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"VCA & MCM pay your staff": Chalk Protests Splashed at Open House Tour

Chalk protests reading “VCA & MCM pay your staff” were splashed with water during an Open House Melbourne tour.

The words 'VCA & MCM PAY YOUR STAFF' written in chalk on a footpath with splashes of water on it Chalk protest outside The Stables after being splashed with water. Photograph anonymous.

Chalk protests reading “VCA & MCM pay your staff” were splashed with water during an Open House Melbourne tour at the University of Melbourne’s Southbank campus, home to the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM).

Farrago has previously reported on disputes between the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the University regarding both the payment and growing casualisation of staff members.

In an anonymous tip emailed to Farrago on 4 August, details of the incident were outlined. 

“These chalkings were outside The Stables on Southbank campus that day as members of the public walked through these expensive buildings. Those organising the tours seemed to quickly try to wash them off,” said the source. 

Photographs of the chalk protests, both before and after water was thrown across them, were included in the email.

Another chalk protest said “VCA & MCM pay your staff and stop washing this off!”

Those responsible for the chalk protests—and for the water—are unknown.

According to the NTEU, this comes several months after Southbank staff presented a list of demands to the faculty relating to wage theft. 

“[We are] unaware of chalk protests but not surprised,” said Annette Herrera, the University’s NTEU Branch President. 

“Our union supports the staff right to freedom of speech and engaging in direct action to enact social change … Management can throw water over chalk protests to erase it, but the demand still stands. The VCA and the MCM must pay their staff,” she continued. 

The University reiterated its position on staff underpayment when questioned about this incident on the Southbank campus. 

“The University has repeatedly communicated a clear commitment to ensuring staff are paid correctly for the work they do,” said their spokesperson. 

In response to Farrago's questions, Open House stated their volunteers were not aware of the incident, and therefore declined to comment.

Farrago also reached out to the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Southbank Office for comment but received no response.


Photograph: Chalk protest outside The Stables after being splashed with water. Anonymous.

Farrago's magazine cover - Edition Two 2023


A photograph develops slowly in the time it takes for a memory to rewrite itself again and again. Moments are frozen in sepia hues upon silver-plated sheets of copper. Read all about it in the third edition of Farrago.

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