Immigration

Controversial Bondi mural defaced after receiving council support

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The controversial Bondi mural is believed to have been vandalised not long after the local council voted for it to remain on the sea wall of the world-famous beach.

Street artist Luke Cornish found out his controversial Bondi Beach mural, challenging Australia's asylum seeker detention system, had been painted over when he heard it on local radio Wednesday morning. 

“It wasn’t the best way to find out,” he told SBS News, a day after Bondi's local government voted in favour of the temporary mural staying.

“But I’ve been painting murals that cause discussions for 10 years, this certainly doesn’t stop me.”

The eight-metre long artwork featured a line of 24 Australian Border Force officers, depicted with the phrase "not welcome to Bondi" on the sea wall of the world-famous beach.

A controversial mural by artist Luke Cornish has been defaced at the iconic Bondi Beach in Sydney, Wednesday, August, 7, 2019.
A controversial mural by artist Luke Cornish has been defaced at the iconic Bondi Beach in Sydney, Wednesday, August, 7, 2019 (AAP)
AAP

Mr Cornish said it was symbolic of the "24 suicides in Australian detention facilities since 2010".

A councillor in the area, Leon Goltsman, last week called for the mural to be removed, describing it as "politically motivated offensive propaganda likely to offend families and turn away visitors".

While many supported his views, others started a petition to keep it. It led to a fiery council debate, which was resolved last night.

Mr Cornish described the whole ordeal as "a little bit embarrassing".

"It had nothing to do with the debate I wanted to start," he said.

"I just wanted to say ‘can we treat these people with compassion?’ Instead, it turned into a s***storm about freedom of speech.”

The mural has been criticised as "offensive propaganda".
The mural has been criticised as "offensive propaganda".
Facebook/luke.cornish

Waverley Mayor John Wakefield on Wednesday condemned the graffiti of the temporary mural.

"Regrettably, the incident occurred soon after council last night resolved in-session to find a fair and balanced approach to deal with a controversial issue with a wide spectrum of opinion," he said.

"The decision of the council gained cross-party support... Someone has now taken the law into their own hands."

But Mr Cornish has remained upbeat about it, and said it felt "kind of like a Steven Bradbury moment". 

The Waverley Council mayor says good art does generate strong reaction.
The Waverley Council mayor says good art does generate strong reaction.
Facebook/luke.cornish

"The council got behind me; people wanted it removed but couldn’t get it removed,” he said, adding it would not impact his future work. 

"When you’re a street artist, you’re used to your work being painted over. 

“I plan on painting murals to continue standing up and speaking out for people who don’t have a voice."

Mr Cornish said a lot of the criticism he received was about the assumption he was a "heart-bleeding leftie with no real-world experience".

Luke Cornish says the mural is "a comment on our treatment of asylum seekers in Australian detention facilities".
Luke Cornish says the mural is "a comment on our treatment of asylum seekers in Australian detention facilities".
Facebook/luke.cornish

"But I’ve travelled to Syria working with children’s charities three times in the past three years, I’ve seen what they’re running away from," he said.

"I’m far more qualified to comment on why they should be treated with compassion than many of those that say they shouldn't.”

The Waverley Council is in the process of reviewing CCTV footage from last night and will start an expression of interest process to select a new work to replace the now vandalised wall art. 

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