Graffiti seems a big deal if you pay attention to the Perth media at the moment. Articles about the scourge of the spray-can abound, and if you catch the train I’m sure you’ve seen Transperth’s rather woeful and embarrassing ‘Graffidiot’ campaign.

In my last couple of blog posts I’ve picked on The West Australian; now I’m going to take a recent article from the Community Newspaper Group’s Eastern Reporter:

GRAFFITI vandals show no signs of slowing down in the north eastern metropolitan corridor.


“Unfortunately, there will always be young people who have that compulsion to get their tag in the most visible or unique place, or to tag over something else.

“And for young people with that mindset there’s not a lot we can do apart from removing it as quickly as possible.”

GRAFFITI BLIGHT INCREASES. (2011, January 18). Eastern Reporter (Perth, WA) Retrieved February 26, 2011, from

People with that mindset are apparently a problem. Are they are recent occurrence?

Graffiti!A Psychological Puzzle.
There seems to be an incurable propensity in human nature to perpetrate offences against decency. There is a remnant of the lower instinct in some men which causes them to be guilty of transgressions against the canons of propriety, which are all alike purposeless, brutal, and silly. Amongst this class of offences is the practice of scribbling words of evil meaning upon fences and benches, and upon walls in public places, wherever a good ground can be obtained for doing so, out of sight of a policeman or an official. What is the innate propensity which induces both young and old to sully conspicuous places with written impurity it is difficult to imagine. It is, indeed, a psychological puzzle. The same motive that leads to disgraceful blasphemy and licentiousness of tongue probably actuates the seamy-minded folks who scribble indecencies in public places. We know it is a passion with travellers to carve their names on trees, rocks, monuments, or places of note, indicating a restless desire for notoriety, which is not, perhaps, altogether irrational. To carve one’s name on a high pinnacle is an ambitious desire, somewhat akin to the wish to excel others in any project. But what can be said of the motives of those who write vicious language and vie in covering the walls of public resorts with words and phrases all under tho ban of decency? The worst consequence of this criminality is that it is far-reaching in effect, and a serious source of pollution to the young, with whom evil influences are in many eases more powerful than those for good. How to check infamies of this kind, which are perpetrated in secret, is a difficult question to answer. But, to aid in a consummation so devoutly to be desired every decent citizen should willingly turn a voluntary detective and informer.

An Improvement. (1886, February 13). Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885-1954), p. 24. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from

There we have it; even in 1886 it was thought in Perth that graffiti artists were social deviants! A couple of interesting points. At no point does this 1886 article refer to the young; apparently at the time this blight was associated with people of all ages.

Additionally, note the call for worthy citizens to shop their fellow man. This is the point where I’m going to break my promise, and pick on The West:

The method of placing criminal’s faces prominently in the newspaper has again been hailed a success with WA police fielding a significant number of calls in relation to the first phase of Operation Eraser.


Sen. Sgt Royce said tagging was often a gateway to other crimes such as burglaries or more serious damage.

“They might go on school grounds to do graffiti and they end up destroying buildings,” he said. “We’re trying to get them early and remove them from the area.”

Graffiti images a success. (2011, February 13). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1885-1954), p. 24. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from

One hundred and twenty five years later, we’re a lot more advanced, but the government is still doing the same thing. We’re being asked to dob in our fellows for their transgressions, and frightened by their malign psychology.

I wonder what they’d have said in 1886 about abandoning a number of long standing legal principles and sticking photographs of youth up in public for everyone to see? Perhaps we haven’t advanced so far after all.

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Prominent people speeding!

Troy Buswell, the West Australian Transport Minister was in a bit of bother last week when it transpired he’d committed a string of speeding offences. Amusing – as a Yes, Minister fan I bet he wishes he had a silver badge!


It has been revealed that since being appointed transport minister, Mr Buswell was fined $75 for speeding up to 9km/h over the speed limit on January 6.

The speeding offence was also his third in less than six months, having been fined for the same offence in September as well as losing two demerit points for speeding 9-19km/h over the speed limit.


OPPOSITION CALLS FOR BUSWELL TO BE SACKED. (2011, February 20). The West Australian(Perth, WA) Retrieved February 26, 2011, from

In 1880, the Hon James Thomas got himself into a similar bit of bother. As the then Director of Public Works, he wasn’t in too dissimilar a position to our Troy – he was even the one responsible for setting the ‘speed limit’ he infringed:

FREMANTLE, August 2.
On Saturday last, the Hon. J. H. Thomas (Director of Public Works) was charged before the Fremantle police magistrate with trotting his horse over the North Fremantle Bridge, contrary to the notice in the Government Gazette.

The evidence of the policeman went to show that he was stationed at the foot of the bridge to caution drivers of vehicles and equestrians to walk their horses over, which he had done to several who crossed the bridge previous to Mr. Thomas; but believing he was thoroughly aware of the notice and acquainted with the importance of its strict observance, he did not think it necessary to repeat the caution to him. He however noticed Mr. Thomas trotting his horse, and accordingly summonsed him. Mr. Thomas explained that his horse became restive and broke into an amble, going down the hill. He urged that, as ambling is not trotting (which could he seen by reference to the dictionary), it could not be proved that he had in any way in- fringed the regulations in passing over the bridge.

The policeman subsequently agreed with the version of the case given by the defendant, and the summons was accordingly dismissed. It appears to me that if a policeman cannot tell when a horse is trotting, he is not a suitable officer to put on duty at the bridge, inasmuch as he will be dragging people before the court unnecessarily, and giving endless trouble into the bargain. In the present case the information against Mr. Thomas was for “trotting.” This was sworn to positively, but subsequently the policeman asserted it was only ambling. Then why did he charge the defendant with trotting ? Surely the presence of the Commissioner did not frighten him to such an extent as to render him oblivious of the nature of the original charge.

Apropos: History repeats’ itself. The’ inventor of the guillotine met with his death at its hands ; there is nothing out of place, therefore, in the Director of Public Works being summonsed for transgressing the rule which he framed. “The engineer hoist with his own petard.”

COUNTRY LETTERS. (1880, August 3). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954), p. 3. Retrieved February 26, 2011, from

I’m sure readers of this article, contemporary or modern, would feel some sympathy for the accused escaping his speeding infringement on a technicality!

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Here’s an article about fearsome, people-eating fish from the The West Australian in October 1927:


Two Young Ones Caught

The capture of two young sharks in the Swan River, near Perth, yesterday, gave ample evidence, that sharks, as well as human beings, are realising that summer is approaching. Bathers who indulge in swimming -alone or at night would do well -to remember that there may be other swimmers of a dangerous type in the river, and take extra precaution. One of the sharks was captured by a lad named Michael O’Brien, of Victoria Park, near the Causeway. The boy was informed by a friend that a shark, was imprisoned in a shallow mud-hole, apparently having been unable to find its way back to the deep channel. He went to the spot armed with a piece of fencing material; and, when he saw the fish, he attacked it and managed to kill it. The shark proved to be a young one of the grey nurse variety, and measured about three feet.

M. O’Brien, of Victoria Park, with the shark he caught near the Causeway yesterday.

SHARKS IN RIVER. (1927, October 21). The West Australian(Perth, WA : 1879-1954), p. 19. Retrieved February 26, 2011, from

Just a tad sensational. Are we beyond that now? Let’s have a look at today’s West Australian online:

Three bull sharks have been caught in the Swan River this week, prompting a warning to river users.

The sharks, ranging in size from 70cm to 1.1 metres were caught in the river on Tuesday and Wednesday nights between the Maylands Yacht Club and South Perth foreshore.


Bull sharks, which can grow up to 3m, have very powerful jaws and an aggressive nature, are thought to be responsible for the last confirmed shark attack in the Swan River in 1968 and the last fatal river attack in 1923.

SWAN RIVER SHARK WARNING. (2011, February 25). The West Australian (Perth, WA) Retrieved February 26, 2011, from

A pretty similar story! If you head over to the National Library of Australia Trove you can find their collection of digitised West Australian newspapers. Click on any of them, then type ‘shark’ and toggle on ‘limit to xx’. You’ll find a fascinating list of stories involving sharks in our city.

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Not at all News

I’m a big fan of the Trove project run by the National Library of Australia. This blog will find interesting articles from old editions of Perth newspapers, and reproduce them along with a link to as similar contemporary article.

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