A 15-year-old boy has admitted graffitiing the footpath outside Mackellar MP Jason Falinski’s Narrabeen office on Easter Good Friday, 15 April, but denies it has anything to do with ‘Climate 200’ or ‘Get Up’ as the incumbent MP had claimed on social media.
The local teenager denies committing further acts of vandalism such as spray-painting the office itself. He also refutes any link to the allegedly racist sticker that was attached by a hooded man to the same Liberal Party office a month earlier, on the evening of 19 March.
In a statement released on 10 May, the boy said, “It’s pretty intense to be bullied in the media by your local member of parliament over chalking on the footpath. I actually checked in with the police beforehand to make sure it was OK, and I’ve spoken to them again since to make sure that I didn’t do anything wrong. Mr Falinski also made up some story about other groups being involved, which is untrue.”
A NSW Police spokesperson told Manly Observer, “At no point did NSW Police provide permission to damage private property to a member of the public. Police are conducting inquiries into the incident.”
The teenager told Manly Observer, “A few days before I did it I went in person to Frenchs Forest police station to double check that spraying chalk on the footpath was ok.Surely we should not be focusing on schoolkids legally marking the footpath with chalk? It drives me crazy that the public debate has to be focused on chalk rather than the climate crisis!”
In CCTV footage of the graffiti incident posted online by Mr Falinski, the boy is seen spray-painting or spray chalking a QR code stencil linking to School Strike 4 Climate, the youth environmental awareness movement, which features young students marching nationwide to publicise climate change.
Then, in large white lettering, he writes, “Vote Jason Falinski Out!”
In a video posted to his Instagram account on 28 April 2022, Mr Falinski condemned the teen’s graffiti stunt as “More dirty tricks from Climate 200 and Get Up.”
The incident was widely publicised in other media, following allegations by both sides of the political divide of “dirty tricks” employed on the Northern Beaches in the run up to the 21 May federal election.
These have included the distribution of doctored posters of Warringah incumbent Zali Steggall and Mackellar challenger Dr Sophie Scamps wearing Green Party T-shirts, although they are both Independents. The authorised advertisements have been claimed by conservative campaign organisation Advance Australia, but not other posters which have shown the ‘Teals’ declaring their support for the Greens. These posters are unauthorised and subject to an Electoral Commission inquiry.
There have also been multiple complaints regarding the behaviour of campaign volunteers across the political spectrum.
The chalking incident
We asked the teenager why he used what he claims was spray chalk outside the incumbent MPs office. He replied:
“I’ve had a number of experiences and personal impacts from climate change that motivate me to do everything I can. It all started when my family holiday house in the Blue Mountains almost burnt down in the Black Summer megafires. After that I started reading more about climate and getting active with a bunch of local groups. But then about a year ago, I got caught in the middle of Cyclone Seroja, which flattened 80% the town I was visiting in WA. A guy actually died 10 feet away from me. It was after that I realised that I needed to do more, so I got involved with School Strike 4 Climate.
“After that incident, my climate anxiety also got worse, and has been wearing me down since. This year, my school has flooded twice, and I couldn’t go to school for three days. Climate disasters are getting worse and worse, and happening all of the time now. Almost everyone I know has some degree of mental health struggle relating to climate, and I’m trying to show that we need to speak up.”
Although he used water-soluble chalk spray, which Bunnings describes as “ideal for temporary marking on concrete, pavement, gravel, grass and other areas. The fast dry formula will last up to 30 days,” he may still liable to prosecution from NSW Police.
According to the NSW Government Graffiti Control Act 2008: “A person must not, without reasonable excuse… intentionally damage or deface any premises or other property by means of any graffiti implement.” This does not include regular chalk but we have received conflicting advice from NSW police whether this includes spray or water-soluble chalk.
Where next for this local student’s environmental campaigning – will he target Mr Falinski’s office again?
“I’d like to challenge Mr Falinski to honestly address the real issues of concern to myself and the people of the Mackellar electorate,” he told Manly Observer. “I’d really welcome a proper discussion with him about the human costs of the climate crisis and what young people are looking for in terms of government leadership on this issue.”
Mr Falinski was contacted for further comment.
At the time of publishing this article, Manly Observer was sent video of protestors outside of Mr Falinki’s office on Saturday morning, 14 May, asking commuters to beep their horn for action on climate change. Police were in attendance and there was considerable further chalking on the pavement.
A Falinski campaign organiser has advised us it has proven difficult to remove and will require pressure cleaning paid for by Council/ratepayers.