A letter to the organisers of Woodford Folk Festival

Dear organisers

I'm writing to you to express serious concerns about one of the speakers on the programme at the Blue Lotus for this year's festival.

http://woodfordfolkfestival.woodfordia.com/index.php?id=77&venue=9&act=45

Meryl Dorey is the head of the AVN, an organisation known to promulgate misinformation in support of an untrue and dangerous anti-vaccination position. This activity genuinely puts lives at risk.

The AVN is subject to a Public Health Warning by the NSW Healthcare Complaints Commission, and was stripped of its charity status by the NSW OLGR due to serious irregularities in its fundraising activities.

http://www.hccc.nsw.gov.au/Decisions/Public-Statements-and-Warnings/Public-warning-against-Australian-Vaccination-Network--AVN-/default.aspx
http://www.olgr.nsw.gov.au/charitable_latest_news.asp

I have several concerns for Woodford itself. First of all, for the patrons. There will be impressionable young families and people who wish to start new families attending the Blue Lotus. It is infants who are most at risk from vaccine-preventable diseases. Imagine the heartbreak caused to young families such as the McCafferys, whose daughter Dana was taken by Whooping Cough - a disease of which Meryl Dorey claims "you didn't die from it thirty tears ago and you're not going to die from it today". I don't want a young family's memory of Woodford being the day Meryl Dorey lied to them and caused their baby's death.

Secondly, I have concerns for the festival. There is already a public backlash brewing about Dorey's inclusion on the bill, with prominent faces including Mia Freedman picking up the story and several ABC and independent journalists showing interest in the story. I think the very best outcome Woodford can hope for will be to drop Dorey from the bill and issue an apology for including her in the first place. Otherwise the backlash will only grow.

Thirdly, I do worry about regulatory issues. If Dorey conducts any public appeal for funds while at Woodford, she will be in breach of the NSW OLGR's ruling - and although she will not be in NSW at the time, her recent actions in public fundraising have sparked an investigation in WA and would do the same in QLD. The headline "Group breaches fundraising laws during Woodford" isn't going to be a good look for the festival, is it?

For more information on the AVN's deception and law-breaking, feel free to join us on Facebook at Stop The AVN. http://www.facebook.com/stopavn/

Jason Brown

You can write too: qff@woodfordfolkfestival.com @woodfordFF

 

UPDATES: Mama Mia has featured a post by Peter Bowditch on the topic of the Woodford Folk Festival.
The Companion Wiki to this site has an activity hub on the topic of Woodford and Dorey, including social media backlash, other blogs and calls to action

 

posted @ Saturday, December 10, 2011 1:28 PM

 
 
 

Comments on this entry:

# re: A letter to the organisers of Woodford Folk Festival

Left by Andy at 12/13/2011 1:10 AM
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I wrote this one a few days ago. Feel free to add it to your list.

http://thinkingisreal.blogspot.com/2011/12/woodford-folk-festival-is-it-for-you.html

# re: A letter to the organisers of Woodford Folk Festival

Left by Andy at 12/14/2011 2:05 AM
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# re: A letter to the organisers of Woodford Folk Festival

Left by KD at 12/14/2011 1:49 PM
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Sent this letter this morning

Dear Woodford Folk Festival

I am emailing to register my concern about the decision to allow Meryl Dorey to appear and to speak on the issue of immunisation at the festival this year. I have a long history of supporting the festival and my husband has appeared as a performer in past years. We had planned to visit this year to again check on the health of one of the first trees planted on the site in his honour as a foundation performer at the first festival on the Woodfordia site.

What concerns me about Ms Dorey's appearance is not her agenda, her position on public health or her personal opinion about immunisation, but the fact that she is not a performer or artist or musician. Her spoken word is neither entertainment or culturally relevant and I fail to see how allowing this person to appear at the festival enhances the program at all. In fact, it opens a Pandora's Box. Does this now mean that anyone with a personal agenda will be welcomed to set up their own soapbox at the festival and preach to festival goers. What subject will be allowable and who makes the decision on what can be preached?

I'm deeply disappointed that the festival organisers are allowing this to happen and I know I will not attend the festival if it is going to be hijacked in this way. I am sure that I am not the only person who feels strongly about this issue regardless of our own personal opinions on immunisation. The fact that in this instance it relates to a highly contentious and emotive public health issue only highlights how inappropriate it is that the speaker has been approved.
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