NSW premier slams Hillsong festival: 'Completely shocked'

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  • Dominic Perrottet
    Australian politician

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has responded to shocking footage showing crowds of people singing and dancing at a Hillsong event despite the state's Covid ban on the activities.

Videos shared widely online sparked outrage from the Australian music industry, which has been heavily impacted by continuing crowd restrictions as NSW battles its latest Omicron outbreak.

After changes to public health orders took effect, singing and dancing were banned at music festivals and forced the cancellation of events, including the Tamworth Country Music Festival and the Grapevine Gathering in the Hunter Valley.

When asked about the footage on Friday, Mr Perrottet said he was "completely shocked".

Crowds of people singing and dancing at Hillsong's Wildlife Summer Camp.
Scenes from Hillsong's Wildlife Summer Camp that have sparked outrage from the NSW premier and the music industry. Source: Twitter

"I echo the frustration and anger that people right across the state felt," he said.

"What has got us through the last two years has been the efforts and sacrifices that many have made to keep people safe.

"That means that many businesses have had to tailor the way that they operate, many people have had to change their behaviour to keep people safe. 

"Now, we made those rules and even if technically, it was within the rules, it certainly wasn't in the spirit of the rules."

Mr Perrottet added he understood Hillsong was "ensuring that that doesn't occur again, but I was incredibly disappointed".

NSW Police earlier on Friday said the church would not be fined and officers would instead liaise with organisers "to ensure future compliance".

But the premier said health authorities were investigating for potential breaches.

"My view is that if the legal teams believe that it was in breach of the public health order, then my expectation would be that a fine would be in place by the police force," Mr Perrottet said.

"This was an exception to what everybody else right across the state, the efforts, the sacrifices that people are making.

"And I'll take the advice in relation to the legal teams at NSW Health and if they are in breach, which is what the information I've received from the health minister is, then a fine should be issued."

Anger after Hillsong video emerges

Hillsong's Wildlife Summer Camp, which some have pointed out looks similar to a music festival, is a three-day "summer camp" held near Newcastle.

The camp was expected to run from Wednesday to Saturday.

Images and videos from the event, showing teenagers dancing to religious music, have outraged the entertainment industry, with many accusing the government of 'double standards'.

In a statement, Hillsong defended the event, saying it is "not similar to a musical festival in any way".

The summer camps involve primarily outdoor recreational activities, with Christian services only a "small part" of the program and singing a small part of each service.

"A video circulating on social media (on Thursday) reflects a few minutes of this part of the program," it said.

"We follow strict COVID procedures and adhere to government guidelines."

On Thursday, Health Minister Brad Hazzard said: "While the order does not apply to religious services, it does apply to major recreational facilities and this event is clearly in breach of both the spirit and intent of the order, which is in place to keep the community safe."

with AAP

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