Muslim Leaders Education Program

I now invite the governor to present graduation certificates for the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre program series. Miss Pudak Nayati.

Twenty women leaders from Victoria's Islamic community have completed a course to familiarize themselves with the way Australian law deals with family violence. And they say they're now better equipped to advise others struggling to cope with family breakdown.

The Honorable Nicola Roxon, Chair, Sir Zelman Cowen Centre

Sir Zelman Cowen Centre's determined to reach out to the community, particularly those that perhaps don't access the law easily. But the Islamic Council of Victoria was on the front foot, they were looking for a partner to deliver this program, and came to us, so it was really a perfect match. This program had two important parts. One was providing background, and training, and support for Imams, the second part was to make sure that Islamic women leaders were also provided with support and training.

And also, our sisters, you played an important role.

Anthea Hancocks, CEO, Scanlon Foundation

So, the Scanlon foundation is a private philanthropic foundation, it's a family foundation. It was set up to really focus on the transition of migrants into Australian society, so we certainly know that there are particular needs for the Muslim community to better find ways of being able to work with the Australian Way of life, and so this was an opportunity for us to make a contribution in an area where we didn't necessarily see that there was other work being done.

Nail Aykan, Executive Director, Islamic Council of Victoria

I would say it's the first official professional training that Sheikhs would have received in this country, because virtually every Sheikh in town have been trained, qualified, educated overseas.

Sheikh Moutapha Sarakibi, General Manager of the Board of Imams Victoria

It was something that was needed, because there were a lot of questions that were unanswered. Our Imams are experts in Islamic law, but when it comes to the local common law system, our knowledge is quite minimal. We deal with arbitration involving family, and we also deal with religious divorce, Islamic divorce. When it falls onto one person, it's a big responsibility.

Nadav Prawer, Program Co-ordinator and Lecturer

This program has provided Imams with tools to understand the profession, but has also enabled the Imams to engage in and advocate for their communities' ongoing needs with government, with the courts, and even the legal profession itself.

Eila Pourasgheri, Senior Lawyer, Women’s Legal Service Victoria, Program Coordinator

At Women's Legal Service, we are continuously looking at ways that we can connect even better with the community, and a few years ago we did a statewide legal needs analysis and found a group of women that we wanted to serve more, but weren't coming through our doors, were women from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and within that faith-based groups.

Selma Cook, Counsellor at Sacred Balance

Well, Muslim women, we have naturally developed sisterhood between us, so in times of difficulties, the women turn to each other. So, for the Muslim communities, it's very logical that women would be trained to be able to access the Muslim women who are having such difficulties, because they know how to communicate with them.

Navida Aslam, Counsellor at Catholicare

I started working at Catholicare last November 2015 as a family counselor, so I did not expect to see seven cases of family violence within - until, this was until to one and a half month ago, and now I've got two more cases.

Zufaidah Juri, Participant, ABC News

What we've learned is that with the Sharia law, and also with the secular law, is that both actually try to condemn violence.

Do they believe it or not, did it happen or not?

When you're doing something really innovative, often governments won't fund these programs, so it's fantastic that philanthropists like The Scanlon Foundation are prepared to fund something that is new, is a little bit experimental, but ultimately is very exciting and innovative, and can have a huge impact.

Being able to work with members of another faith group, that is, the Jewish communities, and getting to understand the similarities, early Imams, they fought, they had it tough until they discovered what the rabbis went through. So, if they've got certain solutions, you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

So, I think both that understanding of different faiths' approaches to the Australian legal system, is going to, I think, resonate certainly with the Imams. I know from the Muslim women's perspective, they have found it a very informative, very useful program to go through, and they are now looking at projects that will take it beyond themselves and help to convey that information beyond. So, I have no doubts whatsoever that this will have a ripple effect, but the degree of that impact is probably something that we'll see over time, and possibly need some reinforcement along the way to make sure that it is really relevant and useful to the Imams and to the women.

Sheikh Mogamat Majidih Essa, Treasurer of the Board of Imams Victoria

We definitely benefited so much from this cause, and you know the fruits, we'll see the fruits as we are going along

Two. Hang on. Three. Great.

Produced by The Sir Zelman Cowen Centre, Victoria University

With support from “Community and Philanthropy Partnerships Week”