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Marriage equality campaigners vow to keep fighting after ‘disappointing’ ruling | The Age

Supporters of marriage equality have vowed to continue campaigning after the High Court gave a green light to the same-sex marriage postal vote.

Campaigning for the “yes” vote started almost immediately after the decision was handed down on Thursday afternoon, with supporters handing out pamphlets outside the High Court and neighbouring Flagstaff railway station.

But the verdict has stirred up real concerns among members of the LGBTI community who feared the debate had given rise to intolerance they had not seen in decades.

Wil Strack, 52, was among the campaigners outside court and said she was “very disappointed with the decision”.

“If it has to happen then now we need to go full swing into the campaign,” the Footscray woman said.

“It impacts on me, I’d like to marry my partner. We had a ceremony last year with our family and friends because we got tired of waiting.

“Now that we know the decision, we just really need to get on and campaign.

“We’d like it to be legal, the kids would like it to be legal. We’re expecting another grandchild next year and we’re sure our grandkids would like it to be legal as well.”

Preston woman Lee Gibbens said the decision was “like a death to the LGBTQI community” and said the debate had enabled a degree of homophobia.

While waiting at a bus stop last Friday, Ms Gibbens said a group of men in a car abused her and called out “f—ing dyke’ while stopped at a level crossing.

“I didn’t realise how I felt about it until later,” Ms Gibbens said.

“I was emotional and my housemate hugged me and I said, ‘I haven’t had that since I came out in the 80s’.

“I can handle it, I’m a mature-aged woman, but I worry about the kids and the parents that are in same-sex marriages, whether that be two men or two women, that have kids.”

Ms Gibbens said she wanted to be able to get married one day and described the High Court’s two-day hearing as “nasty” at times.

“I’m doing this for myself and my community and for the next generation. This is wrong. It’s absolutely wrong.”

“Malcolm Turnbull should be ashamed of himself.”

‘Yes’ campaigner Nicole Fedyszen is straight but was busy distributing pamphlets on the grey Thursday afternoon.

“It’s a sad day for equality, all we can do now, despite having to do this survey, we’re going to do it right,” she said.

“And every inch of free time I have is going to be spent pushing the ‘yes’ vote, reminding people to vote.

“It affects all of us personally. We want to live in a society where we all have equal rights, that’s the Australia I want to live in.”

This article appeared online at The Age and in print September 8.

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Max and his three dads celebrate difference on Father’s Day | Sydney Morning Herald

This Father’s Day, seven-year-old Max will buy three presents for his three dads.

Kids at school often ask Max: “Where’s your mum?”

Max says he doesn’t have one. Instead he has a “special lady” who helped his dads have him.

“He knows there was an egg donor and there was a surrogate. We’ve explained the process so that a seven-year-old can understand it,” says one of his fathers, Jason Schutze-Stafford.

“He’s very proud of the fact that he’s got three dads in his life. It’s never been an issue for him. He’s very upfront about it.”

Jason, Wayne and Brendan – Jason’s former partner who still plays a role in Max’s life – are gay dads.

They brought a three-week-old Max home after what Jason described as a relatively smooth two-year overseas surrogacy process that calls for a DNA testing to ensure that Max would be an Australian citizen, and preparing passports and exit visas.

“We had moments of stress but also had moments of joy, feeling really blessed that we were able to have Max in our lives,” Jason says.

The men are honest with their son, having regular conversations with him about their modern family. “Every family is different; some have two mums, some two dads, the combinations may be different, but every family is perfect in their own way,” Jason says.

“We don’t judge anyone because they’re different, or because their family is different to yours or anything like that.”

There’s no doubt the family model in Australia is changing. There were 47,000 same-sex couples counted in the 2016 census, up from 33,000 relationships in 2011.

While one-quarter of female same-sex couples have children; for men it is just 4.5 per cent.

Jason has shared books on diversity with Max’s school to encourage conversations around families, difference and acceptance.

“There’s a large proportion of kids who do have mums so we’ve just reinforced the message around diversity and not to assume that every family is the same,” Jason says.

“On a day-to-day basis, our family is very similar to a lot of others in terms of the challenges that we face with the whole parenting and working balance.

“The real thing that I always encourage is to have the conversations with your kids about diversity – different is OK. There’s nothing to fear about difference and not to judge anyone because of that difference.”

This article originally appeared online at The Sydney Morning Herald and in print September 3.

 

Parenthood a joy for first-time dad pushing 60 | The Age

When people ask Brett Eagleton if toddler Katie is his granddaughter, he laughs.

Katie, who is 20 months old, is his first child.

But 59-year-old Mr Eagleton is not fazed by what others might think about his age. “People see that our bond is very strong,” he says.

The disability support worker married his long-term partner, Kim, when he was 51.

Kim, 36, who works at a Salvation Army store, wanted to have children, and supporting her was important to Mr Eagleton. The couple’s only concern was ensuring they had a child-friendly home.

When Katie was born, it only reaffirmed their decision to have children. “It’s the most beautiful thing that’s ever happened to me in my life,” Mr Eagleton says.

“It wasn’t a practical and available option for me when I was younger, so I don’t dwell upon it at all.

“I’ve definitely got to maintain my health and thankfully that is the case. There are practical realities when you have a child when you’re older, but I don’t regret that I couldn’t do it; it just happened at the time when it was meant to happen.”

Mr Eagleton  has become accustomed to the usual fatherly duties, such as changing nappies and getting up in the middle of the night.

He attends a dads’ group, and says that older fathers are not an anomaly at the get-togethers. In fact, seeing a young dad is “unusual”.

“I think that the older dads are more motivated to attend these groups, so I haven’t felt conspicuous or the odd man out because I was older. There have been numerous older dads.”

In Victoria, the median age for fathers is 34.

Research from Roy Morgan shows that about 14 per cent of Australian fathers of children under the age of 16 are aged 50 or older – an increase of 20 per cent in four years. By contrast, 7 per cent of mothers over 50 have children under the age of 16.

“I live in the St Kilda area, and it is remarkable how many older dads there are,” says Mr Eagleton.

“There are just older dads everywhere. And at the childcare centre when I’m dropping off Kate, there are numerous older dads. It’s just not an issue.”

For Father’s Day, the family will attend a YMCA dads’ fun run.

“The way that my life played out, it could well have been the case that [fatherhood] never happened,” says Mr Eagleton. “And the fact that it has happened is remarkable.

“I’m not taking it for granted at all. I’m aware of the experience I’m going through – how remarkable it is – and trying to take in every moment.”

This article originally appeared online at The Age, and in print, September 2.

Metro Tunnel: New train stations should be named after location, say transport users | The Age

When it comes to naming Melbourne’s new train stations, commuters are torn between the creative and the bleeding obvious.

A competition to name the Metro Tunnel’s five new underground stations has prompted a wide range of suggestions, from the culturally significant to the contemporary (hello ‘Smashed Avo’ station).

But Daniel Bowen from the Public Transport Users Association said that while it might be tempting to name the landmarks after celebrities or historic figures, the monikers should, most importantly, tell people where the stations are.

“These stations will be with us for decades, hopefully centuries to come, and it is important that the names help people trying to navigate their way around Melbourne,” he said.

“What we don’t want is another station name like Southern Cross, which is basically meaningless – it tells you nothing about where it is in the city.”

“Much easier for everyone concerned. Spencer Street was a better name than Southern Cross. Museum was better than Melbourne Central,” one reader said.

“Call it where it is geographically located rather than some gimmick name that will sooner or later be irrelevant,” another wrote.

“A geographical name makes life so much easier for all travellers including tourists. Revert Southern Cross to Spencer Street at the same time!!”

Another dismissed the usefulness of a public vote: “It will cost the taxpayers … and in the end the suits will name them: Arden, Parkville, Domain and Swanston.”

The stations will be built as part of the $11 billion Metro Tunnel project at Arden, Parkville, Domain and under Swanston Street in the CBD.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the public vote on Sunday, saying an advisory panel would assess suggestions and submit a shortlist of names for the government to consider to ensure “sensible names”.

Rules of the vote say names should be relevant to a specific location, be clear and easy to write, and no longer than 25 characters and three words (except for Aboriginal names).

Suggestions honouring people should ensure the person is held in high regard by the community and preferably connected to the location.

The rules also suggest avoiding the names of people who are still alive.

Many readers have suggested the names should pay tribute to Melbourne’s Aboriginal heritage.

“Would be good to see stations named after the traditional owners of the land to recognise that the land was taken from them,” Toby Jones said.

Reader Richard Knight took a more lighthearted approach: “Should just call them Australian slang words, imagine arriving at ‘You Beauty’.”

People have until October 22 to submit their station name suggestions at metrotunnel.vic.gov.au.

This article originally appeared online at The Age and in print, August 29.

Not just another passing comment: how racism is damaging our health

Reem is a 17-year-old immigrant from Syria. She moved to Australia with her parents a few years ago and has been studying successfully at high school. Every morning Reem catches the bus to school. Her parents work – her mother at a Syrian radio station and her father is a senior researcher at a university in Melbourne. Although Reem is of average height, she stands out – she is a devout Muslim. Her rounded face and brown eyes are bolstered by a colourful orange hijab. And while this is a powerful symbol for her spirituality, for many others it is a symbol to be feared.

Reem is reluctant to be interviewed and wants to make only one point. She speaks not in whispers, but confidently emphasizes and annunciates each word. “When I catch the bus, why must I either be stared at, moved away from or be verbally abused?” she said, her voice building to a crescendo.

Earlier this year, Professor Kevin Dunn from the University of Western Sydney conducted a survey, on behalf of a TV network, on racism and prejudice in Australia. Almost one in three respondents said that they had experienced racism within their workplace. Those with a Language Other Than English (LOTE) background reported a staggering 54.1 percent of workplace racism. The experience of racism in public spaces was only marginally less; transport or in the street was 34.1 per cent, and at a shop or shopping centre was 32.2 per cent.

Apart from the societal, legal and economic concerns of racial discrimination (Deakin University researchers found racism cost the Australian economy $44.9 billion each year in the decade from 2001-11) now there is a growing body of academic literature that suggests racial discrimination can negatively affect our health.

A recent study by Dr Ashaunta Anderson, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Riverside, found that perceived racial discrimination by children (although in this case their caregivers) was significantly linked to decreased reports of excellent health across all racial and ethnic groups. The average proportion of children reported by parents to be in “excellent health” decreased by 5.4 percent among those exposed to perceived discrimination and boosted their odds of ADHD by 3.2 percent.

According to the study, the ramifications of racism do not discriminate. “Minority children from low socio-economic backgrounds, particularly Hispanics, displayed the biggest reduction in general health,” says Anderson, “but some children from higher socio-economic backgrounds also suffered from negative health effects due to exposure to racial discrimination.

“I wanted to describe the health implications of racial discrimination and the resulting need for effective racial socialisation,” Dr Anderson said, asserting that this research is more relevant now than previously due to the current climate of tense race relations not just in the United States but also globally.

Her her work is now focused on developing a program to help children and their parents navigate race issues in a healthy way, such as cultural pride reinforcement which is already associated with positive health and school outcomes.

Multiple schools around Australia already run successful anti-racism campaigns, and some have even adopted an anti-racism app, Everyday Racism, by charity All Together Now. Developed for children, the user will be assigned an ethnicity and will receive daily prompts such as text messages, videos and images to experience racial discrimination.

Although Dr Anderson’s research is not focused on patholgising racism’s influence on child health, previous international studies have revealed that cause and effect operate through biological and mental health pathways and social limitation of opportunities and resources.

In Australia, Professor Yin Paradies, Dr Mandy Truong and Dr Naomi Priest are at the forefront of research demonstrating how racial discrimination has detrimental effects not only on mental health but also on physical health, such as heart disease, blood pressure, obesity, asthma, and even our health related behaviours such as substance abuse, not pursuing further medical consultations, and in fact, many other areas of an individual’s health.

One study, for instance, that took place over seven years with 3,302 women from ethnic backgrounds (Black, White, Hispanic, Chinese and Japanese) who had initially been cleared of cardiovascular problems, demonstrated that over those seven years, everyday discrimination – a social stressor – was associated with greater inflammation, a contributing biomarker for cardiovascular disease.

“What we know is that racism affects health at the biological and physiological level,” says Dr Mandy Truong, Research Officer at the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods. “Things like stress biomarkers on DNA, inflammatory biomarkers – there’s a lot of research coming out that even at the cellular level, exposure to stress over periods of time and certain stress, chronic exposure to racism which causes chronic stress, can affect things at a biological level which will later affect those broader health problems like heart disease, blood pressure and obesity.”

A recent incident at QUT of alleged racism by the former administration assistant at the Oodgeroo Unit, Ms Cindy Prior, reported that she could no longer work with ‘white’ people, and felt “physically sick and abandoned” when three non-indigenous students posted a series of comments on social media after they were reportedly told to leave an Indigenous-only computer pool.

“Just got kicked out of the unsigned Indigenous computer room. QUT stopping segregation with segregation.” Another wrote, “Equality for Indigenous students, for example, would not be giving them a room away from everyone else. That implies two things: They need extra resources because they have special needs; and they can’t study around people who are not like them. It’s not exactly flattering.”

Professor Yin Paradies, at the Alfred Deakin Institute says that the QUT incident is a prime example of racist acts at any scale wreaking havoc with a person’s wellbeing, explaining that these physical reactions to racism are common and have been widely studied.

“It’s stress-related reactions and there’s definitely evidence for that and it does have real impacts on people,” Professor Paradies said. “There’s a lot of talk about racism with the proposed changes to [Section] 18C [of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975] how racism isn’t really a big deal, and people should just get over it or get used to it, but it’s just one of those things, it’s stressful for people and it’s something that you just sort of take quite personally even if you don’t want to and there’s ways of learning to deal with it but it’s a pretty stressful life event when it happens.”

But opponents argue that there is tenuous relationship between racial discrimination and adverse health effects, when there could be other factors present such as a history of disease and disadvantaged socio-economic circumstances that may influence results.

Professor Paradies said that although health is a multifaceted phenomenon affected by a range of things, they are always adjusted for in studies, but the data still suggests that racism has an independent effect on health that can contribute above and beyond those other factors.

Others argue that a perception bias can also affect results. But Professor Paradies says that in fact, people tend to perceive less discrimination and underreport it.

“People are more reluctant to perceive something as racism and more reluctant to report something as racism,” Professor Paradies explains. “What the literature tells us is that racism is underreported so that the bias is towards not reporting racism. People tend to give other people the benefit of the doubt and they’ll only think of something as racist and say to a researcher that racism happened in cases that are more clear-cut to them.”

Even subtler forms of racism are often not reported, explains Professor Paradies. People may try to deny racism happened, and in many cases, survey measures of racism are an underestimate of how much racism is really happening.

But until such time as there is more certainty, researchers like Dr Anderson and Truong and Paradies argue that the health care system as a whole should consider racial discrimination as an important and real health issue and efforts should be made to find solutions that diminish systemic discrimination.

“We’re understanding more about how racism is a strong social determinant for health,” says Dr Truong, “and that is across so many different levels in society. There’s a lot more work on how it affects people at a biological and cellular level as well and what happens when we’re young. When we’re children it really affects us throughout our entire lifespan. You may be exposed to the racist or discriminatory events when you’re young, but it doesn’t mean you’re free of the effects of it as an adult.”

 

Racial discrimination detrimental to physical health

Exposure to racism is detrimental not only to our mental health but also physical health, and increases ADHD by 3.2 percent, according to a US study.

Research from Ashaunta Tumblin Anderson, Assistant Professor of Paediatrics at the University of California found that perceived racial discrimination was linked to decreased reports of excellent child health across all racial and ethnic groups.

For minority children from a lower socioeconomic status there was a decrease of excellent child health, when exposed to racism.

The results also suggested that children from higher socio-economic backgrounds who were exposed to racism also reported a decline in excellent child health.

In the same survey, caregivers were asked if their child had experienced racial discrimination and if a health care professional had given their child a diagnosis of ADHD.

“A 3.2 percent increase of child ADHD was prevalent among those children who experienced racial discrimination compared to those children who did not,” Dr Anderson said.

Research Officer at the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods Dr Mandy Truong said there was a growing body of literature suggesting racism’s detrimental health effects.

“Heart disease, blood pressure, obesity, asthma, and even our health-related behaviours such as substance abuse or not pursuing further medical consultations have all been proven to be affected by racial discrimination,” Dr Truong said.

“What we know is that racism affects health at the biological and physiological level.”

“There’s a lot of research coming out that even at the cellular level, chronic exposure to racism which causes chronic stress can affect things at a biological level which will later affect those broader health problems like heart disease, blood pressure, and obesity,” Dr Truong said.

Through the research Dr Anderson hoped to work on developing an intervention to help parents help their young children navigate race issues in a healthy way.

“This process is called racial socialisation and clinicians may counsel families affected by racial discrimination with evidence-based racial socialisation practices such as cultural pride reinforcement,” she said.

A change in health care policy would also be integral to change.

“The health care system as a whole should consider racial discrimination as an important social determinant of health and work to find solutions that diminish systemic discrimination,” Dr Anderson said.

 

Fitzroy residents say ACU development is a “monster in the midst”

Upset Fitzroy residents have been petitioning against a large new development planned by Australian Catholic University that they fear will impact on the area’s liveability.

The ACU’s proposed 14-storey building and underground parking lot has generated local concern about congestion and noise.

Residents fear that the proposed parking lot for 350 cars will cause severe traffic issues, noise pollution and endanger cyclists of Napier St, the narrow one-way street which will face the brunt of the development.

The development proposes to convert Napier St into a two-way street and place a roundabout at the southern end of the street, disrupting one of Melbourne’s busiest bike paths. Permit parking on the west side of the street will also be removed.

Napier St is also renowned for its heritage and conservationists fear that the development will destroy the street’s history, especially with part of the development to include building on top of heritage buildings.

The concerned residents formed the South Fitzroy Protection Group Inc (SFPG) to lobby for a more sympathetic development design to suit a small inner city suburb.

Group member Phillip Campbell said he doesn’t oppose the development but is concerned at the proposed size of the additions.

“We don’t oppose it, we just oppose the scale of it,” he said.

The first Development Plan (DP) was submitted in 1998 and was approved by the council and ACU constructed a series of new additions.

In 2016 neighbouring property owners were then advised by the City of Yarra of ACU’s proposal to amend the approved Australian Catholic University Development Plan in line with a Yarrar Planning Scheme clause to provide for new additions to the development.

Currently a development plan can lay out guidelines for future development, indicating on a map the propositions. But once the plan is implemented, pending Council approval, the plan is then exempt from third party notice and appeal rights for individual building projects.

“They’re taking advantage of the rules and pushing the boundaries of those rules,” Mr Campbell said.

“And to our view what they’re doing is they’re not being honest with what they intend to do with the total site.”

“We understand that the university needs to do things, but these things have got to be done in the right scale.”

The group of more than 115 residents lobbied for a public meeting with ACU representatives to present their intentions with supporting documentation to the attendees.

ACU has re-submitted its plans, but in a slightly reduced format which residents feel did not sufficiently take notice to what is required in the area.

At a recent council meeting, the council’s planning department agreed with the university, but the members of the SFPG lobbied individual councilors who voted unanimously to overturn the planning department’s decision.

The plan of the 15-storey building has now been reduced to 12, all on-street parking [to be retained?] on the east side of Napier St, and the removal of two trees.

But residents continue to find the designs problematic and unsuitable for the area.

Local businesses on Victoria Parade will also face the brunt of the changes, particularly those who use Napier Street for parking.

Athena Papas, owner of Scent of a Flower, says that the development will make parking her delivery van problematic.

“They’re going to cut back a lot of the parking,’’ she said. “We may have to park underground, but then we don’t know if that will be at a cost, or if we’re going to have designated spots for whoever has been affected,” she said.

“The other thing is security. If I’m leaving late at night, and I’ve got to walk through a car park, there’s no safety there either. It’s just a hassle.”

Ms Papas says that she understands the purpose for development, but says that the university should “think of the locals and how it will affect them.”

“If they’re going to bring more traffic into Napier St it’s going to become a very busy road again,” she said.

“They made it a one-way road 15 years ago, just to detain [not sure this is the right word?] how much traffic goes through.”

“It’s more for cyclists now because cyclists have [right of? ]way on the road, so you’ve always got to look out for things like that. If they make it a two-way it’s going to become like Victoria Parade, it’s going to be busy.”

Planning Minister Richard Wynne said he was aware of community concern.

“I’m aware that many members of the community are concerned over Australian Catholic University’s plans to develop in Fitzroy and I appreciate their sentiments,” Mr Wynne said.

“I would encourage the university to work with the local community to find an outcome that satisfies both parties.”

Mr Campbell said: “I think the university has taken a very arrogant attitude to the neighbors and to the community.”

“They’ve got their agendas and I understand their business imperatives but you’ve always got social responsibility and responsibility to the community in which you live.”

“I just don’t think that they’re willing to understand their social responsibility.”

ACU declined to comment but said in a project overview that the development would accommodate the university’s growth and “continue to provide the very best education to a changing, growing community.”

Mr Campbell warned the university about sticking to the proposal. “If the university goes ahead with the way they’re proposing, I think you’re going to have a community here that feels pretty betrayed by the council and the whole state planning department and you’ll see a reaction at the next election,” Mr Campbell said.

Public housing tenants battle for new locks on doors

doors

Missing locks on main doors at the Dight Street walk-ups in Collingwood concern residents about their safety and security. Photo: Stamatina Hasiotis

Tenants of a Collingwood public housing estate are concerned for their security because the Office of Housing does not have enough money to install new locks on the apartment blocks’ main security doors.

A majority of security doors at the Dight Street walk-ups are missing locks and handles, allowing unauthorised access to the building and leaving some residents feeling unsafe.

One tenant, who did not wish to be named, said that he had called housing security or police about drug dealers and intruders easily entering the building.

“We still see people injecting themselves in the hallway and other drug use,” he said.

The tenant said that he had contacted the Office of Housing to install new locks on several occasions and was told by the Department of Housing and Human Services (DHHS) that funds were not available for new locks to be installed.

City of Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly said he had written to Housing Minister Martin Foley about the issue and was told that funding had been approved.

But Cr Jolly said he and the residents were subsequently informed that there was no funding available for new locks.

“There was some money put aside by the Minister for Housing, by his department, and then we were told that there was no funding available,” Cr Jolly said.

Mr Foley’s office declined to comment on the matter.

A spokesperson from the DHHS said that the Department of Health and Human Services takes security issues seriously and funds a range of services across the Estate, including foot patrols, mobile patrols and CCTV cameras at various locations.

“The department also works closely with Victoria Police to promote tenant safety”, the spokesperson said.

“While access to the foyer of some apartment blocks is locked and is limited to tenants with a key, foyer doors are often propped open.  Locks are also vandalised and regularly replaced.”

Following an inspection of the premises with a Housing Office representative, Cr Jolly, a senior officer and council director, it was suggested [by whom?]that installing new locks would be redundant if in the future they would be removed or disabled.

Joanne Murdoch, director Advocacy and Engagement at the City of Yarra, said the main issue was tenants removing or disabling the locks and then putting rocks in the doorways to prevent them from closing.

“They’re not faulty locks, they’re not locks that over time have broken; they’re actually being disabled, so people keep the doors open,” Ms Murdoch said.

Ms Murdoch says that the problem is “quite complex” because some residents were trying to keep the doors open, while others wanted them locked.

“If you replaced all the locks would the same thing happen again with the new locks because people actually want them open?” she said.

Cr Jolly said that department was displaying a lack of duty of care towards their mainstay residents.

“It’s disrespectful and it’s unsafe for residents. The DHHS in Collingwood should really be hanging their head in shame and it may come to the need for some type of protest,” he said.

Ms Murdoch says that while the tenants are Yarra residents, they were also tenants of the state’s department of housing.

“From council’s point of view, our role is an advocacy role and we’ve met with DHHS to advocate on behalf of the few residents that came along to the council meeting,” she said.

Cr Jolly said residents would use their votes next year against any candidate in the election who was refusing to fix the problem.

“In the more immediate period then, they may have to organise a protest on the estate to get more pressure on the local MP and the housing minister, Martin Foley,” Cr Jolly said.

Vandals target Fitzroy street art

Street art works targeted by vandals in Fitzroy has costed Yarra City Council over $800,000 for removal.

An annual breakdown of costs related to graffiti management have shown that graffiti removal costs the council $582,000 per year, as well as $50,000 for cleaning up street art that was tagged.

A further $120,000 is for bill poster removal and $85,000 for retail centre pressure washing.

A Public Arts Officer at the City of Yarra council says that tagging and graffiti is a big problem within the City of Yarra.

“If it’s a street artist that isn’t known or taggers are angry with them because they’ve done a mural over some of their tags then you might find that gets tagged a lot,” she said.

Murals and other street art works are commissioned by council to act as a deterrent for graffiti and tagging.

But many street artists still find that their works are defaced and attacked in some way, adding to the escalating costs of graffiti management in Yarra.

Karsten Jurkschat, Senior Art Director at Ogilvy & Mather says that street art is commonly vandalised.

Most recently his popular pasteup, a tribute to Elaine Benes of Seinfeld, at the corner of Johnston and Brunswick Streets, was tagged within the first few hours.

“We knew it wouldn’t last forever but we expected it to last longer than it did, especially when word got out and quite a few people were heading down to hang out and take photos,” said Mr Jurkschat.

Well known Melbourne street artist Murdoc, says that his pieces are also frequently vandalised.

‘Sick of these toys’ one of Murdoc’s popular pieces was tagged within a couple of days.

sick of these toys graff

‘Sick of these toys’ by street artist Murdoc was tagged within a couple of days. Photos: supplied.

“It doesn’t surprise to me when my art is vandalised,” said Murdoc.

“I personally find most are trying to ‘spot jock’ or put their name next to something popular or interesting so more people see them.”

“Another reason is they often don’t agree or understand the peice of art,” he said.

Fitzroy Police continue to monitor the streets of Fitzroy for instances of graffiti. They say it is still an ongoing issue.

“Graffiti is everywhere in Fitzroy, and we do consider it a big problem,” said a Uniform Officer at Fitzroy Police Station.

“We receive a lot of notifications about it.”

Vandals target street art in fitzroy

Unwanted edits. Vandals tag artworks used to provide more opportunities for artists within the City of Yarra. Photo: Stamatina Hasiotis

To assist with deterring tagging, Council introduced their graffiti management policy due to the amount of tagging on residential and business properties.

Notifications of graffiti have decreased slightly with 1138 notifications for removal in 2012 and 1076 notifications for graffiti removal in 2014.

Fitzroy remains the hotspot for graffers and taggers.

The Council’s graffiti management policy, which was was developed with feedback from Yarra residents, states that Council will remove inoffensive graffiti from Council property, including murals and street art as soon as possible.

Other measures include putting an anti-graffiti coating on council commissioned street art works so that they are able to be cleaned very quickly and easily.

“If graffiti hangs around for a few days, it’s attracts more graffiti,” The Council Spokesperson said.

Street artists are encouraged by Council to notify them as soon as possible for instances of tagging for removal.

Rees says that City of Yarra is recognised and known and valued for its contribution to art.

Reporting instances of damage to artworks can help keep the City of Yarra livable and also respect art works.

“We have a really significant amount of artworks within our city, so it certainly contributes to making a vibrant, livable and aesthetically beautiful place to be.”

Across the USA

New York City

“Wanted: Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28-yr-old male. See media for pic. Call 9-1-1 if seen.”

At 8:57am, the first morning in New York, my phone buzzed with a gentle siren-like sound, but it wasn’t my alarm, so curious I turned to my side and rubbed my eyes to focus on the short text that was on the screen. This wasn’t exactly the welcome I was expecting, nevertheless, I groaned and forced myself to get up.

Me and two friends that I’ve known since school were in the United States for a holiday. I’ve always had a keen eye on New York mainly because of Seinfeld, so I had some pretty big expectations, from the accents to the attitudes. It delivered straight alway as our taxi driver frantically wove through dense New York City traffic, beeping and yelling out the window the entire 40 minute ride to Harlem from JFK. It was everything that I had hoped for: rushed and angry, lively and cultural, and, well, funny. It was dark and wet, and very muggy, my hair was so matted, I almost resembled a realistic oil painting, my hair flattened out like someone had just poured brown on my head, paint globules dripping down my cheeks. But that’s what 25 hours of recycled air gives you.

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On that first morning our plan was to get to Times Square and explore from there. We would find our bearings on the first day, and then proceed with our scheduled itinerary. Of course adding to the ominous mix was rain. We had landed in rain, and had actually stormed throughout the night until the early hours of the morning. Our airbnb host had provided umbrellas for us, so we had no problem heading out to the wet streets of NYC.

After breakfast at IHOP, who serve a questionable size of what are reportedly sausages, we entered the subway. Not the smartest thing to do without having read up on the system at all: uptown and downtown. It’s actually incredibly easy – just picture where you are (uptown or downtown) – and get the right train. It’s not as easy if you don’t have the MTA app because there is virtually no signage anywhere. Barely ever. If you’re not a native, you’ll learn the hard way. The other thing to learn is just how hot it gets in the station. After all you’re underground, but it’s a sauna.

Upon first stepping into Manhattan I felt like I was in some weird upside down world. My body was still working with the Australian clock, I was expecting to see night but it was as clear as day (a little drizzly). It almost felt like I was in a weird dome, everything was just surreal. But as we spent more time down and uptown, whether in Little Italy, strolling along the seemingly endless streets, lazing about in Central Park or spotting effortlessly cool Manhattanites walking petite dogs, the appeal of this magnificent city slapped me in the face.

New York is a city that doesn’t care if you like it or not. It’s raw, it doesn’t pander to denizens (try finding a public toilet — there aren’t any so don’t bother) and pedestrians have no respect for cars. Two days before we had arrived in New York, a random man had chased after police officers with a meat cleaver, beating one policeman. They were later both hospitalised. A day after that a small bomb had exploded in the Chelsea neighbourhood, somewhere along West 23rd between 6th and 7th. Yet as we walked through the streets of New York, I kept looking at everyone, trying to discern whether or not they were scared or bothered in any way. Just by looking at them, talking, laughing and carrying on, it didn’t seem like they cared. I thought how I would be if that I had been in that situation … would I still be jovial? Would I have a constant look of worry on my face? Either way, these New Yorkers that I passed every day weren’t bothered.

One of my first transactions was at a pharmacy, buying some deodorant. I mis-read the price as $5.50, nevertheless I gave the cashier $5.50, and waited for change, but for some reason, I zoned out. He waited. I waited. Suddenly he says, “Hey, move traffic.” I look at him and he points to the price.

“Isn’t this $5.50?” I ask.

“Are you a Member?”

“No.”

“$6.00.”

That was our conversation: succinct and to the point.

Most New Yorkers are very direct. They just say things as they see them. Consequences? Who cares about that. I have an opinion and here it is. I assume this is the interior monologue and guiding principal behind most New Yorkers’ discourse strategy. It works. You know where you stand and where they stand. There’s no hovering around, trying to interpret something, analysing it, replaying it in your mind…There’s no time in a New Yorkers life for that. While in Los Angeles 5 minutes is around 20 minutes, in New York 5 minutes is around about 15 seconds.

We visited a lot of New York in our 9 short days. We went to most neighbourhoods, Central Park, well-known restaurants, markets, we used the Subway and the bus, we walked around 25 blocks from the Meatpacking District to Hell’s Kitchen, we somehow made it out of Central Park wilderness around 9:37pm, back on to the 2 train to Harlem. We also caught a baseball game at Yankee Stadium – the Yankees won. And yes it was the one where the guy proposed to his fiancée, but dropped the ring. We also took a day trip to Philly, tried a cheesesteak, climbed the Rocky steps and pranced around town.

Super New Yorky bucket list:

  • bagel and schmear
  • breakfast at IHOP
  • looked unhappy on the subway
  • talked to a moody NYPD officer
  • jazz hands off Broadway
  • j walked and nearly got killed
  • passed agents talking to their wrists
  • passed agents in bulky black SUVs with tinted windows
  • Monster Cables at Best Buy
  • Nom Wah
  • Tom’s
  • Mint Milanos
  • Buying random supplies at Walgreens
  • Being amazed by Walgreens
  • Jumba Juice
  • Trek through Central Park
  • picnic at Central Park
  • pretending to be rich at Barneys
  • accepting lack of wealth at Nordstrom Rack
  • Yankee Stadium
  • Riverside Drive

New Orleans 

As soon as we stepped out of the plane, New Orleans was sweltering. It continued to be 30+ degrees for our entire 4 days there. We were lucky to have a great apartment a stone throw’s away from the French Quarter, with its never-ending scent of gumbo, cafe au lait, pralines, beignets and bourbon. While at night the Quarter transforms into a village-like fete, during the day you could hear a penny drop. Most of New Orleans is like this during the day. But nevertheless it does have an old-world whimsical charm to it that gives you the feeling of drifting, floating a few inches above the hot pavement. As my eyes darted from street sign to shop sign, VooDoo Museum to Cemetery tour, as I rode in the only two cable cars in the entire city, and as the melodic tunes of street performers filled my ears, I felt like I was on a vaudevillian movies set. We went on a steamboat cruise and tried a po’boy…after not having eaten anything remotely nutrioutius in weeks, my appetite for this sandwich was virtually non-existent.

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At the NOMA Sculpture Garden

Las Vegas 

I’ll keep this short. Vegas and I didn’t really get along. Walking along The Strip it feels like I’m on one big movie set. Nothing feels real, nothing looks real. It’s behemoth and soulless, a pulsating mess thriving purely on dirty profiteering. I hate casinos and the way that gambling is facilitated here. I hate how hard it is to find a supermarket and fresh produce, and I hate the Rainforest Cafe. We stayed at the Luxor, a mangled Egyptian themed hotel, in the shape of a Pyramid that has a constant sickly vanilla scent throughout, unless you walk through the gaming rooms, whereupon even if you quickly walked through, you will smell like whisky and cigarettes.

It’s a revolting mishmash of cultural appropriation. The only time it felt real was just after The Strip, in the Nevada desert. The rest of Vegas is flat, falling apart and poor. This juxtaposition simply further emphasises the economic system in this place, and it just hurts to see. I’ll leave it here.

…Ok the outlets were amazing, and it can be fun when you’re with cool people. Sort of.

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Portland

Portland has a lot of soul. People here are kind, and the city, somehow is polite. Nothing is arrogant or ostentatious. You can see the sky because there isn’t an infinite line of apartment buildings and skyscrapers obstructing the view. You don’t need to stand on the pinnacle of the city’s tallest building to see the grid below.

I had a lot of preconceived notions about Portland, yes, from Portlandia. I was waiting to see the lovechild of Fitzroy and Newtown, bustling with Pendelton-clad skinny boys with post-war haircuts. It was a little bit of that, but it was more of people who wore whatever they felt like. Portland is humble and down-to-earth. While we were there if felt like everyone had packed up and gone on vacation. It was quiet, and not bustling, even in Downtown Portland. It was refreshing and relieving to be in a place that was so much more calm, yet soulful and rich. We visited a lot of the Portlandia landmarks, and went to VooDoo donuts. I’ll be honest: I wasn’t that convinced by it. We can get amazing donuts here in Melbourne.

I only got to experience around two days in Portland (out of four) due to illness. But, as strange as it may sound, I did get to experience some extremely bizarre advertisements for prescription medicine! We don’t have that in Australia, and I don’t particularly understand the purpose of advertising prescription medicine, but they felt like parodies. I feel pretty well-versed in some American drugs including Nasacort.

I learned about Swedish Fish in Portland, and how Walgreens sells everything from croissants to an entire gallon of water — that’s more than three litres.

One thing I noticed is that Americans are very happy to answer questions from strangers, I found. I asked so many people questions, from directions (my favourite moment was asking an NYPD officer…swoon!) to even asking one couple who were sat next to us eating something that smelled so good, where they got it. They had a wonderful rice and chicken dish from Nong’s Khao Man Gai. We went there a few hours later, and enjoyed our food in a very hipster restaurant.

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Portland reminded me the most of Australia, and that was a very good thing because in general, Australia doesn’t compare to America.

San Francisco 

Our first night, after an hour flight or so from Portland, we were excited to be in a bustling city again. Th cbd, or downtown as they call it here, feels beach but San Francisco isn’t beachy. It’s foggy and rainy and grey (the best weather imo). One guide told us that a lot of people think that SF is always hot but it’s not!

We bought tickets for the City Sightseeing buses where we met a few interesting guides, in particular ‘Soda Pop Jones’, an extremely slender guy who looks like he played in a punk band at night and moonlit as a tour guide by day. He had dirt under his fingernails and had a dirty jacket, in fact most of our bus guides looked unkempt — I guess such is the difficulty associated with the tipping system and low wages. We went through all the circuits, our first stop to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. At first I didn’t think much of walking over a bridge, but the Bridge in fact is very beautiful, a rust orange that matches the blue sky. We were lucky we walked across it that first day because any other day was cloudy. The walk took us about 35 minutes. We then made our way to Sausalito but unfortunately didn’t stay for very long. We heard the story (and tasted) of Ghiladerli chocolate, visited Pier 39 about 4 times, and dined at the Boudin Restaurant (best seafood meal ever). One standout fact was that the Fisherman’s Wharf area attracts the second number of highest visitors next to Disneyland — although thinking about it now, they didn’t specify which Disneyland, but nevertheless, I found it an odd statistic for an area that has a few grottos, a wharf and other equally old and smelly places.

I’ll never forget the views you can find in San Francisco just by walking down the street, especially when you’re not downtown.One night we were on a very long mission to make our way from The Haight to a Turkish restaurant, Tuba, in the Mission. A quick check on Apple Maps and it was a couple of buses and a bit of a walk. The first bus we got, it was going in the wrong direction. We get off. We try to find another bus stop as we hike up the extremely (ridiculously) narrow streets of San Fran to find this seemingly invisible and non-existent bus stop. Out of the corner of my eye I see the tiny word “bus stop” painted on an equally tiny yellow stripe. They are everywhere on all of the stobey poles. They are the bus stops. WHY. We finally got on the cable bus, but of course, it crashes into a car. We get off and walk. All the way. 65 minutes. We walked through the most amazing suburbs, to find views like this:

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So yeah, contrary to popular belief, San Francisco is quite cold! It’s usually drizzling and even if it’s sunny it’s still pretty chilly. You want sun, you go to La La Land.

Los Angeles

La La Land. 4 Days, two theme parks (Disneyland and Universal Studios), 1 outlet, Santa Monica Pier, Beverley Hills, The Grove, Venice Beach, Griffith Observatory, East Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, and about every film location possible. Star sighting x1 (Guillermo from Jimmy Kimmel), 6 am start X3, 4 am start x1, homesickness x1000000. Total time spent in lines at Disneyland 3 hours. Time spent nauseated from the heat / children 6.5 hours. Desire to return: nil detected. Harry Potter obsession increase due to Hogsmeade visit: <100%. Butterbeer: yes.

I’ll never forget downtown Los Angeles somewhere along Hill and 6th and the tents. LA is just so huge and we only saw a tiny preview.