Cross-cultural and religious exchanges were on the menu on Tuesday night as Victoria's Islamic and Aboriginal communities gathered for the state’s inaugural 'First Nations Iftar dinner'.
As the sun-sets over an Aboriginal child-care centre in Melbourne's north, about one-hundred guests inside the building tuck into a Middle Eastern and African feast.
Islamic Council Of Victoria President Mohamed Mohideen suggested the Iftar get-together which was attended by representatives of Victoria’s Islamic and Aboriginal communities.
Mr Mohideen says the Islamic faith and Aboriginal culture have plenty in-common.
“I think the value of the country, the land is all part and parcel of Islamic as well - we need to respect the land and we need to respect the culture, and we need to also accommodate and welcome people,” he said.
Lisa Thorpe is the Chief Executive of the Indigenous Child Care centre which hosted the event, and an Aboriginal community leader.
She says the get-together was a welcome opportunity for the two groups to meet, mix and learn.
“As a minority group as well, and how everything that happens in the world is our responsibility, it's been a really good time for us to share who we are - it's exciting,” Ms Thorpe said.
Links between Islamic and Aboriginal people date back hundreds of years, from Macassan traders in the 1700s to Afghan cameleers who helped transport goods through outback Australia in the eighteen-hundreds and nineteen-hundreds.
General practitioner Dr Umber Rind's great-grandfather, a cameleer, married an Aboriginal woman in Western Australia in the early 1900s.
In doing so, Dr Rind says they began a proud lineage identifying as Aboriginal Muslims.
“I definitely see a link - there's the respect for one another, the care for the land, the environment - definitely a lot that Islam and Indigenous culture has in common,” she said.
Dr Rind established a medical clinic in Melbourne's north with her own cultural and religious background front-of-mind.
“The reason I set up the medical clinic is I really wanted to create a safe and respectful space for Indigenous people and also the refugees as well, and I wanted to make a space where women could feel welcome,” she said.
Dr Rind says the inaugural First Nations Iftar dinner offers a rare opportunity to witness the two groups - both important in her life and development- mix and to learn from each other.
“Very proud to have that Indigenous background and obviously very proud to be a Muslim, and I feel very lucky that I've had opportunities to pursue an education and become a doctor as well,” she said.
Leaders from the Aboriginal and Islamic communities hope the inaugural 'First Nations Iftar Dinner' won't be the last.
“I think this will be the beginning of a close relationship with the First Nations people,” Mohamed Mohideen said.