MELBOURNE – A new Australia Day billboard featuring two smiling women in hijab has sparked mixed views in Australia, with some claiming that the women, apparently Muslims, do not represent Australia and others praising its inclusive message.
“That billboard does not represent Australia,” one person commented on a post of a far-right group which shared a photo for the billboard, 7 News reported on Monday, January 16.
The sign, which advertises details of an RACV-sponsored event at Melbourne’s King’s Domain Gardens, featured two smiling women in hijab and the Australian flag.
It was said to be by the side of a road in Cranbourne, in Melbourne’s southeast, and first shared by far-right groups on Facebook on Friday.
The debate attracted hundreds of comments with a variety of opinions, and was shared thousands of times.
Some commenters were outraged that Australia was only represented by a pair of Muslim women instead of a more diverse crowd.
JoJo Jenkins said “our Anzacs would be rolling in their graves to see ‘Australia Day’ advertised like this — what a disgrace to their sacrifice,” Herald Sun reported.
Kaya Brown said, “don’t see any Australians on the billboard … take one last look because I’m sure next year you won’t see what’s left of the Australian flag at all, instead it will be replaced by a star and moon symbol.”
“PC to the extreme. There’s nothing wrong with including people from different backgrounds as Australia is more or less a melting pot of different cultures,” a third wascited by The Daily Mail.
“But to represent Australia as just Muslim people (as the billboard implies) is just as ignorant as assuming Australians are all Caucasian,” they added.
The hateful rhetoric was rejected by Department of Premier and Cabinet spokeswoman Vivien Allimonos who said the photo used on the billboard was taken at 2016 Australia Day celebrations.
“Australia Day is for all Victorians and celebrates everything that makes our country great, including our vibrant diversity,” she was quoted by Herald Sun on Monday.
“This campaign uses images of Victorians from different cultural backgrounds — all proud Australians celebrating our national day.
“The campaign is supported by the Australia Day Victoria Committee and the National Australia Day Council.”
The billboard had supporters as well, with many pointing out that Australia was a diverse nation of different people that should be celebrated.
“It doesn’t matter what is on the board. Only thing is Australia is [a] multicultural county and everyone who lives there must be proud [of] Australia. So stop that nonsense,” one wrote.
“I don’t get why people seem to think that one race or any race owns any land more so then the other. Those views are so close minded. We share this earth together, even if you don’t like it,” another said.