Welcome to Bondi – Freedom of Speech

Everyone was shocked when ELK (artist Luke Cornish) stencilled his Welcome to Bondi panel in late July 2019.

The panel depicts 24 Border Force ‘soldiers’ in paramilitary/riot gear holding semiautomatic weapons – with WELCOME TO BONDI lettered in a Soviet-style font across the top.

This represents the 24 Asylum Seekers who have committed suicide in Australian onshore/offshore detention camps since 2010.

Now the Graffiti wall at Bondi Beach has always been used for social issues (refugees, marine conservation etc) and Luke has a history of painting confronting pieces – his 2016 – Capitalist Pig piece with Kaff-eine features a Capitalist Pig and his canine wife who wears a scarf made of Syrian refugees – but this one REALLY upset people. Local politicians ranted against the painting on Facebook, local people (by and large) ranted FOR the painting. It made media across the country. Petitions were launched for- and against- the mural. It became a real political hot-potato.

And so on Tuesday night (6th August) Waverley Council voted whether to keep the mural or not. They voted 5-4 in favour of the mural (broadly split on political lines) and local art-lovers celebrated.

Then late that night after the meeting someone defaced the mural with a roller. Police haven’t yet caught the culprits – but it echoes the behaviours of other thugs in February this year when the wall was defaced with swastikas in an attempt to intimidate Bondi’s Jewish community.

Free speech isn’t for everyone it seems.

So where do we go now? We are hoping that Luke paints right back over it!

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