THE World Congress of Families conference went ahead today amidst protests and a large police presence, despite almost every politician involved with the event pulling out over the last few days.

Family and sexuality were major themes for most conference speakers, with many promoting the “natural family” as children living with two married parents, a biological mother and father.

While most speakers went out of their way not to explicitly mention LGBTI issues, frequent references made to “non-traditional families” and “attacks on marriage” meant rainbow families were very much in the spotlight.

NSW upper house Christian Democratic Party MP Fred Nile spoke more directly about homosexuality, discussing it as a major focus of his 30 years in parliament.

Outside the venue, protesters booed conference delegates as they entered through a line of police officers guarding the gate, and two people were arrested in what protesters argued were unprovoked actions on the part of police.

Others reported police using Victoria’s new “move on” laws to clear people from the area.

Aside from the arrests early in the day, the demonstration outside was largely free of incident, though the presence of Victoria Police’s mounted branch sparked fears the protests could escalate.

Two protesters managed to get inside the venue and stage a demonstration on the conference stage, with one woman spraying her crotch with fake blood to represent “backyard abortions”.

One of the two people involved in the protest inside the venue told the Star Observer they entered the venue as registered participants, but said they were forcibly removed by the venue security immediately after the protest.

“I was filming, sitting down in one of the chairs, and the gentleman next to me grabbed at my phone when he saw that I was filming and missed my phone so he kept grabbing my arm and wrenching my arm to try to get me to release my phone,” the protester said, declining to give her name.

One conference organiser told the Star Observer they had been suspicious of the two women, believing they had dressed as “stereotypes” of conservative Christians.

Most speakers throughout the day addressed both the protesters outside the venue and the media coverage of the past week, with many “disappointed” by the cancellation of high-profile MPs including Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews and Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark.

Delegates were also advised not to speak to the crowds of protesters, fearing they might say something inappropriate in response to the protests.

After cancellations by a number of venues around Melbourne, the conference was held at Catch the Fire ministries, which is affiliated with the far-right, anti-multicultural Rise Up Australia party.

Party founder Danny Nalliah is infamous for linking the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires that killed 173 people to Victoria’s abortion legislation.

Rise Up Australia had a significant presence at the event, with the party’s campaign material distributed to conference delegates and their policies being promoted by conference organisers.

(Image credit: ABC News)

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