By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A former Noble Park imam’s attempt to restore his Working With Children permit has been refused by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Ibrahim Omerdic had been convicted in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in 2017 for the unlawful solemnising of a marriage of a 14-year-old girl to a 34-year-old man at the Bosnian Islamic Society’s mosque.
In 2019, the state’s Secretary of the Department of Justice and Community Safety’s issued a negative assessment of his Working With Children check.
On 7 October, VCAT deputy president Mark Dwyer stated Mr Omerdic showed “continuing lack of insight and remorse into his wrongdoing under Australian and Victorian law”.
“From an Islamic perspective, Mr Omerdic considered that once a girl had reached puberty, she was of marriageable age and could be given in marriage.”
The applicant had regarded the decisions against him as harsh and unjust. His only admitted “mistake” was not to have asked the girl her age, Mr Dwyer noted.
“Mr Omerdic is a man of strong faith.
“However his religious conviction leads him to a view that he has done nothing wrong.
“It is that same unwavering religious conviction that therefore presents a problem for him in seeking an assessment notice under the WWC Act because he fails to accept the seriousness of his conduct in marrying a 14-year-old girl and facilitating her sexual intimacy with a 34-year-old man.
“I am not prepared to take him ‘on trust’ and grant him an assessment notice at this stage.”
Mr Dwyer said the absence of an assessment notice did not prevent Mr Omerdic from attending his mosque, teaching adults, nor mixing with families and their children generally.
“I accept that Mr Omerdic would not himself be violent to children, or a direct threat to them physically.
“I accept the evidence that he has been involved in community and humanitarian events, and has by all accounts been a good teacher for more than 40 years.”
However, he noted that Mr Omerdic had been sacked as imam by the Bosnian Islamic Society immediately after the offence.
He did not appear to be “fully rehabilitated” within the local Muslim Community, Mr Dwyer said.