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Labor distances itself from ‘Islamophobic’ Darebin council candidate

The group’s Facebook page had a photo of Ms Kotanidis alongside its other members, including current Labor councillors Tim Laurence and Julie Williams, and listed her name and a link to her Facebook page.

On Wednesday evening, the group shared a statement saying it was pleased that Ms Kotanidis had deleted her anti-Islamic posts, along with her words: “We all make mistakes; I regret my actions over 2½ years ago and I apologise profusely.”

Labor says it has not endorsed Sofia Kotanidis as a candidate.

Labor says it has not endorsed Sofia Kotanidis as a candidate.

That statement and all references to Ms Kotanidis were later deleted from the page.

Labor’s state secretary, Chris Ford, said the party had not endorsed Ms Kotanidis as a candidate and she had been asked to remove its logo from her campaign material.

“Sofia’s views do not reflect those of Victorian Labor or our members,” he said.

“The logo Sofia has used was not provided by Victorian Labor and it is not an official Labor logo.”

Ms Kotanidis is one of 10 candidates in a group called Labor Members for Darebin.

Ms Kotanidis is one of 10 candidates in a group called Labor Members for Darebin.

Mr Ford confirmed that no candidates had been endorsed by Labor in Darebin.

A spokeswoman for Ms Kearney said she had “absolutely nothing” to do with Ms Kotanidis’ candidacy.

“Ged finds the views expressed by Sofia abhorrent and incompatible with public office,” she said.

Ms Kotanidis describes herself as being a “Supported ALP candidate for the North West Ward, Darebin City Council”.

Ms Kotanidis’ Facebook posts, dated from 2016 to 2018, included complaints that butchers in Darebin sold halal meat, a petition to ban burqas, and inflammatory material from Pauline Hanson.

Darebin Council alerted the area’s ethnic council about the posts in 2018 and she was asked to remove the posts. She stood down from her position, but was re-elected at the end of that year.

The posts were only recently deleted.

Islamic Council of Victoria vice-president Adel Salman condemned Ms Kotanidis’ posts.

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“We view her as an Islamophobe,” he said.

“What she does is she re-posts stuff that is anti-Islam or anti-Muslim, typically from the far-right groups who have a very clear racist anti-Muslim agenda.

“The Labor Party should very clearly disassociate and condemn [her actions].”

Mr Salman said Ms Kotanidis’ position on the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria, as the deputy chair of its Darebin branch, was untenable.

He said many voters would have no idea about her history.

“Even a lot of Muslims would be completely unaware of her actual views and they might accidentally vote for her … that’s a very, very poor situation,” he said.

Darebin Ethnic Communities’ Council chairman Nalliah Suriyakumaran denounced the posts, but defended his colleague, pointing to her record of working with refugees.

“Sofia, who is one person, singlehandedly helped a lot of refugees from Islamic backgrounds, the Rohingyas, to get jobs,” he said.

Mr Suriyakumaran said Ms Kontanidis’ family were victims of the Pontian genocide against indigenous Greeks in the Ottoman Empire during and after the First World World.

“A lot of the migrants, who come from overseas, especially if they’re minorities in their old countries, their experience of discrimination, that baggage they carry, they bring it to Australia,” he said.

“I’m not in any way defending her,” he added.

An Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria spokesman called Ms Kotanidis’ posts abhorrent and completely at odds with its mission.

“ECCV recognises that intercultural racism within migrant and refugee communities is an issue that we need to continue to work on, as we do across broader society,” he said.

Ms Kotanidis’ statement said the posts did not reflect her views or actions in support of multicultural communities.

“I have advocated for Darebin’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities and I have earned their trust and respect,” she wrote.

“I am happy to be judged on my actions rather than something I posted more than 2½ years ago which I deleted.”

Tim Laurence and Julie Williams did not respond to requests for comment.

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