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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 8214


Mr SIMPKINS (8:50 PM) —My grievance relates to the ongoing challenge of graffiti and the fact that this like other antisocial behaviours is in fact everyone’s problem. I am sure all members of this parliament are used to having people come to our offices, ring us up or email us to talk about problem issues that are important to them but by any stretch of the imagination could never be considered to be a federal matter. One of the issues that consistently gets brought to my door is the issue of graffiti. There are some particularly bad problems out there. Rather than just look upon this problem as being a local government or a state government problem, I have always taken this issue on board. My staff are well and truly used to dealing with graffiti, referring that on to the appropriate place to get the problem fixed.

This evening I would like to talk a little bit about some of the things that I think work in Cowan and things in Western Australia that I think are about to work a whole lot better now that there has been a change of government over there at the state level. I see my position as the member for Cowan as not only a great responsibility, a welcome responsibility, but also an opportunity to show leadership within the community. I think that too often in schools children and teachers are used to seeing the local member of parliament show up with the flag or say a few words or maybe make a gift presentation at graduation, and that is often where it ends. I have certainly welcomed the opportunities that I have been given and that I have sought to go to schools and talk in some detail about community matters and the strength of community.

One of the messages that I like to give to young people and students, whether primary or secondary, is that there is a way to make your mark on the world and the positive way to do it is not by leaving a tag on a wall or burnt rubber on the road but rather by creating or building something good. Often the attitudes that children take into their adult lives come from the examples that their parents have set them. What I ask of the children and the young people in these schools that I go to is to stand up and be counted. I tell them that they have great opportunities in their future. I say to them that no matter what the socioeconomics are of the suburb of the school that I am at, any one of them could one day be Prime Minister of this great country. To make a point, this is really all about taking the opportunities of working to achieve one’s goals. To that end and to make these young people feel that they are a stronger part of the community, I have asked them in all of these schools whether they would join my team, which I call the Cowan Community Watch, or the junior version, and work with my office to get things done. I say to them, ‘If you are out there and you see things that are broken in the community, that are marked, that need to be fixed—that are unsafe or whatever—you tell my office and we will work to get them fixed.’ It does not matter whether it is a local government or a state government matter, we will fight for that in any case.

That has been well embraced. I have only been to about a quarter of these schools so far and I have got almost 100. While my Cowan Community Watch exists at a senior level and a junior level, I would like to raise some things that have come out of this exercise so far. I have received reports regarding a number of parks in the electorate with graffiti. I have visited most of these locations myself. I observed a number of examples of the most foul and explicit graffiti undertaken in one of these parks done by, as I later found out, year 9 girls who were having a factional dispute, you might say, in their school. I will not name the school, but I went to the principal about it and he got right onto it. The problem has been sorted out. The councils, I understand, are about to clean it up or have already cleaned it up. So that was a great success.

I would also like to pay tribute to some of the people who have specifically contributed. Mr Dylan Gardiner of Alexander Heights reported something in the vicinity of 65 graffiti tags within a 50-metre area of Mirrabooka Avenue in Alexander Heights. The officials of the city of Wanneroo got right onto that as soon as we reported it.

Often people feel disempowered when they make these types of reports. A person rings the council, or does this or that and then finds that nothing ever seems to happen. We need to encourage people to report and keep reporting. Even if they do not join my team, I will take any reports they have. We follow up the matter and keep going back and forward until the job gets done or until we understand there has been a final result. This is about trying to encourage people to keep reporting to make the community stronger and to make it harder for the bad guys out there to make their mark. I am trying to avoid everyone else feeling they have to give up.

In Ballajura, Mrs Margaret Ryan, a well-known activist and a person who really cares, reported some local kids who were marking graffiti or acting suspiciously on a building site. We worked with the city of Swan and the local high school to deal with that.

In Landsdale, young Teah Arrowsmith also reported graffiti, which was cleaned up by the city of Wanneroo shortly thereafter. In Koondoola, students from the Waddington Primary School—Muka Jasanovska, Steven Nguyen and Tabitha—reported broken glass, graffiti and broken basketball rings in the local park. These are outstanding efforts from people who have risen to the occasion and have stepped forward to make a difference in the community. I say ‘well done’ to these young people—and we are talking about kids who are about 10 or 11 years old. They have embraced the message, they believe in a stronger community and that is a great step forward for the future.

Up in Carramar, Mrs Joanne Wroblewski reported to my office graffiti and damage to a local park. It was not near houses, but we were able to work to get that sorted out and to make the area a bit better protected as well.

This is just one part of the big picture to try and work against graffiti in the long term. Before I sum up I will just move quickly through the state government’s action. As I mentioned, there has been a change of state government in Western Australia. I certainly welcome the return of the Graffiti Taskforce in Western Australia, where state government forces will join with local government to make sure that graffiti is dealt with quickly. This will also be backed up by forcing graffiti criminals—these vandals—to clean up their own mess, which I welcome. I also welcome greater fines for the sale of spray paints to minors. There will be harsher penalties in general and also a renewed focus on tackling graffiti on public transport.

Obviously, it is great to start out with changes to laws and law enforcement. That is very important but, at the same time, so is a community attitude of ‘I will not take it any more’—and obviously I am not advocating vigilantism. I am saying that it is about people caring enough to make the call and engage with my office. It is working. We have over 150 members at the junior and senior levels, and it is working very well. I think people feel that they are being taken seriously whereas possibly before they were not.

The three pillars of success, in my view, in the future will be better laws and law enforcement, better community strength by people wanting to be counted to make society better, and, ultimately, better parenting. That is what it comes down to in the end. As I am sure everyone has said in the past, more parents should look in the mirror and ask: do I want my kids to turn out exactly like me? Am I the best person I can be? That is what it comes down to in the end.