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By Hayley Roberts

The colourful walls of Melbourne and it’s surrounding suburbs are attracting the wrong kind of contributions. The urban culture of street art is appreciated unlike the increasing popular method of ‘tagging’.

For a movement that has attracted so much scrutiny, there is also something incredibly romanticised about street art. Unlike many cities across the world, Melbourne has a supportive community towards the art form and altogether street art has had a profound effect on the city’s identity.

Graffiti artists have never addressed their work to the wider community. However street art is the product of a broad range of motivations and operates in many different ways: sometimes it has a political purpose, sometimes it is done purely to make the spectator smile, sometimes is simply seeks to add an image to a blank or drab surface.


One example of the many street art murals you can find around the city.
Caledonian Lane, Melbourne CBD, 2008

Street art in Melbourne has become part of the fabric of the city: many people see it as an indicator of the city’s artistic culture. Despite this, public response has been split between great enthusiasm and harsh repression: for others it is seen as a problem that must be controlled.

uses Melbourne’s street art filled ‘Laneways’ in promotional material. Authorities however still seem to struggle with the concept that street art is synonymous with Melbourne; laws imposing harsh fines and possible prison sentences are in force for graffiti artists and street artists who produce work not commissioned by the City of Melbourne.

Street artist and Melbourne Street Art Tours manager Adrian Doyle believes however that punishment is not always the answer…

Councils need to find kids places where they can legally tag in a safe environment, graffiti is the people’s art.”

The City of Melbourne has conducted community consultation which revealed that most people do not like graffiti ‘tagging’ (a person writing their graffiti name or ‘tag’ on a wall with marker or paint). However, research also indicates that many appreciate street art, being larger more artistic pieces or murals placed in appropriate locations with required permission.

When exploring the city myself, it was not hard to find these areas which have become internationally renowned and have become an attraction for local and overseas visitors of the city.

It is clear to see the artistic talent that is required to produce many of the murals featured around the city but also notable that many have become vandalized by the act of tagging.

A prime example of this was one of the few remaining street art pieces by world famous street artist Banksy being destroyed last year by deliberate tagging: Banksy stencils destroyed in Fitzroy

The council have had to take a strong stance against illegal graffiti as a result of this to ensure that the street art of Melbourne stays true to it’s purpose. Any artist will first need to get permission from the property owner or occupier before doing any artwork on a building or a street art site.

Earlier this month, the Melbourne Leader reported on the issue of graffiti and tagging in and around the city.

More than $5 million is spent each year wiping Melbourne’s suburbs clean of graffiti… Removing the unsightly mess quickly is seen to be the most effective way of deterring vandals”

The Graffiti Management Plan 2009-2013 created by the city sets out to discourage graffiti tagging, recognizing that there is widespread concern about the issue.  We must congratulate the efforts of those campaigning for cleaner streets also. A campaign from the Warner Group Pty Ltd  ‘Do Art, Not Tags’ offers educational presentations to school children of the city, raising awareness of the problem and trying to cut out tagging in future generations.

 is an arts project where 13 to 20 year-olds are able to work with professional artists on arts and media projects in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD.

Also in 2008, Union Lane became the canvas for the City of Melbourne’s Street Art Project which transformed this high profile location in the heart of Melbourne’s retail hub that was increasingly uninviting and heavily tagged into a space for a street art mural spanning 550 square meters on both sides of the lane.

With projects like this, we can begin to expect a response like this:

Union Lane Street Art Project 2008

So next time your exploring the streets of Melbourne and it’s surrounding suburbs, be sure to check out the artwork which has become a concrete element of the city’s individual flair and talent. But be sure to help out by reporting any incidents of graffiti tagging to help maintain a positive attitude towards this distinct culture.

Reporting graffiti and it’s removal


Open your heart to street art…Here’s a handy map to guide you through the city to see the most profound locations of this art form