Albanian mosque refurbished for its growing community
The Albanian Mosque of Shepparton has been renovated for its growing and vibrant community, and will be officially unveiled on Saturday, March 5.
It is said to be the first mosque established in Victoria, having been built in 1960 — but it had not been refurbished since.
Eljam Bardi has been the imam for the Albanian Mosque for nearly 40 years and said seeing the new-look mosque was “fantastic” for the community.
“It’s very good, we have diverse nationalities, all happiness, we never have problems with each other,” he said.
Mr Bardi remembers when he came to Shepparton in the 1980s aged 29, and it was just him with less than 50 people in a smaller mosque praying.
Decades later, the mosque is revamped with freshly painted walls, new carpets, a green garden, and upgrades to its community centre for members across Greater Shepparton to be a part of.
“We now have programs teaching the children in primary school and high school about religion and culture,” Mr Bardi said.
“Every wall, every roof has been replaced — all the plaster, all the walls have been replaced,” mosque president Reg Qemal said.
Mr Qemal said the mosque had been an integral part of his life.
He has been going there since he was 16, and he even got married there.
He said the renovation was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and thanked his forefathers for “their own hard work to find the funds to build it in the first place”.
Mr Qemal said the refurbishment was a symbol of unity in the community.
"It's a symbol of our forefathers that came out to Australia in the first place, community, unity, integration, assimilation, all of those things mean a lot to us,“ he said.
The total cost of the refurbishment was $650,000, with $375,000 assisted by the Victorian Government and the rest coming from community donations.