Drag Storytime Event In St Kilda Cancelled Over Safety Concerns

Drag Storytime Event In St Kilda Cancelled Over Safety Concerns
Image: Image: City of Port Phillip

A family-friendly drag storytime event scheduled to be held at the St Kilda Library has been cancelled and moved online after “security and safety” concerns. 

Over 10 drag storytime and queer events have been cancelled in Melbourne since the start of the year following threats from far-right and neo-Nazi threats. 

Out bisexual City of Port Phillip councillor, Tim Baxter said the latest cancellation of a queer event during Pride Month celebrations hands a win to bigots and far-right groups. St Kilda, an inner Melbourne suburb, hosts the annual Midsumma Pride march and is home to Australia’s first LGBTQI community hub, the Victorian Pride Centre. 

“I am disappointed and indeed furious,” Councillor Baxter said in a statement posted on Facebook. “The CEO has been put in a tough position, and while I understand and respect his reasoning, namely to minimise risk and protect staff from threats, I cannot agree with a decision that simply elevates future threats by letting terrorists win.”

Far-Right Threats

The drag storytime event was proposed to be held at the St Kilda Library and was part of the Pride Month celebrations being organised by the City of Port Phillip council. A draft flyer of the event was shared with some parents at a library branch on Wednesday. 

This led to far-right groups and neo-Nazis targeting council staff, councillors and drag performers with hate messages and threats. 

“Due to the security and safety concerns, and to avoid any disruption and distress to young participants and their families, staff and other library users, we will not be holding this event in person. Our Drag Storytime will instead be made available online for interested families,” City of Port Phillip CEO Chris Carroll.

“The City of Port Phillip is known as a welcoming City and we are proud of our history in supporting inclusion. We greatly value our large LGBTQIA+ community and will be celebrating Pride Month in June with several events,” the CEO said. 

‘The Goal Is To Have Pride Events Cancelled’

According to Councillor Baxter, the far-right has increasingly targeted LGBTQI community and queer kids in particular in the last few years. 

“Their goal is to have events cancelled and to push queer folk back into the closet. Their tactics have included threats to murder children, physical intimidation, and close coordination between groups such as neo-Nazis and the religious right.”

“With each event cancellation, we hand a victory to these violent bigots,” the Councillor said. “Although they are a tiny minority among Victorians, they are now allowed to dictate when and where queer events can proceed. By moving events online, by keeping information secret, by hiding ourselves from thugs, we energise them. Bullies gain power through appeasement.”

Councillor Baxter questioned the role of Victoria Police. “These events are cancelled because police were unable to advise that they could make the events safe… If the police can’t protect queer kids, how can they protect any of us? Or is protecting queer kids during Pride Month simply not a priority?”

The Dan Andrews Labor government has committed to bringing in a new anti-vilification law that protects the LGBTQI community in Victoria. That law is however not expected to be introduced till next year. A draft bill introduced by Victorian Greens in the state Parliament failed to win the support of Labor and Liberal MPs. 

Councillor Baxter pointed to the larger implications of cancellations of queer events. “The decision to buckle in the face of bigotry will have long-lasting effects. The far right will be assured that their tactics work – this is a huge win for them. And next year, maybe there won’t be any queer events at all. For safety,” added the Councillor.

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3 responses to “Drag Storytime Event In St Kilda Cancelled Over Safety Concerns”

  1. Completely true!
    Partner and me on Oxford St at 10.58 pm on Sat 17.06.23.
    Heaps of Police on streets and vans protecting them. Hordes of black clad Lebanese Maronites striding up and down Oxford St.
    We were just accosted by a guy and girl and early told them to fuck off and gave them what for before cops told us to move on!
    LGBTQ + people come here NOW!!!

  2. Police actively engage with organisers to advise on how events can be held safely including the provision of appropriate security responses, but ultimately the risk and the decision to either cancel or proceed lies with organisers. While police can provide physical protection at an event and a cordon between protesters and attendees, they can’t eliminate the psychological hazards for young people or venue employees who effectively have to run the gauntlet of heckles, chanting, signs and online trolling. It is not the fault of police that protesting, even when it is obnoxious or vilifying, remains lawful.

  3. From what I’ve seen, the police seem more inclined to protect the Religious Right and neo-Nazi protestors than the people trying to hold these events.