wales is home to 168.788 Muslims, about 49.6 percent of the total population, making the state a habitat to the largest Muslim population, according to the 2006 government Census.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.