Renewed calls to remove controversial Rolf harris mural at Warrnambool's Lighthouse Theatre

Campaigning: Warrnambool's Carol Altmann has started a petition to have disgraced artist Rolf Harris' mural in the Lighthouse Theatre painted over. Picture: Rob Gunstone
Campaigning: Warrnambool's Carol Altmann has started a petition to have disgraced artist Rolf Harris' mural in the Lighthouse Theatre painted over. Picture: Rob Gunstone

A campaign is being launched to remove a mural by disgraced Australian artist Rolf Harris from Warrnambool’s Lighthouse Theatre.

Warrnambool writer Carol Altmann is calling on the city council to take down the mural after Harris was convicted of sexual assault charges.

She said she had started a petition now because the council was a supporter of the 16 Days of Activism campaign to promote gender equality.

The mural was painted on a loading bay wall during Harris' 1986 performance at the venue. 

A perspex shield protecting the artwork was painted over in 2014 to remove the mural from sight after Harris was found guilty of indecently assaulting four girls between 1968 and 1986.

Ms Altmann acknowledged she was pleased the council supported the gender equality campaign, but said “activism meant taking action”. 

“To replace this mural by a convicted sex offender shows that we are prepared to go beyond the posters and slogans and make a real statement,” she said.

“This statement sends a powerful message that we will not tolerate sexual abuse by anyone, no matter who you are.”

Ms Altmann said the recent media coverage of Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein and Australian television personality Don Burke showed fame and talent would not save sexual predators being exposed.

“A lot of people, including me, find it disconcerting that our former council would consider it OK to cover up a mural by a convicted sexual predator,” Ms Altmann said.

“Just those words, cover up, make me feel uneasy because so much sexual abuse by those with power has been covered up in the past, from priests, to film makers to TV personalities.”

She said by covering up the mural it sent a message that all art was “sacred, above and beyond even the well-being of a child”.

“In contemporary society, this is no longer acceptable,” she said.

“What I don’t understand, however, is if we do believe all art is sacred, why isn’t the mural on full display?

“It is like the former council was trying to have a bet each way.

“We can do better than that and we must do better than that.”

In 2015 the council voted against removing the artwork, but decided to leave it covered indefinitely. 

Ms Altmann said she was hoping to get at least 100 signatures by December 10, when the 16 Days of Activism ended. 

She will be on the Civic Green from noon to 3pm for people to sign the petition on Wednesday.