Oceania / Global
Australia's new-generation mosque, and why Cuban doctors are being sent to the Solomon Islands.
Mosques à la mode
Australia’s Muslims are getting a mosque to match their open-minded image. Much of the building in Melbourne will be made of glass, non-Muslims are welcome, and there will be a library and fitness facilities.
The centre has attracted some protest. Local residents formed a 150-strong action group opposed to the operating hours and increased traffic, while an extreme right-wing group distributed anti-Muslim and anti-mosque pamphlets.
When Islamophobia erupts in Australia it is dramatic. In 2008, authorities in Sydney rejected an Islamic school, after protests that culminated in pigs’ heads being placed at the proposed site.
But Australia’s estimated 340,000 Muslims, many of whom have come from Indonesia in recent years, live and worship peacefully in around 200 mosques and prayer halls throughout the country.
Say your preferences
01 64 per cent of Australians say they are Christian, according to the 2006 census, compared to 71 per cent in 1996. More and more of those are Catholics (26 per cent) but Anglicans are on the wane (19 per cent).
02 5.6 per cent are non-Christian and Buddhists are the largest group (2.1 per cent of the population). Islam makes up 1.7 per cent, Hinduism 0.7 per cent and Judaism 0.4 per cent.
03 Between 1996 and 2006, Hindus more than doubled to 150,000. The number of Buddhists doubled too.
Australia’s driest region, South Australia, has become so dry it has had to resort to buying in water from neighbouring regions for the first time.
Water security minister, Karlene Maywald, will spend AUS$14m (€6.9m) on importing water for 2009-2010. And locals will see their bills jump by 18 per cent.
Water economist Mike Young, from the University of Adelaide, warns it’s not just quantity but quality that’s the problem. Levels of the Murray River, which feeds three regions including South Australia, have fallen so much that salination is increasingly high. The Murray is fast becoming “Australia’s Dead Sea”, Young says.
Melbourne is next to face a serious water crisis, Young warns. Reservoirs are currently down to 30 per cent.
The Pacific Islands are chronically short of health workers and Cuba is increasingly helping to fill the gap. Under a new agreement, the Solomon Islands plans to send 50 people for training in Cuba. Iran has reportedly offered to pay for their flights (from Haniara to Havana). The Solomons and Iran are in discussions to establish formal diplomatic relations. Iran is making a diplomatic push into the region, which has up to 30 independent votes in the UN.
This year around 400 Pacific Islanders have been offered medical training in Cuba and many Cuban doctors are heading to the Pacific on the back of last September’s first Cuba-Pacific summit in Havana.
Cuba has one of the highest ratios of doctors to population in the world, while in Papua New Guinea, there is one doctor for
It's a breeze
Not even warzones are capable of scaring off eco-crazed New Zealanders. Empower Consultants, a company based in Wellington, has worked on sustainable energy solutions in developing countries for a decade, and at the end of 2008 it opened Afghanistan’s first wind farm (above).
The 10 wind turbines could only be set up after a thorough mine clearing exercise. They are now the main source of power for the north-eastern Panjshir provincial government compound and its immediate surroundings.
34 per cent of New Zealand’s doctors are from developing countries – that’s more than any other country in the world. Britain, however, is following closely behind with 33 per cent of doctors from developing countries and the US comes in third with 27 per cent.