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National Trust moves to protect Melbourne gra -

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ELEANOR HALL: Is it heritage value art or mere vandalism?

The debate surrounding graffiti has been reignited in Melbourne today with the city's laneway art
being considered for heritage protection.

Australia's National Trust and Heritage Victoria are both supporting a move to protect the city's
graffiti.

But some local council groups say this would just give a green light to vandals.

In Melbourne, Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: With the idea of graffiti as an art form in its own right gaining momentum locally
and abroad, the National Trust has been considering its protection since 1999.

The Trust's Cultural Heritage Manager, Tracey Avery, says the protection of Melbourne's graffiti
will be debated at next week's international conference on intangible heritage.

TRACEY AVERY: I see in Melbourne that graffiti art is an important part of the spectrum of cultural
and design activities that Melburnians engage with.

RACHAEL BROWN: I've read a comment from a British artist who is quoted saying that Melbourne's
laneways were arguably Australia's most significant contribution to the arts since they stole all
the Aborigines pencils. Would you agree with a comment like that?

TRACEY AVERY: I think part of Banksy's comment implies that what graffiti provides is a place for
ordinary people to have a voice and that it's a place where it's not an art form that has to be
recognised in a gallery but it's an art form that can be recognised on the ground.

I think people would recognise say in Hosier Lane that the works there more reflect an artistic
sensibility and are social comment and are not just mindless vandalism.

RACHAEL BROWN: One might assume artists would applaud the protection of graffiti but Melbourne
curator and artist, Andrew Mac, says it would fly in the face of what graffiti and street art is
all about.

ANDREW MAC: The work is ephemeral. It's not meant to last. It lasts purely as long as the weather
and other graffiti artists allow it to last. When you interfere with what is an organic process
like that, you actually make the graffiti stagnant and what makes graffiti thrilling and
interesting to the public and to other graffiti artists is the fact that it's a never-ending
changing kind of living art form

RACHAEL BROWN: And Mr Mac thinks those councils backing graffiti protection may have real estate
motives in mind.

ANDREW MAC: This stuff is worth money now. It wasn't worth money four years ago but when people
like Angelina Jolie pay over 200,000 pounds for a Banksy piece and when people start auctioning
their walls in England on E-bay because it has got a Banksy piece on it, that makes councils think
that they've got something on their hands that's worth money for their tourist industry

RACHAEL BROWN: Scott Hilditch is the CEO of Graffiti Hurts Australia.

He says protecting Melbourne's laneway decorations would send a dangerous message that graffiti is
acceptable and open the floodgates to vandalism.

Mr Hilditch goes further and says it would signify the acceptance of society's decline.

SCOTT HILDITCH: It clearly sends the wrong message that we as a society are going to be acceptable
of vandalism and other anti-social behaviour and that it doesn't matter that it costs local
government over $260-million a year to clean up. Now that's $260-million that can go on other
community benefit programs and that's something that we think the National Trust really need to
have a very good look at

RACHAEL BROWN: So you don't see a difference between the graffiti in Hosier Lane to say tagging?

SCOTT HILDITCH: These so-called graffiti artists or street artists have actually gained their
expertise through starting off doing tagging

RACHAEL BROWN: The National Trust's Ms Avery is reassuring local councils if Melbourne's graffiti
does win heritage protection, it won't be a blanket listing, but rather, tied to identified sites.

And it's for this reason, she says, graffiti will be difficult to list.

TRACEY AVERY: We recognise that it may not be possible to list graffiti for the long-term because
of it's ephemeral nature. So it may be that we end up saying that what the best thing to do is take
proper records of it and interview artists and take public comments and then that itself becomes a
visual and oral history about graffiti. But we may not be able to protect the individual pieces
themselves.

ELEANOR HALL: That was Tracey Avery from the National Trust ending Rachael Brown's report.