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Government steps up security so people can pray in peace

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religious faith freedom - The Catholic weekly
Minister Steve Kamper with students of St Patrick’s Mortlake. Photo: George Al-Akiki

With escalating acts of violence against faith-based communities across NSW, the State Government is ramping up assistance to ensure people feel safe and secure at their places of worship.

Minister for Multiculturalism Steve Kamper attended St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Mortlake on Thursday 30 May to deliver funds for new security systems as part of a statewide $5 million commitment to improve safety and security for religious practice.

Minister Kamper took time with parish priest Fr Thomas Stevens to discuss the grant and the positive impact the vibrant parish has on the Mortlake community. The Minister also visited children from the neighbouring St Patrick’s Primary School.

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Funds from the program will allow St Patricks and other places where faith communities gather the chance to update and install new security and surveillance systems.

More than 103 organisations will receive a share of the $5 million and is part the state government’s pledge to deliver $15 million to faith communities over four years.

“As a community parish, these grants are important because the reality is we don’t always have the funding to provide the services that a thriving church like Mortlake needs,” Fr Thomas said.

“It’s a very busy parish community with a great cross-section of older people and ever-growing number of young families that needs a lot more growth in terms of its facilities, which is what we’re trying to do.”

Fr Thomas said the grant provided the much-needed investment for improvements that will support all Mortlake residents.

religious faith freedom -The Catholic weekly
Minister Steve Kamper discussing religious safety. Photo: George Al-Akiki

“I want everyone in the local community to come up here and use the area for their growth and development and great times as a community and family,” he said.

“If we don’t outreach to the local community, then we’re not being effective in our role as Christians.”

Minister Kamper added the government had consulted both Multicultural NSW’s Community Resilience and Response Plan Committee and various religious groups across the state.

Minister Kamper told The Catholic Weekly the grant was an important initiative to be able to provide for integral local communities.

“It’s important to get across with all our faith communities and celebrate with them and have a greater understanding of the work they’re doing, which can only be valuable,” he said.

“In and around the church here you’ve also got young school kids. It’s very important that we have the right equipment and assets to protect our children, and also to have the appropriate surveillance to safeguard us.

“[Coming out here has] been really heartening, and I have been touched by the beautiful community work around our places of faith.”

There has been an ongoing concern of violence being carried out against religious communities after a faith leader was attacked at Wakeley in April this year.

At the time, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP denounced the violence declaring people of all backgrounds have a right to profess their faith peacefully.

“Every person in this country, be they bishop or priest, rabbi or imam, minister or congregant, should be able to worship in safety, without fear that they might be subject to acts of violence while gathering in prayer,” Archbishop Fisher said.

The grant funding would be a one-off, non-recurrent payment for organisations anywhere between $5,000 and $250,000 for projects that must be completed, and funds used, by 30 June 2025.

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