Statues of former prime ministers Abbott, Howard defaced


Monuments honouring former prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard have been defaced.

The attack, which occurred at Ballarat's famed Prime Minister's Avenue in the city's botanic gardens, occurred early today.

It happened despite additional security amid attacks on monuments overseas.

Ballarat City Council chief executive officer Janet Dore said the bronze busts were daubed with red paint and disrespectful messages.

"Our city does not condone any form of graffiti or vandalism on its public assets, regardless of people's beliefs or rising public sentiment, and I am certain our residents will be equally as disgusted by these actions," Ms Dore said.

Robert Selkirk, president of the Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, said the vandalism was "absolutely appalling."

"That avenue (of honour), it's absolutely unique," he said.

"All the prime ministers' busts are lined up there - it's unique to Australia and everyone values it very highly.

"They're out in the open for everyone to enjoy and unfortunately we get some idiots that think otherwise."

Mr Selkirk said there was a "dedicated group" of volunteers who looked after the gardens in conjunction with the local council.

"Ballarat City Council and the Friends are really focused on the upkeep - the gardens are world-standard," Mr Selkirk said.

Busts of John Howard and Tony Abbott covered up after they were vandalised overnight.
Busts of John Howard and Tony Abbott covered up after they were vandalised overnight. Ian Wilson

"There's so much history up there. It's a delightful setting.

"The whole precinct is the heart of Ballarat. It's the pride of Ballarat. They need to be protected at all costs."

Council staff have fenced off the area, with a conservator to assess the damage on Monday.

There are 28 busts lining the avenue, sitting on granite pedestals and attracting thousands of visitors each year.

Police spokesman Glen Manison said the attack was being investigated by Ballarat Police.

He said the two busts had been damaged with spray paint, while "offensive language" was also sprayed on the stands of the statues.

It is believed the vandals struck sometime between midnight and 2.15am on Saturday.

Victoria Police would not comment on whether it would boost patrols at historical sites and statues amid the global furore.

It also refused to say if it had been made aware of specific threats on sites due "operational reasons".

Captain Cook's Cottage and a John Batman statue are among the historical monuments in the CBD.

A City of Melbourne spokesperson said: "We monitor public areas to prevent vandalism and promote public safety.

"This includes regular patrols in our parks and gardens and video camera surveillance to help deter potential offenders and aid in crime detection."

Police are urging anyone who has information about the vandals to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.