28 May 2024

The Melbourne suburb with 10,000 people and no church

A map of the Cairnlea development proposal. Picture: Development Victoria

By Maya Pilbrow 

21 November 2022 

Residents of growing Melbourne suburb Cairnlea deserve a community space designed to accommodate worship services, according to associate pastor Jon Tran of Inner West Church.

The community has roughly 10,000 residents and no church. Built in the late 1990s on the former Commonwealth Department of Defence Albion Explosives site, the suburb is in the early stages of an extensive urban renewal project with Development Victoria.  

While public and open community spaces have been the focus of a large part of the planning process, no plans exist for dedicated places of worship according to Brimbank City Council and Development Victoria. 

Mr Tran said that his Cairnlea community had grown since the initial estate was built more than 20 years ago. 

The community largely comprises immigrants. According to 2021 census data, Cairnlea has more than double the national rate of people with both parents born overseas and more than triple the national rate of households where a non-English language is used. 

The current needs of the community are varied, according to Mr Tran, who said the combination of families with young children, university-aged young adults and people approaching retirement age provided both challenges and opportunities for the future of the suburb. 

Read more: Bringing Jesus to the growth corridors

About 40 per cent of Cairnlea residents are Christian according to the most recent census data, but apart from a Buddhist temple the suburb lacks spaces in which religious and community groups can meet. 

Cairnlea has a small Anglican population, only 0.81 per cent of residents compared to a national percentage of 9.82 per cent, but Catholicism is 37 per cent more popular in Cairnlea than across the rest of the country overall. The suburb also has sizeable Buddhist and Muslim communities  

Mr Tran said Cairnlea’s religious and ethnic diversity made the need for versatile community spaces even more apparent.  

In particular, Mr Tran said he supported the building of a multipurpose community hub with spaces for holding worship that could be used by a variety of groups for different occasions. 

He said he hoped the diocese would be able to give input regarding the use of commercial and community spaces during the planning process. 

In June the Government Land Standing Advisory Committee ran public hearings within the Cairnlea community. It has since created a report for the Minister for Planning, the Hon. Richard Wynne MP. 

Construction for the redevelopment project is expected to begin in late 2023. 

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