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Why did organisers allow a Right to Life stall at the Multicultural Festival?

By Lachlan Roberts 24 February 2019 160

The National Multicultural Festival was held last weekend. File photo.

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.”

What are your thoughts on this issue? Share them with us by commenting below. 


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71 Responses to
Why did organisers allow a Right to Life stall at the Multicultural Festival?
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annie2 11:24 am 10 Mar 19

The stall is beautiful and children love to see the models of the babies. I’ve seen three generations of a family look at this stall in wonder at how they all began their life. There is nothing offensive in new life. It is amazing! I wonder how many of those having hugely negative reactions to the stall have ever actually seen it? I’m sorry if you have been hurt by abortion. Thankfully for you, you were allowed to live. Pregnancy is avoidable. New life shouldn’t be destroyed. Abortion not only kills babies – it hurts mothers and fathers too.

4:39 pm 26 Feb 19

I emailed them about this two years ago. Disappointed that they’re still there trying to guilt women into making bad life choices.

6:24 pm 25 Feb 19

They should not have a stall anywhere. Its a multicultural festival not for spruiking their misguided beliefs.

5:34 pm 25 Feb 19

Why were fees so high local delicacies we're priced out of the event leaving places for fundamentalist butt heads like these?

russianafroman 11:43 am 25 Feb 19

Let’s be honest, people aren’t mad about this because it “doesn’t belong” in this type of event, because it’s “political” or because it somehow “endangers women”, they’re mad because this stall doesn’t align with their personal political beliefs. A culture which is afraid of different and unique opinion isn’t cultured at all. This is a classic example of a dominant political population oppressing and discriminating people because they’re scared of them. There is absolutely no reason this stall should be removed. It would set a dangerous precedent that certain minority groups aren’t allowed to express their opinion. In case it wasn’t obvious, this is what’s known as dystopia.

9:19 am 25 Feb 19

Lucky I missed them at multi cultural festival as i would have given them a peice of my mind. If its not food and dancing then it doesnt belong there. BAN THEM! How is that muticultural!

7:53 am 25 Feb 19

Let's just ban everything we don't agree with, that way we'll live in a big echo chamber in the real world, just like we do on Facebook!

10:22 pm 24 Feb 19

I'd like to know why too. Not appropriate when children and families are trying to enjoy the celebrations.

9:12 pm 24 Feb 19

Restricting free speech is not the answer..

8:35 pm 24 Feb 19

Agree with them or disagree with them. It’s probably not going to sway your view either way. Free country, let them express their view.

Lucy Baker 8:27 pm 24 Feb 19

They have every right to express and illustrate their views. I’m pro (early) abortion and wouldn’t be swayed by images because my position on abortion is definite. If right-to-lifers find fertile ground for (respectful) messaging, so be it.

7:11 pm 24 Feb 19

I didn't go to this year's MCF, as I attended last year's and was amazed how many non-cultural stalls there were. For me, this has nothing to do with "free speech" or the issue of so-called pro-choice or pro-life. It is about the inability to have a festival without political influences. Get rid of all of it and promote the heck out of multiculturalism.

6:19 pm 24 Feb 19

Not an appropriate venue. Omg.

6:13 pm 24 Feb 19

Ban them

6:06 pm 24 Feb 19

Thanks for linking the petition! Happy to add my voice to support women.

5:58 pm 24 Feb 19

I contacted the organises. I was outraged. No one has a right to remove autonomy from women and the multicultural festival is no place for such ideologies.

    8:09 am 25 Feb 19

    So basically you're a man who was outraged by women running a stall aimed at other women, but you claim to be for women's autonomy?

    11:55 am 25 Feb 19

    Stopping someone from telling women what they can and can't do with their bodies is the right thing to do. Are you pro choice?

    1:05 pm 25 Feb 19

    Russell Nankervis From her comments she does sound like one of the minority of women who don't believe we a right to our own bodies. Very sad.

5:28 pm 24 Feb 19

Walk on by, if you believe in the rights of abortion or not. It’s a festival, you don’t like it, don’t buy. Song and dance over nothing. Right of choice is too sided, don’t make it yours only.

4:22 pm 24 Feb 19

Should be banned/

2:41 pm 24 Feb 19

I checked out the Riot Act article and all the MALE outrage that Jess Chalker raises her voice and concerns, based on her lived experience as a woman. I say Well done Jess Chalker, I had no idea. But now I do know I’ll be opposing this as part of the celebration of equality, diversity, and respect in my town. The stand is not educational, it’s ideological, sexist, and I think any faith based groups would be more “ educational” if they manned stalls to explain how 90% of our religious institutions plan to make reparations for the abuse of men, women and children in their care. Instead of lecturing women on what they should do with their own bodies and displaying factually incorrect models designed to frighten and alarm.

2:22 pm 24 Feb 19

And the Scientologists also had a stall - L Ron Hubbard was a known racist and his racism is apparent all through this ‘church’s’ teachings. Ridiculous they have a stand.

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