Picnic cancelled over security concerns

Christie and Jess organised the now-postponed community day at Hannah Watts Park to help unite Melton around its Muslim community. Picture: Shawn Smits

A community picnic, called to help unite Melton around its Muslim community last Sunday, was called off by police and organisers because anti-Islam groups indicated they would gatecrash the event.

The picnic had been organised in the wake of violent clashes in the town last November between anti-racism groups and racial extremist fringe groups Reclaim Australia, True Blue Crew and the United Patriots Front.

Melton’s Hannah Watts Park was to be the scene of a ‘United Solidarity community picnic’, whose aim was to encourage friendship and an attitude of tolerance for all. Melton sisters-in-law Christie and Jess, who asked that only their first names be used, developed the idea as a peaceful way to bring people together.

“We are parents of young children and have been Melton community members of six years,” Christie said. “The Islamic community has been a valuable part of the Australian community for decades.

“There is no need for the extreme reactions we have been seeing.

“Despite being a peaceful, community- focused faith, many people who follow the Muslim faith have been the subject of disgraceful bigotry and hatred in recent times due to the rise of terrorist attacks throughout the world.”

Jess said she thinks Australians need to recognise that the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists.

“They are hard-working Aussies, mums and dads, school children, employees – no different to the rest of us, apart from their choice of religion.”

The pair has now postponed the picnic until later this year, saying they want it to promote more tolerant attitudes.

“This event is most definitely not a protest. It is a peaceful, family event and will have children in attendance, so we respectfully request that anyone with a desire to cause trouble please stay away,” Christie said.

“By bringing together people who may not ordinarily socialise with one another, we hope to break down barriers and encourage friendships.

“We encourage everyone to come down and participate, even if they believe that they are against Islam.

“Asking questions with an open mind is the best way to dispel fear.”

Melton police’s Senior Sergeant Simon Payne said his team would carry out a risk assessment and meet with the organisers to discuss security options for the event.