The ACT Right to Life stall at the Multicultural Festival that showed a model of foetuses in the womb at different stages of development and photos of an unborn baby’s feet is causing a stir in the local community, provoking a petition for the ACT government to ban the organisation from the event.
The petition, which was started by Jess Chalker, said the ACT Government should ban this organisation and all anti-abortion organisations from the festival.
“Every year the national multicultural festival is held in Canberra. It’s an amazing weekend of celebration. Unfortunately for the past few years, the ACT Right to Life Association has been able to have a stall,” the petition reads.
“Not only is this not a culture, but it’s also a group that actively targets women and the right to make choices for their own body.”
The petition so far has received more than 650 signatures.
A stall showing the benefits of keeping a child seems an odd fit for a festival celebrating the many cultures prevalent within the nation’s capital.
According to the 2019 terms and conditions for festival stallholders, display materials must be sensitive to the diversity of community members attending the event. The T&Cs also states that organisers have the right to remove any content they deem offensive.
ACT Right to Life Association president Bev Cains said the organisation had a stall at the festival for nearly 40 years and had paid the festival $150 to have the stall on Sunday.
“We have a stall there for educational purposes,” Mrs Cains said. “We have been a part of the Multicultural Festival since the 1980s. Before the Multicultural Festival existed, we were part of the Canberra Day Festival and we have been showing the same models of the development of a child in the womb.
Mrs Cains said the organisation would have the same stall next year and if organisers removed them from the festival, they would take them to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
“If they try to block us from the Festival, we will take them to the Tribunal because we fit all the criteria and because of our long-standing acquaintance with the public,” Mrs Cains said. “We pay the exact same $150 as everybody else has been paying the last couple of years.”
When Region Media approached the Festival organisers for an explanation and queried if organisers had deemed the stall content inoffensive, an ACT Government spokesperson said no stalls at the Multicultural Festival receive any endorsement from the government.
“These stalls ensure members of the community have the capacity to provide information on their community organisation,” the spokesperson said.
“It is important to note that there is no endorsement by the ACT Government of particular stalls or particular information presented during the Festival.
“Following the Festival each year, we listen carefully to feedback from stakeholders including festival goers, stallholders, community organisations, showcase coordinators, and ACT Government agencies. This feedback helps to shape the planning for future Festivals.”
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