RESIDENTS of the small Mallee town of Beulah have shown who really represents their community and launched a petition calling for a ban on public displays of swastikas after a Nazi flag was flown from a property, disgusting locals and the broader Australian community, and making international headlines.
Among those alarmed by the flag was an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor from Hungary whose family was murdered in Auschwitz. The ex-Melburnian, who does not want his name publicised, retired to Beulah and has lived in the north-west Victorian town for almost 20 years.
But last Saturday, after the flag was removed from the property following the intervention of local police and the council, some 60 Beulah residents, including people who formerly lived in the town, held a gathering. Supported by Mallee federal MP Dr Anne Webster and Mildura state MP Ali Cupper, they hoisted a rainbow of flags from diverse communities and nations, including Israel.
Organiser Hannah Coffey, a Beulah resident, had posted on Facebook to find the flags. “I grew up in Beulah and we’re a kind, generous, community-oriented town. [The swastika flag] is so not our town,” she told The AJN.
After discussions with Caulfield MP David Southwick, Coffey and others launched a petition calling on the state government to ban public displays of swastikas, and have so far gathered around 200 signatures.
The petition states the flag incident “demonstrated the pain, anger and division the public display” of a swastika causes. Southwick told The AJN there are plans to table the petition in State Parliament.
Addressing locals, Southwick stated, “As a state MP that has one of the largest Jewish communities in Australia and as a proud Jew, this incident hit particularly close to home … We have been greatly encouraged to witness such an overwhelmingly positive response from the Beulah community.”
The incident “has exposed a significant shortcoming in the laws and protections against the use of symbols of hate in Victoria”, he said.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews described flying the swastika flag in Beulah – which was reported as far afield as the New York Post and the UK’s Daily Mail – as “disgusting”, and The Age editorialised for a national ban of swastikas in public.
The news heartened Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich, who has launched a campaign to outlaw swastika displays.
He praised locals “for their courage and conviction, and for declaring in a loud voice that ‘this is not who we are’, and that antisemitism and Nazism will never find a refuge in their town”.