Bendigo Council is using bad eighties hairstyles and social media to fight racism and promote tolerance.
The Victorian council has grappled with anti-Muslim sentiment since it approved the city’s first mosque and cultural centre in August last year.
A month later, a group of protestors disrupted a Bendigo Council meeting during a discussion about the mosque and began chanting, swearing and shouting. Councillors ended up being escorted by police from the meeting.
In October, anti-Muslim rallies occurred in the city, although the council said at the time it suspected the rallies were hijacked by demonstrators from elsewhere in Victoria or interstate and involved few Bendigo locals.
The backlash against the new mosque has made the city a flashpoint for anti-Muslim protestors on wider issues too, such as immigration and the certification of halal food, but Bendigo Council is tackling this using a humourous social media campaign ‘For a Better Bendigo’ on Facebook and Instagram.
The campaign’s Facebook page bears the strapline: “Some things should be left in the past: 80s mullets, man perms, racism and intolerance” and it is accompanied by a photograph of three men, all with lavishly large hairstyles, downing beers in the pub.
The campaign, which local young people helped design, encourages residents to think about the city’s future and the legacy they would like to leave behind.
Bendigo Mayor Rod Fyffe said councils should engage their communities in discussions about multiculturalism.
“The city is excited to lead a campaign like this and harness the community spirit we know and are proud of – an inclusive and welcoming one,” Mr Fyffe said.
“Council’s vision is about all of us working together to make Bendigo the most liveable regional city in Australia. Certainly as we see it, there’s no place for intolerance in our future.”
The council’s anti-racist Facebook page is in contrast to some of the other Facebook groups that have sprung up, including Stop the Mosque in Bendigo, which has 22,400 followers.
Mr Fyffe said that Bendigo had “a rich multicultural history” with 13 per cent of the city’s population born overseas and international tourism brought in $12 million to the local economy a year.
The campaign was launched today (Wednesday) and included some of Strathfieldsaye Football Netball Club’s senior football team players.
Co-coach Darryl Wilson said multiculturalism was a cause that firmly resonated with the club.
“We pride ourselves on supporting our community and our local people, and multiculturalism is something we’re always very happy to get behind,” Mr Wilson said.
The campaign was funded with support from the Victorian state government and photos and stories will be shared on social media until the end of April.
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