The butterfly effect

It was a serious moment. I was with about 20 people who had gathered pre-dawn for a briefing. We were art ninjas, about to install guerrilla art to counter far-right extremists coming to our town to protest against the settlement of refugees.

These protestors called it the "Battle", and we had been planning our counter-manoeuvre for weeks, and were worried we'd be harassed by thugs. 

Then Glenise walked in. She is 76 and one of the many feisty grandmothers extending a strong welcome to refugees. Bedecked in layers of pink she declared, "It's so early, I forgot to put in my bottom teeth."

The room erupted in laughter, and for the rest of the morning you couldn't wipe the smile of our faces. Butterflies were painted on the footpath. We hung hand-made butterflies from trees. Beautiful panels went up, filled with butterflies. 

Glenise turns art ninja.

That's what greeted the protestors coming to "battle": more than 8,000 butterflies forming our kaleidoscope, each representing a pledge somebody had made to say refugees are welcome.

The idea was based on the Eltham Copper Butterfly, which was saved by extinction in the 1980s by the community and now represented our willingness to share our abundance.

The photos were to share our action with our growing Facebook community.

Local artist turned art ninja Janet ties one of her hand-painted butterflies to the fence.

For those who wanted to share the story, we made a video which quickly went viral. We countered their hate with beauty (and zombies, but you'll need to watch to the end of the video to find out).

Together, we were able to reflect the story of welcome back to our our community and amplified the good things.  

It turns out, people are hungry for ways to help and to be reminded that there are so many of us, willing to give people in need a fair go.

And the best messages of all are the thanks. Thank you for showing us the best of what Australia can be. 

The Age said it best: "It was billed as the "Battle for Eltham", but in the end the butterflies carried the day.