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Letter Of The Month: Free Advertising Space For The Chosen Few

By Liam of Coogee on May 31, 2013 in Other

Photo: Adam Sebire (www adamsebire.info)

Photo: Adam Sebire (www adamsebire.info)

Hi Beasters,

Most residents of the Eastern Suburbs will be familiar with the makeshift shrine in Dunningham Park on the northern Coogee headland. If not, it’s the place where the Virgin Mary supposedly appeared a few years ago and some locals have maintained the shrine ever since.

As I pass the shrine on a regular basis I started to wonder what in- volvement the local council had in it. It has been there for years now and has slowly grown in size and I wondered if I were to plaster some advertising for my favourite sports team or a business all over a piece of public property, how long would it be before the rangers came and removed it?

Out of curiosity I contacted the local council and was put in touch with Joe Ingegneri, the Manager of Technical Services. Joe explained that the council had not given anyone permission to maintain a site in the area. He also explained that a local reverend had applied for permission to build a permanent shrine on the spot a few years back, but the application had been denied.

My obvious next question was then why have the rangers not removed the shrine if no permission has been given for its existence?

I then entered into a weird circular conversation with Joe where he explained that the council had decided not to remove the shrine on the understanding that it wouldn’t get any larger. Of course I remarked that that meant that in fact they had given someone permission to maintain the shrine. Joe denied that the council had given permission and claimed not to have been in discussions with anyone in particular on the matter. I’m sure you understand my confusion so we went back to the beginning and around and around we went. Somehow Joe seemed to think this all made perfect sense.

I took the matter up with the mayor in the hope of getting some clarity but Joe simply responded to me on behalf of the mayor assuring me that yes, the council has decided not to remove the shrine and that they have advised those that maintain it that it can’t get any bigger, however, they are unaware of who maintains it. What I don’t really understand here is why a private individual is being given licence to use public property to display his/her message. As mentioned, if I were to do the same thing, no matter what the message, my signage would be removed immediately. If the church, a local reverend or anyone else would like to advertise their agenda I have no problem with that but I’d like them to pay for advertising space just like anyone else. I don’t really like the idea that they can just hijack a fence on a local headland and use it at will with no recourse from our elected officials.

The fact that the appearance of the Virgin Mary is nothing more than a cheap cynical hoax really doesn’t matter, but I guess it is worth a mention seeing as we are on the subject.

I’d be interested in the opinions of the readers of The Beast but it would be great if we could stick to the legalities of the use of public property rather than getting into religious debate.

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