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Managing Popularism

I picked up a pamphlet on “Managing Graffiti in Moreland” by Moreland City Council when I was at the council offices paying Dignity’s cat registration. The pamphlet is a strange little publication with a lot of very vague statements about: “What is graffiti and why is it a crime” and “Who does it and why?”  There is information on reporting graffiti, graffiti prevention and removal.

“It (graffiti) can include tags, stencils, pieces and even colourful murals, which have been done without the permission of the person who owns the wall and without Council’s prior permission.” This implies that you need Council permission to paint your own wall and if so who do you contact? There is no information in pamphlet. It is odd considering that the Council is also recommending, in “tips to prevent graffiti” to “consider painting a mural on a targeted wall.” But this is the kind of incoherent nonsense that I’ve come to expect when government’s write about graffiti. However this was not the worst part of the pamphlet.

“Tips to prevent graffiti” includes: “Avoid providing blank or bare walls by planting creepers or vines”. Of course planting creepers or vines are only useful in preventing graffiti as creepers and vines can cause substantial damage to brick walls with old mortar but they will prevent graffiti. The pamphlet promotes other solutions that are potentially worse than the problem: for example, anti-graffiti coatings can be toxic. Fortunately, Moreland Council has an extensive disclaimer that “expressly disclaim any liability, for any loss or damage, whether direct or consequential suffered by any person as a result of or arising from reliance on any information contained in the publication.” Basically, Moreland Council is saying that they are just saying some stuff because they have to say something about graffiti because it is politically popular to say things about it.

There were no council pamphlets available on managing feral pigeons, managing illegal rubbish dumping or managing rats. These are all more serious problems than graffiti that are the responsibility of local councils; graffiti won’t damage your health. Local councils need base their responses to perceived problems on evidence rather than popularism. It is very popular to write about graffiti, whatever opinion you might have about it, and the story can be illustrated with an exciting image. <insert image here>

Illegal graffiti in Coburg - don't worry it's only paint...

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

3 responses to “Managing Popularism

  • mdonnellan63

    No surprises here, Mark. As an East Brunswick resident, I am consistently underwhelmed by just about everything that Moreland Council does, and resigned to the things that they should do, but don’t.

    The sooner it’s subsumed by a Greater Melbourne Council, the better. (Go on, tell me no-one’s thinking about that!)

    • Mark Holsworth

      Too right, a Greater Melbourne Council would be a good thing for the whole city. Less politicians and a more democratic say for people about the whole city and not just parochial areas.

  • Craig

    Wow, thanks so much for this blog. Intelligent analysis of street art and graffiti is so hard to come by, especially on the internet. I’ve been taking photos for 8 years now (mainly in Adelaide but also Melbourne, Sydney, New Zealand and New York) and I once had the joy of running into S.A’s head graffiti cop which turned out to be an interesting experience. The street art scene over here is a bit quieter than it was back in the mid 2000’s so it’s always nice to get over to Melbourne and see what the walls have to say. Keep up the good work!!!

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