A MESSAGE of love, peace and inclusion was spread loud and clear yesterday by a colourful parade through Cotton Tree Park.
The Coast's Say Welcome, Walk Together march snaked its way slowly through the park to the beat of a gypsy band as children in the playground danced and clapped along.
The event attracted about 500 people offering a counterpoint to the Reclaim Australia rallies and groups stirring up anti-Islamic sentiment.
The Coast was one of 26 towns and cities across Australia to welcome asylum seekers and other new arrivals to the community.
Speakers included University of the Sunshine Coast lecturer David Hollingsworth, Turkish migrant Frank Genel and the Sunshine Coast Rainbow Network's Fiona Anderson.
Each provided a perspective on the plight of asylum seekers in detention and spread a message of inclusion and cultural diversity.
Organiser Lisa McDonald said she was inspired to create the event after working for Save the Children in Nauru.
"When I came back I was really looking for some kind of advocacy work that I could do locally," she said.
Ms McDonald joined forces with USC students Marnie Greer and Lola Raymond to bring the event to the Coast.
"We all wanted the same thing; we all wanted to bring this to the Sunshine Coast because this is our home and we want to say welcome to refugees who are some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in the world."
Ms McDonald urged the crowd to hold the Australian government accountable for its treatment of asylum seekers.
"Really make your voice be heard by your government because that's the only way we're going to make a change," she said.
"This number of people has so much power, has so much intelligence and so much heart, that we can make massive changes."
The event was supported by Coast refugee advocacy group Buddies and Maleny performing arts group Women Out Front.
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