Australia Day billboard featuring girls in hijab taken down after threats

The billboard is one of a dozen paid for by the Victoria state government advertising a festival in a park on Australia Day, the country's national day which falls on Jan 26.
The billboard is one of a dozen paid for by the Victoria state government advertising a festival in a park on Australia Day, the country's national day which falls on Jan 26.

MELBOURNE • A billboard featuring two girls wearing the hijab in front of an Australian flag has been removed after threats were made to the outdoor advertising company that erected it.

The sign is one of a dozen paid for by the Victoria state government advertising a festival in a park on Australia Day - the country's national day on Jan 26.

A photo of the billboard was uploaded on a far-right "patriots" Facebook page last week, with many commenters claiming it did not represent Australia, and accusing its designers of "propaganda", said the Herald-Sun newspaper.

One comment said: "I'm the one racially vilified in this country now because l'm white."

There were complaints, some of them of an abusive and threatening nature, Victoria's Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott was quoted as saying by ABC News .

Government spokesman Vivien Allimonos told the Herald-Sun the photo featured on the billboard was taken at the 2016 Australia Day celebrations, adding: "Australia Day is for all Victorians and celebrates everything that makes our country great, including our vibrant diversity."

The electronic advertisement scrolls through a series of pictures of various people but only two wearing the hijab.

"This campaign uses images of Victorians from different cultural backgrounds - all proud Australians celebrating our national day," Ms Allimonos said.

"Anyone who considers this a victory needs a refresher on the true meaning of Australia Day," Mr Scott said. "It is about bringing people together and celebrating the diversity which makes this state and this country great."

Australia Day is a public holiday marking the day Britain's First Fleet arrived in 1788 to set up the penal colony that became the first European settlement.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2017, with the headline 'Australia Day billboard featuring girls in hijab taken down after threats'. Print Edition | Subscribe