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Vandals and Vandalism


The old Chermside State School opened July 1900 vandalised April 2007. In one night a drunken party of vandalds did more damage to the old school than thousands of pupils in its 97 year teaching history. Three members, all retired tradesmen, repaired the damage and strengthened all the balastrading over a couple of days. The graffiti on the roof was the second lot and was done earlier.

The noun Vandal is defined by the Macquarie Dictionary as: one who wilfully or ignorantly destroys or damages anything, as property, works of art. The name comes from the Germanic tribe which ravaged the declining western Roman Empire in Gaul and Spain. Finally, in 455, they sacked Rome the old capital of the empire.

Vandalism is the action of wanton or malicious destruction of property, the conduct or spirit characteristic of a vandal.

Vandalism is as old as homo sapiens and there are examples all through history ever since the mythical Cain killed his brother Abel. It manifests itself in many different forms which vary in magnitude such as the destruction brought about by war to the littering public places with cigarette buts and paper. There seems to be a bit of the vandal in most, if not all of us.

Why is the Chermside & District Historical Society Inc so interested in vandalism? The simple answer is it happens to our building, it happens to our area which is a large suburban parkland. It is a vandal's paradise because it is large and to some extent remote from the domestic section of the area. The vandals can hide under cover of dark and 'enjoy' themselves or vent their frustrations, or whatever it is they feel.

The Worst was First

There are five cages over the windows of the old school. Cages had to be installed to allow the casement windows to be opened.

The school building was cut in two at the old site on the corner of Gympie and Rode Roads and transported to the Historic Precinct on the night of the 28th May 1998. It was placed on 'pig sty' wood towers to await the builders who would put it on permanent piers.

Within a very short time the vandals got busy and smashed many, if not all, of the windows. Of course the glass had to be cleaned up and replaced. This was done, and to protect from future damage the cages were made and fitted on to the building. The Drill has similar cages on many of their windows.

I have no idea how much the cages cost but a similar protective steel frame was fixed to the front doors at a cost of $675. The cages would have cost ten times that sum; this was not a good start for the new new role.

External Lighting

This light stands beside the bike track on the edge of the Precinct. In about 2009 it was smashed by vandals, how they did it is a mystery, but I picked up the pieces one morning on my usual bike ride. The bike is one metre high making the light is six meters high.

We were slow learners and we thought that extenal lighting would deter the vandals. How wrong we were. There were three flourescent tubes in wire cages on the front veranda of the old school. They lasted a couple of weeks and the electrician had to come and seal off the wires.

We put lights in strong boxes on the back corners of the school to shine along the sides and across the back. They were smashed and the electrician had to come and clean up the mess.

The Drill Hall put a flood light on their corner to shine into the quadrangle, it was six metres up, it lasted longer than our lower lights, but eventually the vandals smashed it. An alarm was placed on another corner of the Drill Hall and it lasted barely 48 hours.

Air Conditioning Units

This Aircon unit is near the bike track and was not molested for a long time. Evenutally some vandal managed to wrench the pipes on the right side, they were outside the cage.

In 2003 we installed two Aircon units, one on the South side near the bike track and one on the North side which is hidden from the bike track. Within a couple of weeks the one on the north side was vandalised and put out of commission. It cost us $573 to have it fixed and to avoid any more damage we paid a further $470 to put steel cages on each unit.

The vandals damaged the insulated pipes on the south side eventually which cost another $180 to fix. They always find the weak spots.

Steel Frames and Roller Doors

The back door shows the wire frames and the roller door inside as protection from thieves who entered and stole our refrigerator.

The school was renovated by the workers on the State Government sponsored Community Jobs Project which aimed at getting long term unemployed people back into employment. We asked that wooden latice be placed on the corners of the verandas as it was in the early days. The job was done and within days the vandals, at night, stripped the lattice, lath by lath; the area was littered with them.

We left the front veranda fully open but had to close in the back veranda with steel framed wire. The back door had a deadlock and it looked secure to our naive eyes.

Several members were working in the building one Saturday afternoon when one noticed that our refrigerator was missing. We could hardly believe our eyes, it just couldn't happen, after all the back door was locked when we came. We checked with the key holders and all keys were secure so we called in a locksmith, cost about $80, who informed us that the lock had been opened using locksmith's tools.

The result was that we installed the roller doors inside the wire frames to make sure that it would not happen again. Also we realised that a pair of bolt cutters could make short work of the wire and we did not want that. Cost was $2,880 of our own money as the job had to be done asap, no time to apply for a grant.

We managed to get a grant to finance a new fridge.

Protecting the Front Door

The double leaf front door lasted for 97 years without protection but ony six years after relocation it had to be reinforced.

When the school was renovated the front door was fitted with two deadlocks and a bolt and padlock at the bottom of the open flap. It seemed secure until the veranda party goers began a new tactic of jumping against the door propelling their full weight against the door using their large feet as battering rams.

They left sole marks on the door which could be easily cleaned off. They also fractured the vertical stile on the open door which had to have a wooden splint bolted on the inside.

Fearing that they would then attack the weakest partof the doors, the pnelling, we had to put a protective steel web over both leaves of the door. This cost $675 of our funds.

Closing in the Underfloor Area

The underfloor barrier had to be stronger than that for a normal house other wise the vandals would wreck it as they did the balastrading above on the veranda.

For some years we had homeless people camping on the Precinct. The favoured places were under the Drill Hall, it was higher than the school, and the front veranda on the school. On at least one occasion we found a mattress under the school.

Because of the cost we kept on putting off the idea of closing in the area until vandals pulled down the electric cables to the Aircon unit near the bike track. We then got a price from a builder and after ensuring the robustness of the structure we applied for a grant. We were successful and covered the cost of $5,280. The whole structure was bolted to the piers, each heavier than normal baton was double screwed and nailed on to the rails.

Sometime later we put two vandal proof taps, one on each corner of the building at a cost of $300 from our own funds.

Positive note: There have not been any campers in the precinct for the last couple of years. Where they have gone?

Plastic Stormwater Downpipes

This photo is of a downpipe on the Drill Hall which is the same as those on the school. The vandals give all three Precinct building the same treatment. This is the longest downpipe on the Precinct, six metres, they took it down, right up to the roof.

Along with the rubbish of papers, cans, bottles, cigarette butts, etc, etc the plastic downpipe problem is a 'running sore' at the Precinct. All three buildings suffer from it.

In the case of the school there are four downpipes, one on each corner and all connected to underground pipes leading to the water way east of the premises.

The only one downpipe not slashed is the one nearest the bike track. The other three have been slashed at least twice, repaired twice by members and currnently need a third round of repairs. We have applied for grant to enclose them in shaped zincalume by a contractor.

Ten Slabs of Turf Missing - Not Vandals just Thieves

This lawn was laid in June 2009 by the Council and has flourished especially after the drought broke. But somebody nearby has a piece of it in their yard.

The south side of the school was a garden of shrubs and creepers that got out of hand and went wild. The Community Workers cleaned it up and the Council laid turf for a lawn which could be easily mowed with the rest of the area.

The work went well and I was left to water it every couple of days till it was established. I never did establish ten slabs of turf because they walked away one night. I found one dumped a little way along the bike track and managed to lug it back to the 'old plantation'.

A few days later with one of our members who has a small truck, we went to Bunnings and picked up ten slabs. We came back and laid them to replace the missing over night ones.

New Boom Gate on Carpark

This mechanism raises and lowers the boom gate to the carpark at the Precinct. The missing aerial was attached to the top of the right side where the black wire is hanging.

Like most places around Chermside we have been experiencing parking problems caused by outsiders who want to use our carpark. The people who use the Precinct tend to get a bit cranky if they cannot get into their own carpark.

So a boom gate was installed in mid November 2011 but, as at January 20th 2012, it has not yet been made operational. About a week ago I found the aerial had been wrenched from its moorings and was laying on the ground. I reported it and it was fixed. Today I found the aerial torn or cut off and the cable on the ground stretched out. Our vandles move fast.


This photo was taken on 1-4-07 and is a mural representing the artist's impression of the destroyer Voyager which was sunk in a collision with the aircraft carrier Melbourne. It was painted by the Street Artists but vandalised by the night visitors.

Graffiti was something that happened to other people, we had no idea of the learning experiences we would face in the years ahead.

The graffiti vandals, using spray cans, very thick felt pens and anything else that made marks, displayed their visions, dreams, fantacies and fears on the walls, underside, posts including the flagpole, doors, roofs of all three buildings in the Precinct. Since the buildings belong to the Council the anti graffiti team painted out the graffiti.

Anti Graffiti Measures

This photo was taken some time after the Callistemons were planted. They are much higher now and have to be trimmed regularly. They have stopped the graffiti on this wall and on the east wall to the left. Unfortunately many walls in the Precinct have concrete paths beside them, so no place to plant shrubs, sad!

One measure that proved quite effective was to grow shrubs near the walls being used by the vandals.

Council planted Calistemons (Bottle Brush) along the side walls of the school and the Drill Hall. This worked well on the school and the graffiti vandals gave up on that wall.

Another measure was to invite the Street Artists to come and paint murals on our walls. Again this has proved effective on some walls but not so well on the walls facing away from the bike track.

The Drill Hall Mural

This was the finest mural done by the Street Artists in 2006. It was on the north side of the Drill Hall and was an attempt to meld the Aboriginal and the European cultures. It has been defaced by the unthinking vandals.

The following inscription hangs inside the Drill Hall.

The Chermside Habitat Mural Story

The Chermside 'Habitat' area is considered by the young people of the local community, to be an area of importance and relevance. They identify with the area as it is associated with being a safe place to gather with a group of their friends without hassle and the area is local and accessible for them. Known by the young people as the 'habitat' or 'the scary house', the area is seen as a meeting point and is therefore popular place for gathering for the young people, especially the young Indigenous population of the area. These young people had a major contribution towards the Indigenous inspired mural found on the back wall of the War Memorial building, as well as the other murals relating to the R. S. L. and its past and its sporting links to the local community.

The young people told their story of the area and related it through the help of a talented spray artist to make the River Mural. The mural is related to an awareness of the areas' past to the present, using Indigenous symbols and linking them with the Brisbane River and then the Downfall Creek runoff. The river symbolises the 'timeline' linking the past and the present as the one true constant and incorporates the use of Aboriginal symbols relating to a meeting place, which is how the area is seen by the young people. The start of the river has been designed with traditional Indigenous depictions in mind and had the young people adding personal touches for effect and ownership. Linking the past and the present is symbolised with the Story Bridge being the crossover to the present, with the present being symbolised with a landscape of buildings and Downfall Creek. The bridge is also a 'bridging of the cultures' reference and ties in to the murals' overall design and desired impression.

The area has a certain respect by the young people, demonstrated by the fact that the mural has remained relatively free of further graffiti and vandalism. Local members of the R. S. L. community have also voiced their approval of the work and its positive visual impact to the area.

This inscription is on a plaque hanging in the Drill Hall and explains the value of the precinct to the young people of the area. It also interprets the symbolism of the River Mural on the Northern wall of the Drill Hall.

The following is from Morrie Birkbeck of the Drill Hall Executive who talked to some of the young people working on the murals. The Scary House mural on the western end of the Drill Hall represents the idea that the place is a memorial to the men who went to war and the many that died. There is a sense of the supernatural worked into the mural because in a way this is a place of the dead.

Unfortunately the mural 'the scary house' which was done on the west wall was so badly defaced that it was painted over.

The West Mural on the Voyager Centre

This Street Artist mural on the West Doors of the Voyager Centre has survived more or less unchanged since 2006 until the whole Voyager Centre was repainted in 2014 or 2015.

Anti Graffiti Blitz

The most effective measure was the blitz undertaken as a co-operative effort by the Brisbane City Council, the State Government and the Police Department. Since this venture started and more culprits were being caught the Graffiti Problem at the Precinct has almost been solved. In the last couple of years the graffiti has been minimal.

The procedure was as follows: When a new batch of graffiti appeared I notified a designated member of the Precinct who, in turn, phoned the local police station at Boondall and the Council. He then waited till the police arrived. The police were quickly on the scene, took the details, photographed the mess, sent the photos to their website to try and identify the vandals using their 'tag' and then caught them. The Council anti graffiti team arrived later to paint out the mess thus depriving the vandals of their 'pride and joy'. Even if they were not caught that time all their hours of night time work were wasted.

The Worst Act of Vandalism

"a random, senseless and cowardly act of violence" Peter Bachelard

The most serious act of vandalism in the park occurred at around midnight on Friday 9th April 2004. While walking home from a celebration at Gilhooley's in Westfield Shopping Town, a small party of four adults was assaulted by three youths and a juvenile in 7th Brigade Park. The altercation continued onto a nearby street when James Grant Bachelard, 34, was struck in the face and fell striking his head on the road or the kerb causing his death.

The night out was to celebrate the promotion of James who was an Information Technology specialist at the U.Q. Medical School. The assailants, aged 16 to 18, were on the Kedron Wavell hockey fields when one of them saw the four friends walking through the park; for some reason they decided to assault the Bachelard group. At the trial one of the assailants, when asked why they decided to attack, replied "I don't remember…….we pretty much all came to an agreement."

The Courier Mail of 23-6-2006 p.15 reported the trial of the accused; one was acquitted while the others were found guilty of killing Bachelard and that "they acted as a group to pursue and confront Bachelard and his three friends as they walked home from a nearby hotel (Gilhooley's in Westfield)". The youngest of the group, who was 16 at the time of the assault, was on bail for assaulting a teenager earlier in the year.

One young man is dead, Leonie Grasby lost a partner of ten years and several families suffered, and continue to suffer, from the trauma while three young men have criminal records. Peter Bachelard went on to comment "There is something definitely wrong with society when a small group of young people are attacked for no reason whilst walking innocently home at night."

On the 14th March 2007 the Court of Appeal rejected the plea of innocence by the three convicted of killing Bachelard and increased the sentence by one year of the one who struck the fatal blow. The final sentences were six years, four and a half years and four years.