Youth centre to counter radicalisation fears

An artist's impression of the youth support centre planned for Belmont.
An artist's impression of the youth support centre planned for Belmont.

A MUSLIM community centre on the cards for Belmont could offer de-radicalisation programs and other support for troubled young people.

But the proposed facility is again at the centre of protests from neighbours, who believe Hardey Road is not the right location and have further concerns about plans for the size of the three-storey building, night-time operating hours and potential security, noise and traffic problems in the street.

The application to build a Muslim youth support centre on a vacant lot directly behind the Country Comfort Hotel on Great Eastern Highway and next to residential townhouses will be considered by Belmont City Council next week, more than a year after the plans were lodged.

“Our aim is to establish a community centre that supports, encourage and motivates young people in the Belmont Area, especially those who are disengaged, idle and unemployed, by getting them off the streets and do something positive.”

According to the group’s charter, the centre would run youth clubs, activities such as basketball and table tennis, education workshops, one-on-one mentoring, and positive motivation programs between 8am and 9pm every day.

Programs would focus on everything from de-radicalisation to improving education, social and public welfare issues, national security matters, religious tolerance, culture and multiculturalism.

“Our aim is to establish a community centre that supports, encourage and motivates young people in the Belmont Area, especially those who are disengaged, idle and unemployed, by getting them off the streets and do something positive,” the group’s charter reads.

“We plan to engage community members into the activities and workshops that we hope would effectively engage community members, especially the youth, in activities which would act as stepping stones to guiding them into employment, training and education later on.

“Whilst anyone is welcome, activities and programs will be centred on engaging our younger generation – and we hope to help and support those young people who are finding life a struggle.

“They may be involved in criminal activities, drugs abuse, solvent abuse.

“Our aim is to get young people involved in something and to help them feel that they belong somewhere.

“If we can bring young people and deprived members of the community into a community centre which actively engages them in various programs and initiatives, it would act as a catalyst in preventing them from getting involved in illegal activities, gangs, crime and violence.

“We will get better young people and a better community.

“We hope to use our Community Centre as a way of empowering young people to become better citizens and perhaps leaders in the community instead of followers.”

Development plans show a two-storey building that includes office and administration areas, a gymnasium and meeting hall set above an undercroft car park with room for 23 cars and a minibus.

Several Hardey Road residents put objections in writing ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting, protesting the location as well as building height, parking limitations, evening open hours and potential security, noise and traffic problems in the street.

A report by council officers, which recommends approving the development plan, said there was no specified height limit for buildings in the mixed-use area and that the centre’s plans for traffic and car parking were acceptable.

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