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‘Not in My Backyard’: The Local Planning Process in Australia and its Impact on Minority Places of Worship

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AbstractThis article analyses the engagement of minority religious groups with the local planning process in Australia as they try to build places of worship. Such groups oftentimes encounter opposition from local residents who are reluctant to share the public sphere with the newly arrived and less known ‘other.’ The public sphere has become a contested terrain between those who desire to preserve the status quo of the built environment and those who desire to affirm their collective identity through new religious structures. The Australian state, acting through local councils, finds itself in the middle of this contest and is tasked to resolve it. This article offers illustrative snapshots of how Australia promotes, respects and protects religious freedom, particularly its aspect concerning the ability of minority religious groups to build their own places of worship. Through case studies, this article assesses, albeit with respect to such cases only, how religious freedom is being concretised in the ‘religious’ physical landscape of Australia—that is its temples, mosques, churches, gurdwaras, mandirs and other minority places of worship.

Affiliations: 1: Monash University Melbourne Australia, Email:, URL:


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