A Guide for Parents and Guardians

Graffiti vandalism is an illegal activity which involves any form of writing, drawing, etching or applying stickers to/on any public or private property without permission from the property owner.

It is important to recognise the difference between graffiti vandalism and urban art.  Graffiti is illegal and causes damage and removal costs to the victim. Urban art is legal artwork installed on surfaces where permission has been granted by the property owner.  Urban art projects are generally run by local councils, schools and private organisations, and aim to improve the artistic skill of the participant and create an aesthetic mural in a specific location.

The Parents Brochure is a resource for parents/guardians of high school students for information on signs that the child is engaging in graffiti vandalism and what you can do to help. This resource could be distributed electronically within a schools newsletter (or P&C group equivalent) or a limited number of hard copies are available to order. Graffiti vandalism is shown to be a gate way crime and many of the young people that engage in this illegal activity are not aware of the consequences a conviction can bring such as preventing future travel to other countries.  Click on the picture below to download the brochure.

Why do people graffiti?

People engage in graffiti offending for a number of reasons.  Some include:

  • to be part of a group or crew;
  • sense of control, and/or achievement;
  • boredom;
  • frustration;
  • peer pressure;
  • lack of other activities available;
  • recognition from peers;
  • lack of self esteem;
  • to mark their territory;
  • rebellion; or
  • to practice their ‘artistic’ skill.

Research suggests graffiti vandals:

  • are typically between the ages of 12 to 25 years;
  • the most common “tagging” is done by teenage boys aged around 15 years;
  • often have experienced alienation at school;
  • use drugs more often than their peers;
  • are more likely to suffer depression, feelings of hopelessness & anxiety;
  • have greater risk taking behaviours; and
  • are involved in other types of crime.

Social consequences of graffiti

 Western Australia currently spends more than $25 million on graffiti removal each year, not including costs that are incurred on private property.  As graffiti is one of the most visible of all crimes in the community, its presence contributes to a sense of fear amongst residents, and increases the perception of crime.

It is the local councils and major utilities (Western Power, Water Corporation, Main Roads WA, Public Transport Authority and Telstra) that incur the most damage on their assets.  Thus, it is this group that spends the most money on graffiti removal and prevention activities.

 The damage costs incurred by these asset owners are indirectly paid for by rate payers and customers.  It is important to educate young people on this issue, as money allocated to graffiti removal could otherwise be directed to improving services and assets, reducing costs to utility customers and implementing new projects and services.

Legal consequences of graffiti

The penalties for graffiti vandalism include:

Juvenile - under 18 years

  • Police caution or referral to a Juvenile Justice Team;
  • Youth community based order.

Adult – 18 years and older

  • Community Based Order
  • Up to 2 years imprisonment; and/or    
  • Up to $24,000 in fines.

Involvement with the courts may also prohibit a person from getting a job or being able to travel to other countries later in life.

Warning signs that your child is involved with graffiti

Some warning signs that your child may be involved with graffiti include:

  • possession of spray paint cans or other types of paint;
  • possession of an excessive amount of large permanent marker pens;
  • paint on hands or clothing;
  • photos of graffiti on mobile phones or on networking internet sites (e.g. Facebook etc.);
  • practicing the same type of scribble or ’tags’ on paper continuously;
  • ‘tags’ or same type of scribble on their bag or books; or
  • engravings on their furniture at home, such as a desk, chair or bed.

If you suspect your child is participating in graffiti vandalism

  • Discuss your concerns with your child, remembering that there may be other issues that are causing them to graffiti;
  • Explain that graffiti is an illegal activity and let them know what the consequences are;
  • Know where your child is and who they are with;
  • Share your concerns with your child’s teachers – they may be able to give you some advice or alleviate your concerns; or
  • If you'd like further assistance with your child there are places that you can contact for help – see Additional Services.

Keeping your child busy

It is important that you involve your child in activities which occupy them and allow them to gain a sense of accomplishment.  After-school sporting activities provide a perfect opportunity for children/young people to remain occupied, meet friends and be healthy.

There are many activities that are of no or minimal cost to families such as:

  • Take the dog for a walk;
  • Go to the beach or local park;
  • Participate in school holiday programs;
  • Encourage your children to have their friends over - know their friends and potential influences;
  • VacSwim offers discounted swimming lessons
  • Contact your local council for “youth programs” in your area;
  • Enrol in art classes or create art at home – you can check the internet for ideas;
  • Check the school newsletter or talk to your child’s teachers regarding extra-curricular activities that may be on offer;
  • Get involved in a team sport or physical activity;
  • Learn a musical instrument;
  • Take up a hobby with your child (e.g. mosaics or gardening); or
  • Contact your local Parents and Community Youth Centre (PCYC) to find out about local youth programs.

Encouraging your child to be active and involved can sometimes be an arduous task, but with persistence your child will gradually learn how to find interests themselves.  Every child needs a good balance of activities and ‘down time’, so while it is important not to exhaust your child, it is important for your child’s health to be actively participating in extra-curricular activities.

Additional Services

VacSwim swimming programs are available at low cost to develop your child’s swimming skill and water safety awareness. 

KidSport KidSport helps Western Australian children take part in community sport and swimming lessons.

Police & Community Youth Centres (PCYC) is one of the largest recreation organisations in Western Australia, offering programs and services to young people. 

The Parent’s Paper is targeted at parents with children aged up to 14 years, Kids in Perth - The Parents' Paper is available online. Visit the section titled ‘Kids in Perth Diary’ for information on courses and activities around Perth.

Kids Helpline Australia's only free, private and confidential, 24/7 telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25.  Telephone – 1800 55 1800 or visit their website.

Lifeline offers counselling that respects everyone’s right to be heard, understood and cared for. They also provide information about other support services that are available in communities around Australia.   Telephone – 13 11 14 or visit their website.

 headspace  the National Youth Mental Health Foundation funded by the Australian Government.

They support young people aged 12-25 with mental health, work & study (including help with finding a job or planning further education), physical health (including sexual health) and alcohol & other drugs services.  Access vital support through eheadspace (online and phone counselling service), or at their local headspace centre


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